Israel boycotts U.N. human rights scrutiny

GENEVA Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:23pm GMT

GENEVA (Reuters) - Israel boycotted the United Nations' human rights forum on Tuesday, becoming the first country ever to decline to attend a session that was due to scrutinise its own rights record.

Israel's no-show at the Human Rights Council drew widespread criticism, including a tacit rebuke from the United States which said the U.N. process of reviewing human rights was a "valuable mechanism" as it was applied to all countries.

The council had been due to examine Israel under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in all U.N. member states. Its last review was in December 2008, when it attended.

Israel, which would likely have faced criticism for its dealings with the Palestinians, suspended relations with the council last May because of what it called an inherent bias against it.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Reuters that Israel had announced it was "suspending indefinitely its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council work. This policy has not changed."

Diplomats at the Geneva-based forum hoping Israel might have a last-minute change of heart expressed their disappointment.

The council's president, Poland's ambassador Remigiusz Henczel, called it "an important issue and unprecedented situation". The 47-member forum adopted a motion regretting Israel's no-show and urging it to cooperate in a review to be conducted at its October-November session "at the latest"

Arab states had been poised to criticise Israel's treatment of detainees, settlement expansion and naval blockade of the Gaza Strip which Palestinians say is collective punishment but which Israel says is vital for its security.

"As the only recalcitrant state among 193, Israel's deliberate absence would sabotage the principle of universality," Peter Splinter, Amnesty International's representative to the U.N. in Geneva, said in a blog.


U.S. human rights ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, addressing the council on Tuesday, avoided naming the close ally, while stressing that Washington greatly valued the way all countries' human rights records are examined.

"The Universal Periodic Review has been a valuable mechanism both because it is universally applicable to all U.N. member states on equal terms and because it is conducted in a cooperative and collaborative manner," she said.

Speaking for the European Union, Ireland said it was important to maintain universal participation and the cooperative nature of the review mechanism.

Egypt and other Arab delegations were less diplomatic.

"It is a clear case of non-cooperation and non-compliance by a state under review," said Egypt's Wafaa Bassim.

Pakistan's ambassador, Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said that Muslim states had a "a great deal of reservations and anxieties" about postponing the review of Israel.

"What is surprising for us is the level of leverage and the level of understanding being extended to Israel by some countries for its behaviour in violation of all of its obligations," he said.

"We wonder if this cooperative spirit would be extended to some other country not so close to some major powers in this world," Akram added in an apparent reference to Washington.

A team of U.N. investigators, set up by the council last year, is due to report soon on whether Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories violate international human rights law.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (1)
MarjorieR1 wrote:
All the U.N. Human Rights Council investigative team members have to do to see whether Jewish settlements in Palestine violate international human rights law is read Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, which preserves the rights of peoples under all previous legal instruments. Then they should read these previous legal instruments: (1) the 1920 San Remo Resolution, by which the Allied Powers codified the Balfour Declaration, giving the Jews title, for a Jewish homeland, to all vacant land in Palestine not owned by individual Arabs and (2) the 1922 Mandate for Palestine (ratified by all 52 members of the League of Nations and subsequently ratified in 1924 by the United States via the Anglo-American Treaty, which incorporated the Palestine Mandate word for word). The Mandate for Palestine gave Britain, as Trustee, the job of administering this trust, in fact a “sacred trust,” until the Jews could establish their state in Palestine; and it called for close Jewish settlement on the land “including state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.” Most of the land in Palestine was public land previously owned by the Ottoman Turkish (not Arab) government, but the Ottomans gave up this land following World War I, in which they were on the losing side. Although the British shamefully betrayed their trust, arming the Arabs against the Jews while taking arms away from the Jews and encouraging illegal Arab immigration while limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine to only 15,000 a year during all the years of the Holocaust, the Mandate for Palestine has never been amended or abrogated and is still valid under international law. Had they not chosen to make war on the Jews, the Arabs in Palestine could have been living peacefully in the Jewish State with full citizenship rights just like the Arabs who now constitute 20% of the population of Israel. By their terrorism and rejectionism, it is the Palestinian Arabs who have been violating human rights in Palestine. It is not the Jews or the Jewish settlers, who have every right to settle on any vacant land in Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea except for land to which individual Arabs may have title. A settlement called Migron was recently moved because part of it was found by an Israeli court to be on land owned by an Arab. Israel respects the law; Palestinian Arabs don’t respect it. If they did, we wouldn’t have trouble over there.

Feb 01, 2013 7:07am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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