UK warns little has changed at UN Human Rights Council, a year after putting body on notice

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UK warns little has changed at UN Human Rights Council, a year after putting body on notice

Britain demands end to UNHRC's agenda dedicated to criticising Israel - a year after it called out institutional bias

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

United Nations Human Rights Council
United Nations Human Rights Council

The UK has demanded an end to the UN Human Rights Council’s dedicated agenda item on Israeli actions in the West Bank as it warned “little had changed” in the year since it dramatically called out bias against the Jewish state.

At the end of the Council’s 37th session in Geneva, the UK mission to the UN voted against two of five resolutions targeting Israel including an ‘accountability’ motion urging an end to arms sales and one demanding a withdrawal from the Golan. It comes a year after the UK put the Council on “notice” and suggested it would oppose all motions unless the situation changed.

British diplomats backed a resolution on human rights and one on self-determination urging an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines. However, they warned that “the credibility and impact of these resolutions is repeatedly undermined by their being tabled under item 7” – a device through which Israel is the only country singled out for specific criticism. “This cannot continue.”

America and new Council member Australia – the only countries to oppose every motion – echoed the criticism of item seven and said any motions should come under item 4, as with every other country. The US said it was continuing to evaluate its membership of the UN body,

While a UK statement said it was a “committed member of the Council”, it warned the “disproportionate number of resolutions against Israel “does little to advance dialogue, stability or mutual understanding”.

It added that its vote, for the first time, against the accountability resolution “is not against the importance of accountability and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories but a vote against the Council’s focus”. That motion, that passed by 27 votes to 4, urged states to ensure “their public authorities and private entities do not become involved in internationally unlawful conduct, inter alia the provision of arms to end users known or likely to use the arms in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian and/or human rights law.”.

But the UK said: “We must not lose sight of the deeply concerning situation in the OPTs Over the past year we have seen plans for the first new settlement community in over 25 years and the retroactive approval of unauthorised outposts deep in the West Bank We continue to be alarmed by the treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention. We have also seen horrific terrorist violence against Israelis, which must be condemned in the strongest terms. All this gravely undermines the viability of a two-state solution.”

But the UK abstained on a fifth resolution on settlements over the implications of a database of businesses trading with Israel, warning those involved in its implementation of the “risk of creating a de facto blacklist”.

CFI executive director and honorary president James Gurd and Lord Polak said: “The UK’s reinforcement of its decision to put the UN Human Rights Council on notice for its repeated bias against Israel is to be applauded. This principled stand against notoriously one-sided resolutions reaffirms the Conservative government’s resolute support for the people of Israel.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “When the Human Rights Council treats Israel worse than North Korea, Iran, Syria, it is the Council itself that is foolish and unworthy of its name. It is time for the countries who know better to demand changes. Many countries agree that the Council’s agenda is grossly biased against Israel, but too few are willing to fight it.”

Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Once again, countries with the worst of human rights records have sought to pass motions that abuse the platform of the United Nations by attacking Israel and attempting to distract from their own disgraceful conduct. We are proud of the UK Government for honouring its promise to ‘call time’ on this by voting against two of these motions and abstaining on another. It is time that the UN became a place of truth and fairness, not a den of lies and bias, and it is good to see the UK leading the way on this.”

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