Israel won't cooperate with UN settlement probe

Three jurists appointed to fact-finding probe into Israeli settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

Jordan valley settlement 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan valley settlement 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel does not plan to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission into West Bank settlement activity that was appointed in Geneva on Friday.
“The fact-finding mission will find no cooperation in Israel and its members will not be allowed to enter Israel and the territories,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
“Its existence embodies the inherent distortion that typifies the UNHRC treatment of Israel and the hijacking of the important human rights agenda by nondemocratic countries,” he added.
The council ordered the probe at its 19th session in March and asked its president to appoint a three-member panel. The Human Rights Council considers Israeli settlement activity to be illegal under international law and the findings of the probe are expected to reflect this view.
On Friday, at the end of the council’s 20th session in Geneva, its President Laura Dupuy Lasserre said she had appointed jurists Christine Chanet of France, Unity Dow of Botswana and Asma Jahangir of Pakistan to the panel.
The “three highly distinguished individuals” would investigate the implications of “Israeli settlements for the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem,” Lasserre said.
She called on Israel “not to obstruct the process of the investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission.”
But in Jerusalem on Friday, Palmor defended the government’s decision, which it took in March, not to cooperate with the fact-finding mission and to cut its ties with the council.
“Israel was left with no other choice than to make this decision, after it became apparent that putting the disproportionate focus on Israel while systematically ignoring massive human rights violations in the very countries who bear responsibility for this focus, only leads to the contempt and degradation of the important cause of universal human rights,” Palmor said.
The fact-finding mission was yet another “blatant expression of the singling out of Israel at the UNHRC,” he said.
Israel’s decision to cut its ties with the council should be a wake-up call to democratic countries as to the council’s corrupt nature, Palmor said.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based nonprofit group UN Watch, immediately attacked the council’s announcement.
“While there are genuine human rights victims on all sides, this inquiry’s mandate is imbalanced and lacks credibility,” Neuer said.
“Its terms were framed in a four-page resolution, co-sponsored by the Arab and Islamic groups, that omits any reference to Arab terrorism against Israeli civilians, including the hundreds of rockets fired recently from Gaza and Sinai into Israeli towns and villages.”
The Human Rights Council on Friday provided background on the three panel members.
Chanet, who will chair the committee, was part of the Round Table Conference at the Peace Palace at The Hague in November 2001, in which the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct were finalized. She has been a member of the UN Human Rights Committee since 1996 and was twice its chairwoman.
Jahangir is the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and has twice chaired her country’s Human Rights Commission. She directs the AGHS Legal Aid Cell that provides free legal assistance to the needy. She has also served as UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief of the Council of Human Rights. In 1983, she was imprisoned for her activism against her country’s military regime.
Dow has been commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists since 2004, and was reelected to the post in 2009. She is a practicing lawyer in Botswana. From 1998 to 2008 she was Botswana’s first female High Court judge. She is also novelist and has authored books such as Juggling Truths, The Screaming of the Innocent and Far and Beyond.