The PLO attacked Israel as the only country to cut its ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council, despite Jerusalem’s efforts to resume relations with the council, during a Geneva debate on the matter on Friday.
“Israel is the only state that has expressed its disengagement from the council,” Imad Zuhairi, the PLO’s deputy charge d’affairs of its UN Observer Mission in Geneva, told the UNHRC.
Jerusalem cut ties with the UNHRC in March 2012 to protest council actions which it believes show a persistent bias against Israel. But Israel has been under heavy international pressure to restore those ties so that it can participate in the council’s Universal Periodic Review process in which the council examines the human rights record of all 193 member states.
Israel abstained from the process in January, placing it in danger of becoming the first country to ignore the human rights review.
The international community is concerned that Israel’s abstention will open the door for other countries, including those known as serious human rights abusers, to similarly ignore the UPR.
On Friday, UNHRC President Remigiusz Henczel welcomed a letter it received last week from Israel expressing a desire to re-engage with the council. He set an October 29 date for Israel’s UPR and said he hoped that ties would be restored by then so Israel could participate.
“Let me conclude by encouraging the state under review to participate in its review,” Henczel told the council.
Zuhairi downplayed the significance of Israel’s letter to the council.
“An exchange of letters can not be considered effective engagement,” he said. Zuhairi added that Israel has been persistently non-compliant in council activity.
Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Countries, similarly attacked Israel.
But the US and Canada welcomed Israel’s letter and spoke of the importance of the UPR process.
Jerusalem’s restoration of ties with the council would “benefit Israel and the UPR process,” said US Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Donahoe.
The Canadian representative added that it was important that Israel’s UPR process be conducted in an objective and non-politicized manner.
Israeli diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem would agree to restore ties only upon receipt of assurances that the council would treat it fairly.
It has asked the UNHRC to abolish Item 7, a permanent point on the agenda under which member states debate Israeli human rights violations in the Palestinian territories at each session.
The UNHRC is scheduled to hold its next Item 7 debate on Monday, in which Richard Falk, its special rapporteur on Palestinian issues, who is also the only special investigator permanently assigned to a country, plans to issue a report on Israel.
Aside from abolishing Item 7, Israel has also asked to be included in the group of UN Western nations that meets in Geneva. While it is part of that group in New York, it has not been included in the Geneva group, making it the only country excluded from regional groupings.
Since the UNHRC’s inception in 2006, 43 of the 103 UNHRC resolutions against individual countries were issued against Israel. Similarly, six of its 19 emergency sessions were about Israel.
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