Overview of a Human Rights Council special session at the United Nations in Geneva.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Europe has skipped the United Nations Human Rights Council’s mandated debate against Israel, known as Agenda Item 7, which is held at every session.
Thirty-four countries stood up to speak during the debate on Monday at the 35th session in Geneva, but none of them represented Western countries, save for South Africa. All the countries that spoke were from the Middle East, Asia, African and South America.
Israel refuses to participate in Agenda Item 7 debates, because it is the only country against which there is such a mandate. Allegations against human rights abuses for all other countries are dealt with under Agenda Item 4.
Three successive US administrations have asked the UNHRC to remove this item from its agenda. During a visit to Geneva earlier this month, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley
said elimination of Agenda Item 7 was one of the necessary steps for reform that the UNHRC must take if the United States is to remain in the council.
Over the last few years, European participation in Agenda Item 7 has slowly dwindled. In the January debate, only the European countries of Sweden, Slovenia and Luxembourg spoke.
During Monday proceedings, the participating countries heavily criticized Israel and the Western countries for refusing to participate in the UNHRC debates.
The Gulf Cooperation Council spoke of the importance of Agenda Item 7 in highlighting the suffering of the Palestinian people and the lack of accountability by Israel. The Arab group condemned the lack of participation by Western countries in that agenda item.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad delivered a report to the council that spoke against both Israeli and Palestinian non-compliance with the UNHRC and its resolutions.
“Compliance with international law and ensuring its respect are not optional,” Zeid said.
“The general patterns of human rights violations and non-implementations of recommendations are not merely symptoms of the conflict, but further fuel the cycle of violence, which has now persisted for half a century. To break the cycle the root causes must be addressed these includes bringing the occupation to an end and addressing the security concerns of Israel.”
The Palestinian Ambassador to the UNHRC in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi took issue with Zeid’s report for treating Israel and the Palestinians equally, even though the Palestinians are under “occupation.”