The US have withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), claiming the international body is a “cesspool of political bias”.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said during a media conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the body was “hypocritical and self-serving” while making “a mockery of human rights”.
“For too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers,” Ms Haley said.
“Human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council.”
She criticised other countries including Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for not making an effort to reform the council while encouraging the US to remain in the UNHRC.
“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” she said.
“The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny and the council continues politicising and scape-goating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers and their ranks.”
The US is currently half-way through a three-year term on the main UN rights body.
Ms Haley had accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” last year.
The US had said it was reviewing its membership and threatened to quit if the body was not overhauled.
The Geneva-based council has been criticised for allowing questionable human rights records to be members.
However, activists claim the US’ decision could affect efforts to monitor and address global human rights abuses.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was disappointed by the US’ decision, despite also being concerned about the US’ apprehensions about the UN.
However, she said Australia would continue to work on human rights issues through the council.
“Australia will continue to work constructively on human rights issues with other countries, including the US,” Ms Bishop said.
“It was our strong preference for the US to remain a member of the UNHRC and I made this known to senior members of the Trump administration.”
UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also said the US’ decision was unfortunate.
“Disappointing, if not really surprising, news,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.”
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US’ resignation.
“Instead of dealing with regimes that systematically violate human rights, the UNHRC obsessively focuses on Israel, the genuine democracy in the Middle East,” he wrote on Twitter.
The US’ move is the latest rejection of a multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Washington is also currently being criticised for detaining children separated from immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border.
Rights activists have criticised the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy.
However, Ms Haley said the US was still involved in fighting human rights abuses despite not being involved in the UNHRC.
“(It) is not a retreat from our human rights commitments,” she said.