UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the United States today to rethink its decision to pull out of the world's top human rights body, calling it a "key tool" in efforts to combat abuse.
Washington's envoy to the United Nations announced the US withdrawal from the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
Nikki Haley accused the Geneva-based council of "chronic bias against Israel" and cited the membership of countries with poor human rights records such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Moscow, Guterres said he "would much prefer for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council."
He added: "I do believe that the human rights architecture is a key tool at the present moment in order to promote and to protect human rights around the world."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed a similar view. "We hope that this decision is not final and that the US will re-establish its commitment to the United Nations," he said.
Meanwhile, several human rights groups expressed dismay over a letter sent to them by Haley that blamed them in part for Washington's withdrawal from the council.
Haley's letter, dated yesterday, was sent to several groups which recently expressed concern about US proposals for a reform of the council. In her letter, she accused the groups of trying to "undermine" US attempts to improve the body, and of siding with Russia and China.
"You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the US decision to withdraw from the council," Haley said.
Antoine Madelin of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights told The Associated Press: "You're either with us or against us, that is the sense of the letter."
Andrew Copson, head of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, described Haley's letter as a "bizarre rant." "(The letter) betrays a deep and profound ignorance of the work of the IHEU, and humanists around the world, to suggest that we would support the autocratic regimes of China and Russia," said Copson, whose London-based group campaigns on behalf of non-believers facing discrimination around the world.
The head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, urged the US government to reflect on its own actions.
"As the Trump administration mistreats immigrants at its southern border, it seems to be walking away from the international system to defend human rights," he said in a statement.
Roth said the reforms proposed by the US risked undermining the Human Rights Council's ability to function effectively, and rights groups had felt the need to warn the US and other governments about it.
"The Trump administration responded by theatrically leaving the Human Rights Council," he said, adding that his group would voice the same criticism of the US proposals today. "It reflects the reality that the Trump administration would rather not face." (PTI)