Clinton: UNHRC bias against Israel undermines its work

After opening session, UN Watch head Hillel Neuer says council's report on Libyan human rights is "an insult to the victims."

February 28, 2011 18:12
2 minute read.
Hillary Clinton

Clinton 311 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The United Nations Human Rights Council must abandon its bias against Israel, which undermines its work, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday in Geneva.

“The structural bias against Israel – including a standing agenda item for Israel, whereas all other countries are treated under a common item – is wrong. And it undermines the important work we are trying to do together,” she told the UNHRC at the opening of its 16th session.

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“As member states, we can take this council in a better, stronger direction,” she added.

Almost since its inception in 2006, the council has been criticized for focusing on Israel to the exclusion of other human rights issues around the globe.

In Jerusalem last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she believed that the council had dealt properly with Israel.

The council has turned Israel into a permanent item on its agenda. This means that at every session, the seventh agenda item is always dedicated to Israeli violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

Similarly, although there are eight countries with special rapporteurs assigned to investigate their human rights abuses, the investigator for the abuses in the Palestinian territories is the only one that is permanently assigned.

In the last five years, the council has issued 51 condemnations against countries, of which 35 were against Israel.

Based on the council’s agenda for this session, it is expected to spend a day devoted to Israeli violations of human rights. It had also intended to spend time on a report noting the improved situation of human rights in Libya.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called on the HRC to remove the report on Libyan human rights from the new session’s agenda.

“Although the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism is often described by council defenders as its saving grace, the vast majority of council members used it to falsely praise the [Libyan] regime for its alleged promotion of human rights,” Neuer said.

“The report is a fraud, an insult to Libya’s victims, and should be withdrawn immediately,” he added.

On Monday, Clinton said that “the council must apply a single standard to all countries based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It cannot continue to single out and devote disproportionate attention to any one country.”

Proponents of the council’s attitude toward Israel have claimed that as Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank has lasted for 43 years, its position on the matter is justified.

On Monday, the main topic was Libya. Still, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu diverged from that issue to recall how nine months ago, the HRC had taken action against Israel’s “grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” After the IDF killed nine Turkish citizens during its raid on the Gaza bound flotilla, the HRC launched a fact-finding mission, he said.

To those who voted against the mission, Davutoglu said, “I must issue a warning. Such positions carry the risk of emboldening those countries who persistently violate human rights. One day, others may follow suit. In the end, it may be one or more of your countrymen whose rights are violated in the gravest manner. On that day, it will be those countries that look upon this council for solutions.”

Davutoglu said that Turkey still expected an apology from Israel, and he asked Pillay to renew her call for action against Israel.

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