Geneva, August 11, 2006  –  For the second time in a month, the UN Human Rights Council is today holding an emergency Special Session to denounce Israel, this time for alleged “gross human rights violations” in Lebanon. UN Watch condemned the exercise as one-sided and urged all members to oppose the draft resolution. The text, submitted by the Council’s Arab and Islamic members who initiated the meeting, “strongly condemns the grave Israeli violations of human rights” and contemplates the urgent dispatch of a “high-level commission of inquiry” to investigate.


Today’s debate featured harsh speeches from Muslim states and their allies, with Cuba accusing Israel of “genocidal intent.”


Russia, despite its support for the meeting, criticized the resolution as “strongly worded” and “directed only at Israel, even though Israelis have suffered.” Finland, on behalf of the European Union, said the Council ” should promote universal human rights without distinction.”


Others expressed stronger opposition. The Canada said it would vote against the resolution because it was “manifestly one-sided,” failing to recognize that “this conflict was caused by Hezbollah and its state sponsors.” Canada said the Council “should be used for productive matters and should eliminate double-standards and politicization. Neither the session nor the resolution are productive towards securing peace in the Middle East.”


Similarly, Australia was “distraught by the one-sided nature of this session. The Security Council is dealing with it and we support its efforts. We don’t think that holding a Human Rights Council session will be helpful. Israel is responding to the provocations of Hamas and Hezbollah.”


UN Watch condemned the loss of innocent life on both sides of the conflict, and urged all nations to support the Security Council’s intense efforts to end the hostilities, return abductees and disarm Hezbollah as required by Resolution 1559.


However, it expressed worry over a breach in the separation of powers provided by the UN Charter that might complicate delicate peace efforts in New York. Because the Security Council is already treating the dispute, “Article 12 of the UN Charter, not to mention common sense, clearly prohibits the Human Rights Council, as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, from entering the fray,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO. UN Watch on Tuesday had urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan to exercise his obligations under Article 12 and intervene. UN lawyers would examine the question, said Annan’s spokesman at yesterday’s press briefing in New York.


UN Watch also expressed deep disappointment that today’s resolution — co-sponsored by Iran, Libya, Syria, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and 18 other Islamic states — made no reference to Hezbollah’s provocation of the crisis as acknowledged by Mr. Annan, nor its its firing of more than 3,000 missiles that come packed with metal ball bearings intended to inflcit maximum injury of civilians.


“Hezbollah’s war crimes are entirely ignored by today’s resolution,” said Neuer, “as are the dead, injured and displaced Israelis being victimized by these attacks. UN Watch grieves the deaths of all innocent civilians, Lebanese and Israeli, Arab and Jew, Muslim and Christian alike. What is obscene is that the sponsors of this session, who easily dominate the Council, are instead forcing the world’s top human rights body to say that Israeli civilian blood is worthless — a blatantly racist approach.”


This will be the third country resolution in the history of the new Council—all of which have targeted the Middle East’s only democracy, to the exclusion of the UN’s other 191 member states.


For the UN to be credible and effective as a peacemaker and human rights promoter, said Neuer, it had to show a balanced approach.


Instead, key Geneva human rights bodies have disregarded even their own most basic rules in order to condemn Israel over its war with Hezbollah. Recent examples of such trespassing include:

  • Statements by UN independent human rights experts having no meaningful connection to the conflict, such as the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, and the Special Rapporteur “on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” Mr. Paul Hunt.


  • The special session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last Thursday on “the humanitarian situation in Lebanon”, where members said Israel’s targeting of Hezbollah was a “mass genocide” motivated by “blatant racism.” The Danish and American members argued that the issue was simply beyond the panel’s mandate, but to no avail.


  • The statement issued Monday by the Sub-Commission on Human Rights condemning “the massive denial and violation of human rights in Lebanon,” in open defiance of its prime directive to refrain from addressing specific country situations. Member Francoise Jane Hampson warned her colleagues that they would be “breaking the rules,” since its supervisory body had given “express instructions that the Sub-Commission was not to pass country-specific resolutions.” Again, to no avail. The members went ahead and issued the statement, and rejected a last-minute attempt to include reference to Israeli suffering.

“These bodies seem to be operating on an unwritten clause granting overriding power to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel as a matter of inherent jurisdiction,” said Neuer. “The greatest loser are human rights victims around the world. By diverting all of its resources to denounce one country repeatedly, the Human Rights Council has forgotten that its power to call special sessions was designed to address gross and persistent abuses of human rights around the world.”


“Don’t other world crises—mass rape in Darfur, four million killed in Democratic Republic of Congo, repression and strife in Burma, East Timor, Colombia, Somalia—deserve special sessions?”


“A day after radical British Islamists are arrested for planning large bomb planes bound for the United States, the UN, instead of fighting the worldwide terror scourge, is finding new ways to attack — who else? — Israel.”

UN Watch