Despite pressure from the US, Israel has boycotted the review of its human rights situation which was scheduled for today. All UN member states are required to undergo such Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) by the Human Rights Council. It is the first time that a state has refused to cooperate in this mandatory review process without giving a reason. Until now, all countries have attended, including Syria and North Korea.
However, the council has not let Israel off the hook. It unanimously agreed — supported by the US — to defer the review until its next session in October and November at the latest.
Israel’s boycott follows the decision to cut its working relations with the UN Human Rights Council in March last year in response to the council’s decision to investigate Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza stated today:
Israel’s decision to boycott the UPR is yet another demonstration of its contempt for international human rights norms, and is made possible by the complacency of the international community. The failure to hold Israel to account for its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law has further deepened the culture of impunity which allows such violations to occur.
Fifteen Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations have called on the Human Rights Council “to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date,” warning that Israel’s unprecedented move is “one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals.”
The groups add that:
“Israel’s decision to disengage from core mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system has, in effect, resulted in preferential treatment. All but one of the 193 UN Member States have attended their UPR as scheduled; in that single instance the State of Haiti was unable to attend due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. Israel should not receive any benefits or concessions for its efforts to undermine the system of the UN and, in particular, its human rights system.”
Israel’s track record is summarized by the groups:
Israel’s move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN. Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognise the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.
The organizations note that Israel also rejects that it an occupying power bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the wall in the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel declined to cooperate with the 2009 UN Fact-finding Mission on Gaza headed by Justice Richard Goldstone. In 2012, the UN Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements was denied entry into the West Bank. Israel has also refused entry to a long list of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, including Special Rapporteur Richard Falk who was never allowed to enter the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to carry out his work.