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International relations

US leaves UN group in move likely to ease pressure on North Korea

Human Rights Council has adopted string of resolutions condemning Pyongyang

Human Rights Council held in Geneva
A session of United Nations' Human Rights Council is held in Geneva.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- The U.S. on Tuesday announced it will withdraw from the United Nations' Human Rights Council, a group the U.S. has recently criticized for what Washington calls an anti-Israel bias.

The council, headquartered in Geneva, has been a stage for council members to repeatedly condemn North Korea's human rights abuses, demanding the dictator-led nation open its doors to U.N. observers.

The U.S.'s absence and the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may lead to the council weakening against North Korea.

Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental group headquartered in New York, released a statement on Tuesday saying the decision "will sideline the country from key global initiatives to protect human rights."

It pointed out the U.S. "has helped shape some of the body's decisions" that have made great impact, including the establishment of "a commission of inquiry into grave human rights violations in North Korea."

The commission in 2014 published a report stating the human rights situation in North Korea constitutes crimes against humanity and recommending that the U.N. Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. It was one of the strongest demands made by a human rights commission and led to series of Human Rights Council resolutions condemning North Korea.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the U.N.'s human rights chief, tweeted his disappointment soon after Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., criticized the council for being "hypocritical and self-serving."

"By walking away, the US is turning back not just on the U.N., but on victims of human rights abuses around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar," said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch.

Many observers thought North Korea's human rights problems were sidelined at the Trump-Kim meeting. During a press conference after the summit on June 12, Trump said the topic was brought up and assumed that Kim "wants to do the right thing."

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