• Switzerland's news in English

Israel's no-show sparks human rights flap

AFP · 29 Jan 2013, 18:32

Published: 29 Jan 2013 18:32 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I see that the delegation of Israel is not in the room," council president Remigiusz Henczel told the delegates at the United Nations in Geneva.

The Jewish state is not a member of the council but like all 193 UN countries it is required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) of its human rights situation.

Its absence on Tuesday, howeve,r came as no surprise.

Israel cut all ties with the 47-member state council last March after the body announced that it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of the Palestinians.

The Jewish state has come under widespread criticism for ramping up its construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories, notably in the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Earlier Tuesday, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP the country intended to boycott the meeting.

"We cut all our contacts with the council last March, including the current activity," Yigal Palmor said, stressing: "Our policy has not changed."

Israel's failure to show up for its UPR marks the first time since the reviews began in 2007 that a country under evaluation has been absent without explanation, and it was unclear how the rights council would react.

When Haiti delayed its UPR in early 2010 its justification was the devastating earthquake that hit the country that year, claiming more than 300,000 lives.

On Tuesday, after Israel failed to show, Henczel called on the council to adopt a draft decision on how to react, including urging Israel to resume its cooperation with the UPR process.

It also called for Israel's review to be rescheduled for no later than during the UPR session starting in October this year.

Delegates then took the floor, with Egypt's representative declaring that the council faced "a moment of truth".

He cautioned that taking a "soft" approach towards Israel would create a dangerous precedent and leave "a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation."

Israel's main ally in the council, the United States, however gave its full backing to Henczel's proposal, with ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe insisting in a statement — without mentioning Israel by name — that the text reflected the "best effort to find common ground and to protect the UPR mechanism going forward".

And Britain called for a "proportionate and balanced conclusion", while the Irish representative for the European Union urged a "consensual" way forward.

The Pakistani representative meanwhile implicitly criticized those urging a soft reaction.

"We wonder ... whether this kind of cooperative spirit would be extended to some other countries that are not as close to some of the major powers in the world," he said.

Despite the range of opinions, the council in the end adopted Henczel's proposal by consensus.

Israel has long accused the Human Rights Council of singling it out, noting that it is the only country to have a specific agenda item dedicated to it at every meeting of the council, and that the body has passed an inordinate number of resolutions against it.

In an email to AFP late last year, the country's mission in Geneva said it would boycott the council "for as long as it is treated differently than other countries".

On Tuesday, a coalition of 15 Israeli and Palestinian organizations warned of "the far-reaching consequences" of Israel's no-show.

"This lack of transparency will not only mean that Israel avoids rigorous criticism of its violations of international law, but that the entire UPR system will be undermined by the loss of its two fundamental principles: equality and universality," they said in a joint statement.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available