Issue 56: The One-Sided Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights

A Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights met in Geneva last week. After two days of largely one-sided debate, a resolution was narrowly adopted by a vote of 19 to 16, with 17 abstentions. The resolution placed the entire blame on Israel for the tragic violence of the past few weeks.

Analysis: With the narrow adoption of this harshly one-sided resolution,  it becomes appropriate to question just how successfully the UN Commission on Human Rights fulfilled its sacred duty — to look fully and objectively at the Middle East situation.

The voting record itself is revealing. There are few democratic states among those 19 countries that voted for the resolution.  It is laughable that countries such as Algeria, Iraq, Iran and Syria, quintessential human rights abusers, should take the floor to lecture the Commission on Israel’s human rights record.

Indeed, there was little attempt at a balanced examination of the complex facts. Palestinian human rights violations, including placing Palestinian children on the front lines and carrying out brutal attacks on Israelis and Jewish holy sites, were almost completely ignored during the debate.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson’s balanced introductory assessment, which included a chronology that dated the violence to well before Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, was largely disregarded. Instead the preamble of the resolution condemns this “provocative visit,” and even mentions Sharon by name, as the trigger for the violence.

Likewise,  Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s even-handed mediating role and call for calm seemed to be altogether forgotten by the majority of speakers.

The resolution, employing some of the harshest possible language, was more concerned with a condemnation of Israel than with the protection of human rights.  It is distressing to see the Commission on Human Rights politically exploited once again.

Among the few positive notes emerging from this Session were the principled votes against the resolution made by the European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan and Guatemala. Alas, this was too few to consign the draft resolution to the dustbin in which it belongs.

UN Watch

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