The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.N. human rights chief calls Trump administration’s policy on migrant children ‘unconscionable’

A view inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility shows children at a processing center in Rio Grande City, Tex.
A view inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility shows children at a processing center in Rio Grande City, Tex. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Reuters)

A possible U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council is overshadowing discussions at the organization’s meeting in Geneva, as the Trump administration’s policies come under fire.

The 47-nation body, which meets three times a year, began Monday’s session with the U.N. human rights chief slamming the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant parents from their children after they enter the United States at the Mexican border, comparing it to child abuse.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince.

Democrats intensify fight for immigrant children

The Human Rights Council, which has existed in its current form since 2006, is shaping up to be the next flash point in the administration’s efforts to either overhaul or leave agreements and institutions it says fall short of upholding American values.

Two weeks ago, President Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, threatened to pull out of the council unless it stops what she called unfair criticisms of Israel and prevents authoritarian governments from having a seat on the council. U.S. officials say no decision has been made on whether to relinquish membership.

The United States could completely withdraw, either now or when its current term ends next year, or it could retain observer status.

A withdrawal would further separate the United States from its long-standing allies, who disagree with the idea of leaving the council.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in a speech to the council Monday, sided with the United States in urging the council to stop reflexively criticizing Israel by keeping an agenda item devoted to human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a permanent item on the schedule. Calling it “disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace,” he said Britain will vote against it every time it comes up.

But in an apparent allusion to the U.S. threat of withdrawal, Johnson also defended the council’s work.

“I stress that that does not mean that we in the U.K. are blind to the value of this council,” he said.

U.S. says it may pull out of human rights body, citing member abuses, treatment of Israel

Since 2006, the Human Rights Council has passed more than 70 resolutions critical of Israel, 10 times as often as it has criticized Iran.

Its membership includes 14 countries that are ranked as “not free” by Freedom House: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.