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38th plenary meeting
Tuesday, 4 November 2008, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.
Agenda item 58
Report of the Human Rights Council (A/63/53 and Add.1)
Mr. Uhomoibhi (Nigeria): This past Friday, 31 October 2008, I had the distinct honour and privilege to present the report of the Human Rights Council to the Third Committee of the General Assembly. I come before the Assembly in plenary this morning to also apprise members on the activities of the Council, in accordance with resolution 60/251.
In conformity with its mandate, the Council addressed serious human rights situations in various parts of the world. Accordingly, three special sessions were held during the reporting period — regarding the human rights situation in Myanmar, the human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, and the negative impact of the worsening of the food crisis on the realization of the right to food for all. By holding, for the first time, a special session on the thematic issue on the right to food, the Council was able substantively to link its work with what is happening in the real world, which has adverse effects on the lives of millions of people.
Mr. Ripert (France) (spoke in French ): I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. ...
Three special sessions were held over the past year. One dealt with the right to food and another with the situation in Burma, which is still cause for great concern. If the issue of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, which was previously addressed at a special session, must be debated in the Human Rights Council, its members must make sure that they reach balanced solutions.
Mr. Edrees (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Thus, we should work together with the United Nations system to strengthen early warning capacities, relying on authenticated and non-politicized information, and strengthen the cooperation of States with the fact-finding missions established by the Council to investigate gross human rights violations, particularly those committed against peoples under foreign occupation and in conflict situations. The international community’s efforts to achieve universal respect for human and peoples’ rights will not succeed unless we completely reject selectivity, politicization and double standards when addressing human and peoples’ rights, in particular the inalienable right to self-determination.
In that context, it is imperative that the Council remain committed to ensuring respect for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and to verifying full compliance by Israel with its international obligations, including its commitment to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and the Council’s fact-finding missions to investigate gross human rights violations. That includes allowing the required field visits to take place — the most recent of which was the high-level fact-finding mission led by Bishop Desmond Tutu to investigate the tragic events that had taken place in Beit Hanoun — as well as following the recommendations subsequently adopted by the Council. In that regard, Egypt supports the Human Rights Council’s recommendation that the General Assembly consider the mission’s report with the participation of mission participants. The report on Beit Hanoun should be considered in a special meeting of the General Assembly.
Mr. Carmon (Israel): It is with dismay and disappointment that I address this gathering of the General Assembly. Today, we consider the second report of the Human Rights Council (A/63/53 and Add.1), a report that reflects how far the Council has drifted from its founding principles of impartiality, universality, non-selectivity and objectivity.
Sometimes tragedy is not just the pain we suffer, but the opportunities we miss. And today’s report is a clear demonstration of the opportunities missed by the Human Rights Council and, may I say, by the international community as a whole. We all witness a United Nations human rights body targeting Israel in an obsessive and discriminatory fashion. We can only watch in disbelief as the Council ignores human rights abuses around the world while offering silence at best and praise at worst to some of the world’s most ruthless, abusive dictators.
Since we considered last year’s report, the Human Rights Council has adopted a series of seven resolutions condemning Israel. No other country among the other 191 members of the United Nations is the target of such negative and unreasoned attention. Each pronouncement against Israel lacks any semblance of objectivity — objectivity that the Council is supposedly based upon. Furthermore, this past year witnessed another one-sided special session against Israel, bringing the total number of special sessions targeting Israel to four. That is more than the number of all other special sessions combined. Certain members of the Council appear intoxicated with the automatic majority they enjoy as they abuse the Council’s procedures and mechanisms.
As we consider today’s report (A/63/53 and Add.1), I call upon each and every member of the General Assembly to pause for a moment and, in a spirit of honesty, ask himself or herself why Israel receives such disparate treatment. Is the Council’s behaviour towards Israel truly about combating human rights abuses in the world? Or is this treatment a reflection of the political dynamics of the Council and of the larger United Nations community? The answer to those questions is very clear.
As a democracy, Israel does not seek to hide its human rights performance, nor should any other State. In fact, Israel is proud of its efforts to uphold the founding principles of the United Nations and to engage in constructive debates and dialogues. Yet Israel will not sit idly by and acquiesce as the Human Rights Council eschews the principles of balance and fairness. Israel will not remain silent as the Council prejudges the outcome of its findings and determines in advance Israel’s culpability in a cynical and methodical manner.
While the one-sided resolutions and special sessions that target Israel are grave cause for concern for the credibility of the Council, the institutional framework established against Israel by the Council threatens its very integrity and legitimacy. Israel is the subject of the Council’s only country-specific agenda item. The continued obsession with Israel serves to divert the attention of the Human Rights Council from legitimate human rights abuses around the world, and such politicization of the human rights agenda demonstrates the Council’s commitment to political point-scoring, rather than to the rea While the one-sided resolutions and special sessions that target Israel are grave cause for concern for the credibility of the Council, the institutional framework established against Israel by the Council threatens its very integrity and legitimacy. Israel is the subject of the Council’s only country-specific agenda item. The continued obsession with Israel serves to divert the attention of the Human Rights Council from legitimate human rights abuses around the world, and such politicization of the human rights agenda demonstrates the Council’s commitment to political point-scoring, rather than to the real protection of human rights.
Furthermore, the Council clings to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. That mandate presumes Israeli violations and precludes the Special Rapporteur from discussing honestly human rights in a holistic and impartial manner. Palestinian terrorism that deliberately targets Israeli civilians thus receives immunity. How can the Special Rapporteur claim, for example, to act in the name of human rights when his mandate systematically prohibits the discussion of indiscriminate Qassam rocket attacks on the civilians of Sderot and Ashkelon? How can the Special Rapporteur claim to uphold universal values of human rights when he remains deafeningly silent as Hamas violates the most basic human rights of its own people?
Compounding that unbalanced mandate is the fact that, despite the requirement of the constitutive document that established the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate has not been reviewed or scrutinized for over 15 years since its creation in 1993. The absence of any review is not for lack of opportunity, as the mandate was scheduled to be reviewed in March and September of this year. Yet on both occasions, the Council evaded its duty. Even the Special Rapporteur himself publicly called for the mandate to be reviewed and updated.
There are millions of people across the world who live under the yoke of oppression and who cry out for the protection of the Human Rights Council. The Council itself was created to hear those pleas, to offer a brighter alternative to the world’s most disenfranchised, but for political reasons the Council’s obsession with Israel stands in the way of its true potential.
The report we consider today reflects a Human Rights Council that continues to fail to uphold the basic standards of human rights in an impartial, universal, non-selective and objective manner. In a year when the world is celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the work of the Human Rights Council casts a dark shadow on the commitment of the international community to the true principles of human rights.
The meeting rose at 12.25 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum. \