A United Nations special investigator into alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories resigned Monday citing Israel’s two-year refusal to grant him a visa to the West Bank so he could see the situation first-hand.
“I took up this mandate with the understanding that Israel would grant me access as an impartial and objective observer,” Makarim Wibisono said.
Wibisono, of Indonesia, was appointed to the post of special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories in 2014.
He replaced American Richard Falk, who held the post for six years.
In his resignation letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council, he said he had tried for two years to gain access to the Palestinian territories, submitting multiple written and oral requests for access.
“Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Wibisono said.
“With no reply from Israel to my latest request, in October 2015, to have access by the end of 2015, it is with deep regret that I accept the premise upon which I took up the mandate, which is to have direct access to the victims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, will not be fulfilled,” he said.
Israel is the only country for which the UNHRC has assigned a permanent special investigator. All other country assignments are temporary and must be renewed.
The investigator’s mandate is focused exclusively on Israeli violations in the Palestinians territories and does not require the rapporteur to equally look at Palestinian human rights violations.
Israel has persistently protested that both the mandate and the permanent assignment reflect the UNHRC’s continued bias toward the Jewish state and, therefore, has refused to cooperate with the investigators, including Wibisono.
The Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it respects Wibisono and feels his resignation is a subtle commentary on the bias inherent in the position of the special rapporteur.
Wibisono said in his letter that the Palestinian government had fully cooperated with him and called on Israel to do the same.
“I reluctantly wish to pass the baton to a successor, selected by the Human Rights Council. It is my sincere hope that whoever succeeds me will manage to resolve the current impasse, and so reassure the Palestinian people that after nearly half a century of occupation the world has not forgotten their plight and that universal human rights are indeed universal,” Wibisono said.
He will resign at the end of March after he presents his final report to the UNHRC during its 31st session in Geneva.