Israel criticized again in UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

The Geneva based NGO UN Watch, which monitors UN activities that touch Israel, notes that, at the end of its third regular session, today, “the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel twice, bringing its total number of resolutions against the Jewish state, in its [meaning the Human Rights Council – because the State of Israel has existed since 15 May 1948] six months of existence, to eight.  Israel is the only country in the world that the Council has condemned for human rights violations since it was inaugurated in June.  Today’s censures were the only Council resolutions from this session that addressed a specific country.  The two texts deal with ‘follow up’ to two earlier Council resolutions pronouncing Israel guilty of human rights violations in Gaza and in Lebanon without mentioning the actions or violations of Hamas or Hezbollah, which were widely criticized by Western states and human rights organizations as one-sided.  Both of today’s resolutions mandate additional reporting on and scrutiny of Israel’s conduct when the Council meets again in March.”

A press release issued by UN Watch quotes executive director Hillel Neuer as saying ” The Council, regrettably, continues to defy the repeated pleas of Secretary-General Annan to move past its obsession with one-sided resolutions against Israel … [T]he Council is reserving virtually all of its criticism for Israel, and today’s resolutions guarantee that this imbalance will continue at its next session.”

The UN Watch press release adds that “The only other country situation on which the Council has passed a resolution in its first six months is that of Darfur, Sudan.  That resolution, however, neither accuses Sudan of committing violations nor holds it responsible for halting the ongoing atrocities in Darfur”.

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Darfur next Tuesday, 12 December.

But, until now, UN Watch notes, “The Council’s three previous special sessions, held in July, August, and November, all focused on Israel”.

UN Watch was founded in 1993, by a former U.S. Ambassador (Morris B. Abram).

The present U.S. Ambassador in Geneva, Warren W. Tichenor, made his own statement during today’s session of the UN Human Rights Council, saying: “By condemning only Israel and discouraging an examination of the actions of Hizballah, the Council is rewarding an armed non-state actor, one that is currently trying to bring down the democratically elected Lebanese government, for engaging in repeated armed attacks against a member state of the United Nations.  Hizballah has attacked civilians and has conducted its operations in Lebanon in a manner that puts civilians in harm’s way.  Hizballah deliberately adopted these tactics to camouflage its operations — to insulate its forces from attack, in such a way that even if Israel attacks legitimate targets, Hizballah will score public relations points from the spectacle of Lebanese civilian casualties and death.  The United States remains a strong supporter of Lebanon’s democratically elected government, and the Lebanese people, as we reiterate our dedication to help Lebanon rebuild as they deserve a prosperous and secure country in which they are free to make decisions without fear of violence or intimidation.”

Ambassador Tichenor also said, in his statement to the UN’s Human Rights Council: “The human suffering on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border earlier this year was a tragedy and remains a serious concern of my government.  Faced with the tragic results of the conflict in Lebanon precipitated by the egregious cross-border attacks by Hizballah, the Council reacted in August with a one-sided and unfair resolution aimed only at Israel. The Council compounded its actions by creating a Commission of Inquiry to investigate only Israel’s use of force. As we heard at this session, the Commission report was one-sided and flawed. When evaluating issues such as targeting, use of weapons, and proportionality — which are in any event matters outside the mandate of the Council — one needs to look fully at all sides to the armed conflict.  Nevertheless, in its long list of recommendations, the Commission managed to make a few that would apply to Hizballah.”

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its fourth session in Geneva next year, over a four-week  period, from 12 March to 5 April 2007.

(The Human Rights Council is mandated to hold at least three separate sessions per year, totalling at least ten weeks.)

Before closing this last regular session of 2006, the Human Rights Council’s President, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Peru, said, according to a UN Press release, that “The Council had been working hard by combining substantive issues with a focus on institution-building. The Council had also dealt with highly topical and substantive issues. Although there were still matters to be worked out, many important things had successfully been accomplished. The Council had been requested by the resolution of the General Assembly to strengthen the mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights by taking the positive and effective instruments of the former Commission on Human Rights… [He also said] It was also important to underscore the achievements made in a positive manner, without excluding any one from participating in the process. The Council was starting a new phase of institution-building and should continue to deal with other issues as well.”

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