Bolton: U.S. Exit From U.N. Body About ‘Self-Government’

MOSCOW (AP) -
National Security Adviser John Bolton. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The U.S. national security adviser has defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, saying, “We don’t need advice by the U.N. or other international bodies on how to govern ourselves.”

John Bolton told Fox News on Wednesday the decision was made by President Donald Trump weeks ago and had nothing to do with the high commissioner’s criticism of U.S. immigration policies.

The U.S. is the first country to exit voluntarily in the council’s 12-year history.

He said the exit is about U.S. self-government, saying, it’s “an assertion of American determination to stick by its Constitution and not to recognize that there’s some higher authority at the U.N. — whether it’s the council or the high commissioner for human rights — to judge our performance or give us advice on how to implement the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, U.S. allies, including Australia and the European Union, have joined voices expressing disappointment and regret that the United States is quitting the U.N.’s main human rights body.

Diplomats from several countries made the comments in a brief break in the Human Rights Council’s regular schedule on Wednesday to allow for comments about the Trump administration’s decision Tuesday to pull out of the 47-member council.

Elizabeth Wilde, deputy head of mission in Geneva for Australia, said her country “shares many of the U.S.’s concerns about the HRC,” but will continue to support the council “despite its flaws.”

President Borut Pahor of Slovenia — the home country of U.S. First Lady Melania Trump — said the American withdrawal was “bad news” for the council, the United Nations, the U.S. and “everybody” who cares about human rights.

Earlier, Deputy Permanent Representative Yu Jianhua of China — which has sporadically faced U.S. criticism over its human rights record — said his delegation was “disappointed” about the U.S. pullout. He said: “All delegations attach great importance to this body.”

The human rights office, or OHCHR, is a permanent U.N. organization that ultimately falls under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The United States is traditionally one of its largest donors.

The Human Rights Council is a 47-country body that draws its mandate from the U.N. General Assembly, and meets three times a year in Geneva. The U.S. announced its withdrawal from the council, citing among other things its alleged anti-Israel bias.