The US withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday after no other countries "had the courage to join our fight" to reform the "hypocritical and self-serving" body, said US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
“In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments,” Ms Haley said.
The US was half-way through a three-year term on the main UN rights body and had long threatened to quit if it was not reformed, accusing the 47-member Geneva-based body of being anti-Israel.
Reuters reported last week that activists and diplomats said talks with the US on reforms had failed to meet Washington’s demands, suggesting that the Trump administration would quit.
Washington's pullout is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
It also comes as the US faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its "unconscionable" policy.
When the Human Rights Council was created in 2006, US president George W Bush’s administration shunned the body.
Then under Barack Obama the US was elected to the body for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the UN General Assembly. After a year off, Washington was re-elected in 2016 for its current third term.
In March 2011, the UN General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya's membership in the council because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy. But UN officials said no member has withdrawn.
Ms Haley said a year ago that Washington was reviewing its membership and called for reform and elimination of a “chronic anti-Israel bias”. The body has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories that Washington wants removed.
"The UN Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel," said Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth.
The council last month voted to investigate killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force. The US and Australia cast the only "no" votes. Israel's ambassador in Geneva castigated the council for "spreading lies against Israel". – Reuters