Israel boycotts UN Human Rights Council forum

January 30, 2013 - 3:21:23 am

Israel boycotts UN Human GENEVA: Israel boycotted the United Nations’ human rights forum yesterday, becoming the first country ever to decline to attend a session that was due to scrutinise its own rights record.

Israel’s no-show at the Human Rights Council drew widespread criticism, including a tacit rebuke from the United States which said the UN process of reviewing human rights was a “valuable mechanism” as it was applied to all countries.

The council had been due to examine Israel under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in all UN member states. Its last review was in December 2008, when it attended.

Israel, which would likely have faced criticism for its dealings with the Palestinians, suspended relations with the council last May because of what it called an inherent bias against it.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Reuters that Israel had announced it was “suspending indefinitely its participation in the UN Human Rights Council work. This policy has not changed.” Diplomats at the Geneva-based forum hoping Israel might have a last-minute change of heart expressed their disappointment.

The council’s president, Poland’s ambassador Remigiusz Henczel, called it “an important issue and unprecedented situation”. The 47-member forum adopted a motion regretting Israel’s no-show and urging it to cooperate in a review to be conducted at its October-November session “at the latest.”

Arab states had been poised to criticise Israel’s treatment of detainees, settlement expansion and naval blockade of the Gaza Strip which Palestinians say is collective punishment but which Israel says is vital for its security.

“As the only recalcitrant state among 193, Israel’s deliberate absence would sabotage the principle of universality,” Peter Splinter, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN in Geneva, said in a blog.

US human rights ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, addressing the council yesterday, avoided naming the close ally, while stressing that Washington greatly valued the way all countries’ human rights records are examined. REUTERSRights Council forum