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Israel Boycotts UN Human Rights Review Session

Israel Boycotts UN Human Rights Review Session
1/30/2013 1:07 AM ET

Israel on Tuesday boycotted the scheduled review of its human rights record by the top United Nations rights body, apparently prompted by what the Jewish nation claims to be unfair criticism from the U.N. agency.

The U.N. Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review subjects each country's human rights record to a State-led peer review on the basis of information submitted by the country concerned, U.N. entities, civil society and other stakeholders.

Israel is the first nation to boycott the review session. The ongoing review process is part of a two-week session the Council is currently holding in Geneva during which 14 States are having their human rights records examined.

Representatives of the 14 countries are scheduled to appear before the Council's Working Group, comprising all the 47 members of the U.N. body, to present efforts they have made in fulfilling their human rights obligations and commitments, assessing both positive developments and identifying challenges.

The Council regretted Israel's boycott of the review and decided to reschedule its examination of the Jewish nation's human rights record to later this year, at the 17th session of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review of October-November at the latest.

The UNHRC also called on Israel to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which has enjoyed 100 per cent participation from States since it began nearly five years ago.

The Council called on its President, Ambassador Remigiusz A. Henczel of Poland, to "take all appropriate steps" to prod Israel to resume its cooperation and requested him to report back to the Council on his efforts in this regard.

"When my final report is considered, the Council will consider any steps that might be deemed appropriate under the relevant General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions," Henczel told the Council later.

He added that Tuesday's decision would serve as "a precedent to be applied in all similar circumstances of non-cooperation in the future."

The other countries being reviewed during the Working Group's current session, which concludes on February 1, are France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and Serbia.

Although Israel is not a member of the Council, it is obliged like other 193 U.N. member-states to participate in the Universal Periodic Review. Israel last participated in UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review of its human rights situation in 2008

Incidentally, representatives from Haiti failed in 2010 to appear before the Council for the review on the scheduled date, but it was due to a devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation earlier that year. All other nations, including North Korea and Syria, have attended their periodic reviews so far.

The Israeli move follows the Council's decision last year to investigate how the Jewish communities living in settlements constructed in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem affect the lives of Palestinian Arabs. Subsequently, Israel cut all ties with the UNHRC in March.

Israel has settled about 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War. However, its annexation of the captured territories is not recognized by the international community, which considers building settlements in the occupied land as illegal.

Currently, the U.S.-mediated direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel are deadlocked over the Jewish nation's refusal to extend a construction freeze in the West Bank after its expiry on September 26, 2010.

Palestinians, who hope to make East Jerusalem the capital of their future state, insist that they will return to direct peace talks only if Israel stops settlement construction in the occupied territories.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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