The Latest: UN says human rights are ‘pillar’ of its work

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MOSCOW — The Latest on the U.S. decision to pull out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The United Nations is stressing that human rights are “a pillar” of the organization’s work and its secretary-general wants all member states to “engage actively” in the Human Rights Council and other parts of the U.N.’s “human rights architecture.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric responded to questions on Wednesday about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Geneva-based council.

Dujarric said the council, which reviews the human rights records of U.N., and special investigators who work on rights issues “play a critical role in protecting and promoting human rights across the world.”

He says Guterres made these points when U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called him Tuesday to give him “a heads up” about the U.S. action.

Dujarric said: “The secretary-general would want to see a United States that is involved and engaged throughout the U.N. system.”

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7 p.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is accusing human rights groups of undermining the United States and putting themselves “on the side of Russia and China” by seeking to prevent the U.S. from leaving the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Haley criticized the non-governmental organizations in a letter the day after she announced the U.S. was exiting the council. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday.

Haley says the organizations wrote a joint letter to members of the Human Rights Council urging them to oppose a U.S.-sponsored resolution to reform it. She says they tried to “block negotiations” and “thwart reform.” Haley says that was “a contributing factor” in the U.S. decision to leave the council.

Haley urged the groups to play a constructive, not destructive, role in human rights in the future. She added the U.S. will work with non-governmental groups that share U.S. goals, “but not with ones who undermine them.”

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4:50 p.m.

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 high commissioner’s criticism of the U.S. immigration policies.

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.”

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4:10 p.m.

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 from the 47-member council.

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

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.”

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4 p.m.

The United States is emphasizing that its pullout from the United Nations’ main human rights body doesn’t mean it’s stopping its work with the U.N.’s rights chief.

A U.S. official in Geneva says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights — currently Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein — “performs valuable work in promoting human rights.”

“We have a very strong relationship with the OHCHR and will continue to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms through that relationship,” the press office of the U.S. mission in Geneva said in an email.

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 on Wednesday, citing among other things its alleged anti-Israel bias.

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12:30 p.m.

The United Nations’ Human Rights Council returned to business as usual Wednesday despite the U.S. pulling out a day earlier. Russia blasted the American move, calling it “boorish” and saying the U.S. “inflicted a powerful blow to its human rights reputation.”

The U.N.’s top rights body, based in Geneva, took up a discussion on summary executions and freedom of expression with the U.S. seats unoccupied Wednesday. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, announced the pullout Tuesday, criticizing the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and pointing out that it includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized what she described as Washington’s “boorish cynicism in stubbornly refusing to recognize its own human rights problems while trying to tailor the council to its political interests.”

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11 a.m.

Russia says that the U.S. exit from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council reflects Washington’s unilateralist approach to global affairs.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, announced the pullout Tuesday, criticizing the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and pointing out that it includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.

Russia’s U.N. mission responded in a statement that the U.S. had tried but failed to turn the Council into an “obedient instrument for advancing their interests and punishing the countries it dislikes.” It added that the U.S. criticism of the council for failing to make changes advocated by Washington appears “cynical.”

The Russian mission described the council as a “key international platform for cooperation in protecting human rights.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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