Debate commenced today at the UN Human Rights Council on “Human rights violations in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” This agenda item is the only one devoted to addressing one, specific country situation. The UN had originally intended today’s discussion to focus on a report on the situation in Gaza by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as called for by the resolution adopted in January’s Special Session convened to address Israel’s military operations there.
The High Commissioner, however, did not have any report ready. She expressed her regret at this shortcoming, explaining, “It was not possible for me to submit my first report in time for this session… I was unable to give the report to the concerned parties for them to comment on. The draft was shared a few days ago.”
Relatively few states took the floor. Israel itself did not find it necessary to comment.
Palestine, Pakistan speaking for the Islamic Group (OIC), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) speaking for the Arab Group noted their anticipation for the presentation of the report in September’s session. Algeria thanked the High Commissioner for the draft report that had been circulated and explicitly expressed its regret that was not presented at this session. Egypt for the African Group asked for clarification on the reasons for the delay. Ms. Pillay issued no official response.
Aside from the lack of a report, another topic of discussion was the fact-finding mission set up to investigate Israel’s violations in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Given the one-sidedness of this mandate and the Council majority’s extreme, anti-Israel bias, Israel has refused to cooperate with the mission, denying its members entry into the country.
In his opening remarks, the President of the Human Rights Council expressed his confidence that the mission will provide “much needed clarity” on the situation in Palestine. He explained that it gained access to Gaza through Egypt, although Israel had denied it entry. He also noted that the mission’s investigators will hold meetings here in Geneva, where they will consult with Palestinian officials.
Ms. Pillay stressed the need for “full cooperation with the mission” to prioritize combating impunity for all violations.
Egypt speaking for the African Group, the UAE for the Arab Group, Pakistan for the OIC, Cuba for the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt, and Algeria chastised Israel’s for its failure to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. Pakistan for the OIC said the “failure to acquire any semblance of cooperation from Israel, the occupying power,” “confirms its arrogance.” Egypt angrily asked the High Commissioner why she did not more clearly chastise Israel for this.
The Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union (EU), said, “The EU hopes the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights violations committed in the context of the conflict and provide justice for its victims. A full, comprehensive, and balanced report into all violations is the only way to address human rights violations. We call on all parties to cooperate and believe it is in their best interests to do so.”
Japan noted that it abstained from voting on the resolution that established the mission “due to concerns over the lack of balance of the independent fact-finding mission.” It nevertheless urged “all parties” to cooperate with it, “including Israel.”
Algeria criticized those who called for a more balanced mandate, saying, “We have to put an end to putting the aggressor and victim on an equal path. Responsibility is imposed squarely on the occupying power, which has used force against the Palestinians.”
There was also some general discussion on Israeli human rights violations with a few of the usual hyperbolic accusations coming from Israel’s foes and additional criticism from Ms. Pillay and Norway.
Egypt railed against the “flagrant Israeli violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Lebanon said the “greatest military machine was set against the Gazans,” citing purported attacks against schools, hospitals, and UN establishments.
The High Commissioner blamed continued Israeli restrictions on imports and exports from Gaza for impoverishing its people, violating their economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as their civil and political rights. She said it is “crucial to implement the right of victims to reparations.”
Norway urged Israel to open the border to Gaza, explaining that “each day that passes without improvement weakens moderates and brings Israel more insecurity.”