Israel boycotts UN human rights review

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Israeli soldiers walk past a biblical-themed mural in the West Bank city of Hebron, where many hardline Jewish settlers reside, on 13 January 2013. (Photo: Reuters - Baz Ratner)

Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated 4:30pm: Israel boycotted a routine review of its human rights situation by the United Nations Tuesday, despite threats of “unspecified action” by the UN Human Rights Council if it did not cooperate.

According to Israeli media, Israel is the only UN member state to ever boycott the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review since the process’ inception in 2006.

The UPR is an evaluation of human rights in each of the UN's 193 member states, and takes place every four years.

Israel unilaterally severed ties with UNHRC in March 2012 over a planned fact-finding mission over illegal West Bank settlements.

According to news website The Times of Israel, Israel has participated in the first round of reviews in October 2011, before asking the council to postpone its review without justification.

Israel later accused the Human Rights Council of “anti-Israel moves.”

“We are under an ongoing policy of suspension of all our contacts with the Human Rights Council in Geneva and all its branches after their sequence of systematically anti-Israel moves, which have come to contradict the mission statement of the organizations and sheer common sense” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel Sunday.

Israel’s review was scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon, despite the Jewish nation having indicated that it wouldn't attend. Israel's review board, composed of the Maldives, Sierra Leone and Venezuela, waited for an Israeli representative before confirming the country's absence.

If Israel follows through with its boycott, it could set a negative precedent for other countries unwilling to respond to accusations of human rights violations.

Only one other country, Haiti, has ever postponed a review before, but gave a reason.

The website for the UPR specifies that in case of “persistent non-cooperation,” “the Human Rights Council will decide on the measures it would need to take” against the offending state.

UNHRC spokesman Rolando Gomez had warned that “if a delegation from the country was not to attend then action, as yet unspecified, would be taken.”

"We're in new territory here," he told the Associated Press.

Israel has fought back and criticized many investigations into its treatment of Palestinians, including on illegal settlements and the use of drones.

Its relationship with the Human Rights Council has been tense for years, most notably since 2007, when the council made Israel's actions in Occupied Palestine a permanent item on the agenda.

(Al-Akhbar)

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