WASHINGTON – Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told PJM that a positive aspect of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council is that it diminishes President Trump’s chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It will have a difference possibly in a good way in that it was adversely seen by some members of the Nobel Prize committee as being another reason why Donald Trump should not be considered for such an honor,” Cohen said after the annual Black and Jewish Members of Congress Breakfast held on Capitol Hill last week.
“It was one of the nominating members who said that what he’s doing on the border with children was despicable and showed he’s not a moral leader of his nation or the world,” he added. “And then the further commentary was that the pulling out was another indication that he was not deserving of that prize. Trump doesn’t care about human rights at all.”
Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, a human-rights watchdog, made the comments to Norwegian broadcaster TV2. He is one of five members of the Norwegian Nobel committee that determines the winner of the peace prize.
“Everything he does excludes him from the role American presidents have always had,” Jagland said of Trump. “He cannot speak on behalf of the so-called free world.”
Cohen said remaining on the council would allow the U.S. to stay engaged on international human rights issues.
“That’s an important commission for looking out for human rights around the globe. The United States should have a seat at the table and should participate,” Cohen said. “I’m not sure if this administration considers human rights issues important anywhere. While this administration is responsible for pronouncing our policies, this is not one of those policies they will necessarily care about.”
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) said the UN Human Rights Council has become a “beating up Israel” forum but he thinks the Trump administration should not have decided to withdraw.
“The truth of the matter is I believe in fighting on the inside. And I agree with the premise that caused them to pull out: clearly, it has become a beating-Israel ground, but at the very same time our presence there, in my view, would be able to stop it. So I would not have pulled out,” Hastings told PJM. “I don’t think you can change things if – in other words, you either be on the outside or be on the inside, and I’d rather be on the inside.”
Reacting to the U.S. withdrawal from the UN commission, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said, “I think that we can’t be helpful when we’re not in the room, and I understand the challenges with the Human Rights Council. But, you know, we have a responsibility to the principles of it and we should have stayed there so we can fight the good fight.”
Hillary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, who spoke at the breakfast, agreed with the Democratic lawmakers that withdrawing from the commission was a “bad decision.”
“They should always be at the table. As we say with these issues, the UN offers a great opportunity, whether we agree or disagree with what’s on the table, or agree or disagree with who is at the table, the important thing is we are at the table advancing our agenda of civil rights and human rights protection for all among other issues that are extremely important,” Shelton said.
“So it’s saddening to me that you would walk away from such a well-equipped table to address many of the issues and concerns we have right here at home as well as throughout the rest of the world,” he added.
Shelton said he agreed with Hastings that the UN Human Rights Council beat up on certain countries.
“They bash the U.S. sometimes. They bash other countries as well,” he said. “What’s important is that we are there even when that’s going on; that’s going to come from somebody there that we have a disagreement with, but our important thing is that we are utilizing that table to be able to advance the United States’ agenda and it’s a very important place to be. I think they made a big mistake in getting out and walking away.”