Issue 45: Time to Reexamine the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories

With only two weeks left of this year’s Commission on Human Rights, time is running out to address fundamental problems in the mandate of at least one Special Rapporteur.

Analysis: Commission mechanisms are there to encourage respect for international human rights norms. They exist to monitor situations fairly and accurately, and to present facts and recommendations to the Commission.

In general, the Commission’s Special Rapporteurs fulfill these roles. However, given the flawed mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the occupied territories, human rights promotion and protection in this area is compromised a priori. This mandate calls for a finding of “violations of international law,” presupposing Israeli fault. Further, it fails to examine all involved parties, and it is the only country-specific mandate that is open-ended, rather than subject to annual renewal.

The report of the new Special Rapporteur, Giorgio Giacomelli, is limited in its contribution to the advancement of peace and human rights, cornerstone considerations of the Commission and the UN.

Giacomelli’s report gives little consideration to the bilateral peace process that exists between Israel and the Palestinians. He judges crucial questions currently under negotiation between the parties themselves, such as the status of Jerusalem, security, and the “right of return.”

Further undermining the search for peaceful relations and respect for human rights, Giacomelli gives only conditional recognition to positive developments, such as the Israeli Supreme Court ruling on torture and the opening of a safe passage. In addition, he takes no firm stand on human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority.

Little seems to be outside Giacomelli’s purview. Last summer, signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention met to discuss Israel and the occupied territories. The meeting was dissolved within one hour, and most states hoped to put the matter to rest. Giacomelli, however, wants to reopen the affair, and “looks forward to the follow-up pledged by the High Contracting Parties.”

The good news is that the EU, the US, Canada, and many Central and Eastern European countries have called for changes in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Israel itself has pledged cooperation with a Rapporteur whose mandate is in line with other Rapporteurs, and which includes the examination of the Palestinian Authority. That is a confident and correct position. With only two weeks remaining, will the Commission on Human Rights modify the mandate?

UN Watch