Israel to become 1st state to boycott UNHRC review

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says J'lem has no plans to change policy of withholding contact with controversial UN body.

January 29, 2013 05:45
2 minute read.
OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC

UNHRC 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Israel is likely to become on Tuesday afternoon the first country to boycott a United Nations Human Rights Council periodic review that all 193 member states participate in.

It is the council which Israel objects to, not the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights record, which it underwent in 2008.

Israel cut its ties with the UNHRC in March after the council approved a fact-finding mission to investigate Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.

The mission is due to soon submit the settlement report to the council, which is scheduled to debate it on March 18 during its 22nd session, which begins on February 25.

“For the time being, there is no change in our policy to withhold all contacts and cooperation with the UNHRC,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “As the UPR is an UNHRC activity, we are not planning on taking part in it.”

On January 10, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eviatar Manor called UNHRC President Remigiusz Henczel and asked for a postponement.

It was the first contact between Israel and the council since last March. Henczel asked the ambassador to submit a formal request.

The problem was made public two weeks ago, when Israel was absent from a meeting in which three states were chosen by lottery to oversee its UPR.

Behind the scenes, a number of countries – including the United States – have pushed Israel to participate in the process, fearing Israel’s non-participation would set a precedent for other countries to boycott it.

Israel has had a tense relationship with the council since its inception in 2006. The council has censured it more than any other country and has created a special mechanism, Agenda Item 7, that ensures Israel’s activity in the West Bank is a subject of debate at every council session.

The UPR, however, is a standard procedure for all countries. The UNHRC has held a first round of reviews and is now holding a second round.

In the first round, it granted a temporary postponement to only one country, Haiti. At the time of its scheduled review, it had just survived a massive earthquake.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said he hoped Israel would choose to participate in Tuesday’s proceedings, which move forward regardless.

“Regarding Israel’s scheduled UPR for tomorrow, the way things are looking now there are two scenarios,” he said. “The first is that a delegation from Israel shows up at the council meeting and undergoes their universal periodic review. The second is that they do not turn up, and the council decides on a course of action,” he said. He did not specify what that action could be.

The US Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said last week that the council had a strong bias against Israel that had not gone away.

Still, she said, “We have encouraged Israel to come to the UPR, to tell its story, to present its own narrative of its human rights situation. We think it is a good opportunity to do that.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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