UN human rights chief takes swipe at Trump, speaks of 'political profiteers'

The United Nations' high commissioner for human rights lashed out with an apparently veiled swipe at President Trump on Monday, warning about the danger of “political profiteers” amid reports the administration is looking at pulling out of the Human Rights Council over the group's anti-Israel bias.

In a speech to the opening of the latest council session in Geneva, High Commissioner Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein criticized “political leaders who today wage campaigns against universal human rights, or threaten withdrawal from international or regional treaties and the institutions which uphold them.”

After praising the anti-Trump marches that took place the day after Trump’s inauguration, and adding that he was “proud members of my staff took part,” the career Jordanian diplomat warned about political actors who would withdraw from parts of the “mulitilateral system.”

“To those political actors who, as in the days of the League [of Nations], threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it, the sirens of historical experience ought to ring clear. We will not sit idly by,” Zeid said. “For we have much to lose, so much to protect. And our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers.”

Zeid did not mention Trump by name, but his speech comes after Politico reported Saturday that the Trump administration is looking at pulling out of the body, amid long-standing concerns that the body exhibits an anti-Israel bias and is largely useless.

The council was set up in 2006 as a successor to the Human Rights Commission -- which was also criticized for its anti-Israel stance. The Bush administration refused to join the new body, but the Obama administration applied for membership, arguing it could better influence the council from the inside.

One of the main criticisms concerns the makeup of the 47-member council – which includes countries with extremely poor human rights records, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Zeid’s remarks aren’t the first time he has taken a shot at Trump and the populist movement sweeping the West. In September, he took aim at “the populists, demagogues and political fantasists” and called out Trump by name among other conservative candidates.

“The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats. Clever cheats,” he said, before saying the tactics that populists use are similar to those of ISIS.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke after Zeid in Geneva on Monday, and also criticized what he described as a "perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other in a frenzy of growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley's office did not immediately return a request for comment from Fox News. Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman, did not mention the reports of withdrawal from the council, but said: "Our delegation will be fully involved in the work of the HRC session which starts Monday."

Trump has been outspoken in his dislike of the United Nations, and has sought to form a closer relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another U.N. critic.

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren welcomed the reports that the U.S. is considering withdrawing, saying it would send a “moral message” to the world.

In her confirmation hearing in January, Haley pointed specifically to the U.N.’s perceived anti-Israel bias as something the Trump administration would focus on.

"Nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel," Haley told senators.

“I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel,” she said, referring to the Obama administration’s controversial decision in December to abstain on a Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements.