The UN Human Rights Council avoided a showdown with Israel Tuesday when it
agreed to delay its Universal Periodic Review until no later than November of
this year, after Israel became the first country to boycott its scheduled
session on the matter in Geneva on Tuesday.
The council called on Israel
to cooperate with the council on the UPR. It asked its president Remigiusz
Henczel to encourage Israel’s participation in the human rights
Henczel said that postponement served “as a precedent to be
applied in all similar circumstances of non-cooperation in the
He warned, however, that if Israel failed to participate by the
set deadline, the council would weight steps against it.
Israel cut its
ties with the council last March to protest its establishment of a fact-finding
mission on West Bank settlements.
That report is due out in the near
future. The settlements report council will be debated on March
Israel has no objection to the UPR process through which the council
reviews the human rights record of all 193 UN member states. It received
cooperation from all countries during its first round of reviews, including from
Israel in 2008.
The council is now going through its second round of
Israel informally asked for a postponement earlier this month,
in keeping with its policy of boycotting the council over the upcoming
On Tuesday, in Geneva, when, as promised, Israel did
not show up for its periodic review, the council’s 47 member states agreed to a
postponement, even though a number of countries felt the delay only skirted the
The representative from Indonesia noted that the Israel request
was due to political considerations, not technical ones.
“The issue we
are discussing today with regard to the UPR of Israel is not about the
[technical] shortcomings that cost delay or hamper the participation of Israel
in the UPR process, it is about Israel’s noncooperative attitude with the UPR,”
The Egyptian representative Wafaa Bassim said, “What we are
dealing with is a clear case of non-cooperation and noncompliance of a state
She noted that many countries had encouraged Israel to
participate in the UPR process.
Pakistan’s ambassador Zamir Akram, on
behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said that his group was
concerned that Israel’s absence set an “unhealthy precedent” that other
countries would follow to similarly boycott the UPR process.
surprising for us, is the level of leverage and understanding that is being
extended to Israel by some countries for its behavior in violation of all its
international obligations,” Akram said.
“We wonder in the OIC whether
this kind of cooperative spirit would be extended to some other country that was
not so close to some of the major powers in this world,” he
Ireland’s representative speaking on behalf of the European Union,
said it had appealed to Israel to take part in the review and believed Israel’s
phone conversation with the council on the matter was a positive
Ireland, along with US Ambassador Eileen C. Donahoe and other
country representatives lauded Henczel’s work in seeking a solution to the
Donahoe said that the UPR was a valuable mechanism “because it is
universally applicable to all UN member states on equal terms and because it is
conducted in a collaborative and cooperative manner.”
exhaustive consultations before proposing a postponement, which “reflects his
best effort to find common ground and to protect the UR mechanism going
forward,” Donahoe said.
After the session, eight human rights groups
called on Israel to participate in the UPR process, including Gisha – Legal
Center for Freedom of Movement, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
Rabbis for Human Rights and Yesh Din.
“We hope that the new Israeli
government currently being formed will take advantage of today’s postponement to
cooperate with the international community on the important issue of protecting
human rights,” the groups said in a statement.
But United Nations Watch
executive director Hillel Neuer said that the issue was the council’s history of
signaling out Israel for special treatment.
“We regret that today’s
resolution failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room: the council’s
systematic bias against Israel,” he said.