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Human Rights Watch's assessment of the Council's engagement on Israel / Occupied Palestinian Territories

The “situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories” remains the Council’s only standing agenda item[1] on a particular location, making the Council's focus on Israel disproportionate.  Human Rights Watch has repeatedly stressed that it objects not to the Council addressing human rights violations by Israel, which it should, but to the way it addresses them. In addition, some resolutions adopted under agenda item 7 fail to adequately address the responsibility of Palestinian authorities and other armed groups for abuses.The continuing growth in the Council’s attention to other human rights situations has affected the disproportionate focus somewhat -- in 2012, for example,the Council adopted five resolutions on Syria, the same number it adopted on Israel.

The following charts show the trend of Israel resolutions as a proportion of the Council’s overall resolutions. In 2006, 11.6% of all Council resolutions (country-specific and thematic) focused on Israeli violations, and more than half of all resolutions on country situations related to Israel. Both percentages were cut by more than half by 2013, when 5.6% of all resolutions and 19.4% of country-specific resolutions focused on Israeli violations.

[1] Agenda item 7 on Human Rights Situations in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Israel's engagement with the Human Rights Council

Despite the controversy surrounding item 7, the Council's work on the Occupied Palestinian Territories has addressed a number of serious violations that required action. Since its creation, the Council has established a number of independent inquiries or fact-finding missions to investigate abuses committed in the occupied territories.

In March 2012, the Council established an independent fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. After the creation of this inquiry mechanism, Israel announced it would stop cooperating with the Human Rights Council and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Israel failed to appear for its periodic review in January 2013, making it the first country to miss a scheduled review since the UPR began in 2007 for reasons other than a domestic emergency. The Council appealed to Israel to reconsider its position. The review was rescheduled for October 2013 at which time Israel did take part. The results of the inquiry on settlements were presented to the Council in March 2013.

Most recently, the Council established in July 2014 an international Commission of Inquiry in the context of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, and requested it to report back to the Council in March 2015.The date of the release and discussion on the Commission of inquiry’s report was finally deferred to June 2015.

Voting on the Council's resolutions on the OPT & US double standards

The resolutions adopted by the Council concerning Israeli violations receive broad support. In 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted six resolutions on the following issues:  

  • Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/RES/S-21/1)

Four of the five resolutions adopted during the Council's regular sessions in 2014 on Israeli violations were supported by 36  of the Council's 47 member states, with the exception being the resolution on Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan, which had 33 votes in favor. The sixth resolution was adopted during July 2014 special session on Israeli military operations in Gaza and was adopted with 29 votes in favor, but only one against. The United States is the only country to vote against all six resolutions. The systematic rejection by the US of any resolution focusing on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel is a matter of concern and prompts fair criticism of double standards (as do countries, as discussed elsewhere, that only vote for country-specific resolutions critical of Israel).