Standing with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the US Ambassador to the UN Haley said the UN body was biased against Israel.
The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday accusing it of a "chronic bias against Israel," a move that activists warned would make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.
Standing with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting US efforts to reform the council.
She also criticised countries which shared US values and encouraged Washington to remain but "were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo."
The United States is halfway through a three-year term on the main UN rights body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if the 47-member Geneva-based body was not overhauled.
"Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights," said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Haley also said the "disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights."
She said the US withdrawal from the Human Rights Council "is not a retreat from our human rights commitments."
TRT World's Frank Ucciardo brings more from New York.
UN chief laments US decision
Reacting to the US decision, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed regret, saying he would "have much preferred" for the United States to remain.
"The UN's human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide," he said in a statement from his office.
Dalia Fahmy, who is an associate professor of political science at LIU Brooklyn, shares her analysis with TRT WORLD from New York.
The top United Nations human rights official voiced dismay at US decision, saying that Washington should step up its engagement given the number of violations worldwide.
The decision was "disappointing, if not really surprising news," Zeid Raad al Hussein said in a tweet, adding: "Given the state of #human rights in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back."
Zeid, in his final address to the 47-member forum on Monday, called on the Trump administration to end its "unconscionable" policy of separating children from undocumented migrant parents entering the United States at the border with Mexico.
"Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back" -- UN Human Rights Chief #Zeid following USA decision to withdraw from U.N. Human Rights Council.#StandUp4HumanRights— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 19, 2018
Latest US rejection
Washington's withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its "unconscionable" policy.
Rights groups have criticised the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy. Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in some parts of the world.
Diplomats have said the US withdrawal from the body could bolster countries such as Cuba, Russia, Egypt and Pakistan, which resist what they see as UN interference in sovereign issues.
Among reforms the US had been seeking was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records.
Twelve rights and aids groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, wrote to Pompeo to warn the withdrawal would "make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world."
"The US's absence will only compound the council's weaknesses," they wrote.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program, said Trump's "misguided policy of isolationism only harms American interests and betrays our values as a nation."
Jewish rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center applauded the US withdrawal and urged other countries to do the same.
The council meets three times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide. It has mandated independent investigators to look at situations including Syria, North Korea, Myanmar and South Sudan. Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority.
Speaking before the US announcement, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "is a strong believer in the human rights architecture of the UN and the active participation of all states."
When the Council was created in 2006, U.S. President George W Bush's administration shunned the body.
Under President Barack Obama the US was elected 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 Gaddafi. But UN officials said no member has withdrawn.
Haley said a year ago 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 wanted removed.
The council last month voted to probe killings in Gaza and accused Israel of using excessive force. The US and Australia cast the only "no" votes.
"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.