UN Watch revealed Tuesday that European Union (EU) representatives had stopped attending United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions that focused on permanent agenda item 7 since last month. The move prompted outrage among Arab and Muslim nations.
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer was quoted (video embedded below) on the organization’s blog explaining the significance of the EU walkout. Neuer noted the injustice of having a permanent agenda item devoted to a single country, a consequence arising from the fact that within the UN “the majority faction has the power to decide whatever it wants” with no constraints. Hailing “non-participation” as “the only remedy that can deny the legitimacy of that which cannot otherwise be challenged or overcome,” Neuer stated:
Today, the international community is joining the voices of principle.
Today, we heard complaints, but in fact non-participation in this debate is a sign of support for justice.
We see the European Union did not take the floor in this debate. The United States did not take the floor. Nor did Canada, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and many other liberal democracies.
Among the Arab and Muslim states objecting to the boycott by the EU were Iran and Pakistan:
Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned in the strongest terms the violations of human rights as a result of Israel’s military aggression against Palestine and underscored the need to continue to provide political, economic and humanitarian support to the Palestinian people. The Non-Aligned Movement welcomed the establishment of the new Commission of Inquiry as a mean to establish accountability and was deeply disappointed by the decision of some States to cease their participation under this agenda item.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed deep disappointment that some States had ceased their participation under agenda item 7 which was particularly disturbing in the light of the latest Israeli behaviour. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation welcomed the establishment of the new Commission of Inquiry as a mean to establish accountability and expressed disappointment for Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. Israel continued to build the wall in the occupied Palestine, impose the dual legal system and fragment territories, even though apartheid was clearly prohibited in international law.
Saudi Arabia similarly objected by stating:
Saudi Arabia condemned the actions of Israel, including the recent violations in Gaza. The Security Council must identify a timeframe for the withdrawal of Israeli troops to the 1967 borders. Saudi Arabia said it saw that an increasing number of States were insisting on boycotting agenda item 7 and were calling for it to be moved into item 2 or 3, which was proof of double standards concerning Israel. Item 7 was a fundamental agenda item of the Council which would stand until Israeli occupation and impunity ended.
The UNHRC guidebook (.pdf) lists the council’s permanent agenda items. Israel is singled out for routine evaluation via item 7, subjecting it to a standard not applied to any other country on earth.
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