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Al-Haq and Addameer outline why agenda Item 7 is critical for human rights in the OPT

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Alhaq Logo On Tuesday 19 June 2018, the United States (US) announced its intention to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), citing anti-Israel bias. US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, stated that “this disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the Council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights,” and “if the Human Rights Council is going  to attack countries that uphold human rights and shield countries that abuse human rights, then America should not provide it with any credibility.”[1] The United States has expressed opposition to HRC Agenda Item 7 on “the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories” on numerous occasions for lending to the politicization of the HRC.[2] This criticism is baseless and only serves as a distraction, hindering the HRC’s ability to carry out its mandate.

Item 7 is a necessary point in the HRC’s agenda, given that the response of the international communitiy to Israel’s 70-year, annexation, colonisation and apartheid of Palestine and 51-year occupation has been prolonged by inaction at the United Nations Security Council. In particular, the United States routinely exercises its veto power as a permanent member of the UNSC to block resolutions addressing the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in order to shield Israel. Since 1994, the US has vetoed 15 resolutions while only 13 have passed.[3] The most recent resolution vetoed by the United States at the Security Council was in response to the Great Return March, when Israeli forces wilfully killed 135 unarmed Palestinian peaceful protestors, while exercising their right to peacefully asssemble and protest for their right of return to their places of origin, the end of the 12-year siege of the Gaza Strip and the right of self determination. Notably, the United States was the sole Member State to vote against the resolution.[4] Meanwhile the HRC has passed over 50 Palestine specific resolutions, follow up resolutions, or decisions since its founding in 2006[5], demonstrating its effective capability of addressing and monitoring the situation.

Israel’s complete disregard for international law and the UN further necessitates Item 7. Since 1948 and the start of the occupation in 1967, Israel has carried out gross and systematic violations of international law in Palestine, amounting to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Israeli policy towards Palestine is marked by an annexationist policy in Jerusalem and  the West Bank.[6] Israel has demonstrated a complete disregard for UN mechanisms by ignoring resolutions and refusing to cooperate with special procedures, including denying entry to United Nations Special Rapporteurs.[7] By withdrawing from the HRC and refusing to cooperate with Item 7, the United States is allowing Israel to continue disregarding international law and hindering the efforts of the United Nations.

Al-Haq’s attached position paper on Retaining United Nations Human Rights Council Agenda Item 7 addresses opposition towards Item 7 and examines the unique situation of the prolonged 51-year occupation of Palestine and continuing 70-year Nakba which requires the continuation of Item 7 as a vital platform to respond to the gross human rights violations committed by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF). Given the failure of other UN mechanisms to respond, the HRC is the most important forum for addressing global human rights issues and the special case of Israel’s colonisation of Palestine. The actions of the United States undermine the efforts of the HRC to fight gross violations of human rights in Palestine.

Link to Al-Haq and Addameer Position Paper on Item 7

[1] Gardiner Harris, Trump Administration Withdraws U.S. From U.N. Human Rights Council, New York Times (19 June 2018), available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/us/politics/trump-israel-palestinians-human-rights.html

[2] See e.g. “Human Rights Council concludes special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory,” United Nations Human Rights Council (18 May 2018), available at:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=23107&LangID=E;

[3] United Nations Security Council, Meeting Records, available at: http://www.un.org/en/sc/meetings/

[4] United Nations, “Amid Middle East Violence, Security Council Fails to Adopt Competing Resolutions on Israeli Force, Hamas Role in Conflict

United States Lone Veto, Only Vote on Respective Texts”, available at: https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13362.doc.htm

[5] United Nations Human Rights Council, Regular Session, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Pages/RegularSessions.aspx

[6] 37th Session Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, ❡ 20, United Nations Human Rights Council (15 March 2018), available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session37/Documents/A_HRC_37_75_EN.doc

[7] See Resolution 446, United Nations Security Council (22 March 1979), available at: https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/BA123CDED3EA84A5852560E50077C2DC; In UNSC Resolution 2334, the UNSC reaffirmed their previous resolutions including 446 with more calls for action. Resolution 2334, United Nations Security Council (23 December 2016), available at: http://www.un.org/webcast/pdfs/SRES2334-2016.pdf ; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967,” ❡ 2, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (15 March 2018), available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session37/Documents/A_HRC_37_75_EN.docx :The UN Special Rapporteur has yet to be allowed into the OPT.

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