On Tuesday, Israel became the first country to boycott a UN Human Rights Council review of its rights situation, and now the world is debating how to respond, AFP reported.
“I see that the delegation of Israel is not in the room,” council president Remigiusz Henczel told the delegates at the United Nations in Geneva.
Israel is not a member of the council, but all 193 UN countries are required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) of their human rights situation. But last March Israel cut all ties with the Council, after it announced that it would probe how Israeli settlements are infringing on the rights of the Palestinians.
“We cut all our contacts with the council last March, including the current activity,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, adding: “Our policy has not changed.”
It’s the first time since the reviews began, in 2007, that a country under evaluation chooses to be absent without an explanation.
Council president Henczel called on the council to adopt a draft decision on the way it should respond to the snub by the Jewish state, suggesting it should urge Israel to resume its cooperation with the UPR process.
He also suggested that Israel’s review be rescheduled for no later than during the UPR session starting in October, 2013.
Egypt’s representative declared that the council faced “a moment of truth.”
He warned that a “soft” approach towards Israel would create a dangerous precedent and leave “a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation.”
Israel’s main ally in the council, the United States, supported Henczel’s proposal, with ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe insisting – without mentioning Israel by name – that the text reflected the “best effort to find common ground and to protect the UPR mechanism going forward.”
Britain called for a “proportionate and balanced conclusion.”
Ireland’s representative for the European Union supported a “consensual” way forward.
The Pakistani representative would have none of that: “We wonder … whether this kind of cooperative spirit would be extended to some other countries that are not as close to some of the major powers in the world,” he said.
The council adopted Henczel’s proposal.
AFP noted that Israel “has long accused the Human Rights Council of singling it out, noting that it is the only country to have a specific agenda item dedicated to it at every meeting of the council, and that the body has passed an inordinate number of resolutions against it.”