Varadkar labels US exit from UN Human Rights Council "deeply regrettable"

Washington claims the body has become a "cesspool" of "shameless hypocrisy"

Varadkar labels US exit from UN Human Rights Council "deeply regrettable"

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (left) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announce their country's withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council | Image via @SecPompeo on Twitter

Updated 11:15

The Taoiseach has warned that the US has made a mistake by pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Us Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced the move in a speech yesterday evening, labelling the body "an organisation not worthy of its name" and a "cesspool of political bias."

Washington has accused the council of displaying hypocrisy, as well as a "chronic bias" against Israel.

The US has also taken exception to China, Cuba and Venezuela - which have been accused of their own human rights violations - occupying seats on the council

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar believes US President Donald Trump has made a mistake.

"I think it is deeply regrettable," he said.

"I always believe in politics of engagement and that means sitting around the table even with people you disagree with.

"I think they have a point in pointing out some of the double standards that exist.

"But the fact that the political left around the world engage in double standards around human rights and democracy does not mean you walk off the pitch and I think it is a mistake."

Speaking after Ms Haley made the announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the UN had "become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with some of the world's worst human rights abuses going ignored".

"We have no doubt that there was once a noble vision for this council.

"But today we need to be honest: the Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights - with many of the world's worst human rights abuses going ignored, and and some of the world's most serious offenders sitting on the council itself", he said.

The US itself is not immune to accusations of human rights abuses and the timing of the withdrawal was conspicuous.

On Monday, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein weighed in on the policy of separating child migrants from their parents and detaining them at the southern US border.

"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced his regret at the decision to leave the UN body and said he would "have much preferred" for the United States to stay.

"The UN's human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide," he said.

The announcement makes good on past threats to leave the council, which is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights globally.

Ms Haley last year said the US would only remain in the body if "essential reforms were achieved", and made clear on Tuesday that she did not regard sufficient changes as having been made.

US President Donald Trump has made distrust of international bodies and the threat to leave them part of his campaigning and said in September that US contributions to the body were "unfair".