Israel Boycotts UN Human Rights Council

Jan 29 2013 / 10:42 pm

Israel has become the first country to boycott a UN Human Rights Council review of its rights situation, sparking heated debate among diplomats on how to respond.

“I see that the delegation of Israel is not in the room,” council president Remigiusz Henczel told the delegates at the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.

Israel is not a member of the council but like all 193 UN countries it is required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) of its human rights situation.

Its absence on Tuesday, however, came as no surprise.

Israel cut all ties with the 47-member state council last March after the body announced that it would probe how Israeli illegal settlements may be infringing on the rights of the Palestinians.

Israel has come under widespread criticism for ramping up its construction of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, notably in the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP the country intended to boycott the meeting.

“We cut all our contacts with the council last March, including the current activity,” Yigal Palmor said, stressing: “Our policy has not changed.”

Israel’s failure to show up for its UPR marks the first time since the reviews began in 2007 that a country under evaluation has been absent without explanation, and it was unclear how the rights council would react.

When Haiti delayed its UPR in early 2010 its justification was the devastating earthquake that hit the country that year, claiming more than 300,000 lives.

‘A Moment of Truth’

On Tuesday, after Israel failed to show, Henczel called on the council to adopt a draft decision on how to react, including urging Israel to resume its cooperation with the UPR process.

It also called for Israel’s review to be rescheduled for no later than during the UPR session starting in October this year.

Delegates then took the floor, with Egypt’s representative declaring that the council faced “a moment of truth”.

He cautioned that taking a “soft” approach towards Israel would create a dangerous precedent and leave “a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation.”

Israel’s main ally in the council, the United States, however, gave its full backing to Henczel’s proposal, with ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe insisting in a statement, without mentioning Israel by name, that the text reflected the “best effort to find common ground and to protect the UPR mechanism going forward”.

And Britain called for a “proportionate and balanced conclusion”, while the Irish representative for the European Union urged a “consensual” way forward.

The Pakistani representative, meanwhile, implicitly criticized those urging a soft reaction.

“We wonder … whether this kind of cooperative spirit would be extended to some other countries that are not as close to some of the major powers in the world,” he said.

Despite the range of opinions, the council in the end adopted Henczel’s proposal by consensus.

(Agencies and Al Jazeera – www.aljazeera.com)

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3 Comments for “Israel Boycotts UN Human Rights Council”

  1. Francis Oeser

    I sense surprise in your report. Why? – we all know Israel is an International Law breaker, runs an aparteid regime dehumanising its Arab citizens, building walls and settlements across Palestine, and roads for sole Israeli use, steals Palestinians’ water and pastures and villages and airspace . . .. So why the surprise?
    Aren’t we, however, surprised that USA, UK etc. turned a blind eye for so long, that Israel has behaved without concern for its neighbours for 50 years, uncommented on by USA, UK, etc. This is one of a clutch of countries with no respect for shared human rights. Israel’s absence from the Council is NOT a surprise. Concerned commentators from both inside and outside the country foresaw Israel becomming distanced from the civilised world – a long-term effect of its inhuman policies. The rot is becoming impossible to ignore. The soothing talk of USA, UK etc. in Council doesn’t hide Israel’s demise, the terrible plight of the Palestinians or that the rest of us must support solutions to change this dangerous mess.

  2. Lauren Lane

    So where is the condemnation about the lack of rights for women in the Muslim countries? And where is the condemnation of Syria and Egypt in killing the civilians ? One could go on and on about the abuses that no one talks about. I would rather live as a Palestinian under Israeli rule than fear for my life every day or as a women, be prevented from going to school, from working and from showing my face. It is politically correct to pick on Israel but politically incorrect to highlight the abuses in Arab countries. When there is fairness, perhaps Israel will participate. Good for them for saying no!!!

  3. maurice

    this UN masquarade should end. it i ridiculous, as the previous UN body was. they kept criticizing and bashing at israel, while bashar assad, ahmadinajad and others are killing their own people…if your arab brothers were so dear to you….you would defend them a little bit more.

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