June 19 (UPI) -- The United States withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council Tuesday in protest of perceived hypocrisy and bias against Israel within the council.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the withdrawal at the U.S. State Department, where Haley referred to the council as a "hypocritical and self-serving" organization.
"The council has failed in its stated objectives," Pompeo said.
Haley accused the council of becoming "protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias." She cited the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo as a member state after mass graves were discovered in the country and the council's failure to address human rights abuses by Venezuela and Iran while regularly passing resolutions condemning Israel.
"I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments," she said. "On the contrary. We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."
She also suggested governments with poor human rights records sought to join the 47-nation council in an attempt to avoid scrutiny and actively resist proposals for reform.
"When we made it clear we would strongly pursue council reform, these countries came out of the woodwork to oppose it," Haley said. "Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year."
The United States threatened to leave the council last year citing similar reasons.
"It's hard to accept that this council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela, and yet it adopted five biased resolutions in March against a single country -- Israel," Haley said in an address to the council at the time. "It's essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility."
The council was created in 2006, but the United States didn't join until 2009. President George W. Bush refused to join over concerns it wasn't an improvement over its predecessor -- the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission -- because it allowed human rights offenders to be seated.
With Tuesday's decision, the United States became the first sitting member to voluntarily leave the council.
The decision came a day after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein denounced the United States' practice of separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border.
"I am deeply concerned by recently adopted policies which punish children for their parents' actions," he said Monday. "The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable."
Hussein condemned the United States' decision to leave the council on Tuesday.
"Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of human rights in today's world, the U.S. should be stepping up, not stepping back," he said.
"The Trump administration's withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, coupled with its abusive use of power at home, only confirms what we've always known -- Trump is leading a concerted, aggressive effort to violate basic human rights of those most in need of protection," the ACLU said.