UN Human Rights Council Special Session is One-Sided

PRESS RELEASE

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For the final results of the special session, see “UN Rights Council Slams Israel Again,” July 6, 2006 Press Release.

UN Human Rights Council Special Session is One-Sided

Geneva, July 5, 2006 —  The first-ever “special session” of the UN’s new Human Rights Council, convened by the Arab Group, decided to vote tomorrow morning on a proposal by Arab and Islamic blocs to condemn Israel for its current actions in Gaza. Sponsors of the censure are apparently rejecting last-minute Swiss amendments that would add mention to Palestinian obligations.

UN Watch recognized current difficulties faced by Palestinians, and the legitimacy of scrutinizing the actions of all governments. The Geneva-based monitoring group expressed deep concern, however, over the imbalance in both the session’s agenda and its proposed resolution.  UN Watch commended those democracies — the United States, Canada and Australia — that spoke out against the biased nature of the proceedings.

“Both the request for the session and the proposed resolution are entirely one-sided,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch Executive Director.  “Both speak only about Israeli violations, while ignoring the Hamas government’s role, not only in the hostage-taking that precipitated the crisis, but in perpetrating deliberate attacks on civilians, such as last night’s firing of a rocket at a children’s school in the city of Ashkelon.” Palestinians have fired more than 500 Kassam missiles against civilian centers in Israel proper since it pulled out of Gaza 10 months ago.

Amendments to the draft resolution, introduced this evening by Switzerland, would urge “all Palestinian armed groups to respect the rules of international humanitarian law [and] to refrain from violence against the civilian population.”  The Swiss amendments also urged humane treatment for the Israeli captured soldier, but stopped short of calling for his release, as several country statements did.

Neuer described this afternoon’s session as “primarily consisting of anti-Israel tirades by Arab and Islamic states, with the spectacle of Sudan accusing others of ‘war crimes’.” Non-governmental organizations were left literally speechless when the Islamic group moved to suspend debate right before they were slated to speak.

UN Watch had joined the international community in supporting Israel’s disengagement from Gaza last summer.  Since the withdrawal, tragically, terror in Gaza has prospered. Weapons were imported, militants were trained, Kassam rockets were produced, and tunnels were dug. Sderot, the outskirts of Ashkelon, and other Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip periphery, were bombarded nearly every day.  The Palestinians elected a terrorist organization to run their government, which—in defiance of the international community—openly calls for Israel’s destruction and celebrates terrorist attacks.

Since the council was created on March 15, several months of preparatory sessions in Geneva were dominated by repeated demands of Arab and Muslim states for a special agenda item to censure Israel.  Neuer applauded Canada, members of the EU, and other democracies for supporting the efforts of Council President Luis de Alba to nevertheless preserve a neutral agenda for the June session.  “Supporters of a credible new Council recognized that a biased agenda would mark a return to the dark days of selectivity and politicization that killed the old commission,” said Neuer.

Regrettably, however, on the last day of its inaugural session (Friday, June 30), the Council adopted a one-sided condemnation of Israel, introduced by the Islamic bloc, making the Jewish state the only country to be singled out for censure.  The Friday decision, opposed by most democracies, now forces a permanent anti-Israel agenda item at every future Council meeting.  A separate resolution singled out the Council’s special rapporteur on Palestine as its only expert mandate with no year of expiry.

Prior to the June session UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a plea for the Council to preserve its credibility, saying, “I hope we are not going to see a situation where the Human Rights Council focuses on Israel, but not on the others.”

Neuer expressed regret that a majority of Council members are “showing contempt for Mr. Annan’s urgent plea to leave behind the discredited Commission’s self-destructive obsession with bashing Israel, at the expense of urgent human rights situations affecting millions of victims in Darfur, China, Chechnya, and in so many other regions across the globe.”

Similarly, other NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, have separately called on the council “to avoid the selectivity that discredited its predecessor,” saying that “the council’s singling out the Occupied Palestinian Territories for special attention is a cause for concern.”

For the final results of the special session, see “UN Rights Council Slams Israel Again,” July 6, 2006 Press Release.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.

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