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For First Time, Israeli Expert Selected to Chair UN Committee on Human Rights

For the first time, an Israeli expert has been chosen to chair the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a panel of experts who reviews the adherence of members states to the organization’s rights charter.

The Times of Israel reported that Yuval Shany, who is deputy president of the Israel Democracy Institute and a member of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, was selected on Monday. The decision by the Geneva-based committee’s 18 members, of which Shany has been a member since 2013, was unanimous.

Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Shany, admitted that the forum is often confused with the UN Human Rights Council — an institution from which the United States withdrew last month over the body’s “chronic bias against Israel.”

The U.S. decision sparked other council members to oppose the UNHRC’s singling out of the Jewish State, among them the United Kingdom and Australia.

“If I had a shekel for every time that people confuse between the two bodies my financial situation would be different,” Shany joked. The expert in humanitarian law and human rights further observed that, “Global politics plays much less of a role” in the professional committee, adding, “People are chosen — quite surprisingly in that environment — according to their suitability for the position.”

Although Israelis have been members of the committee in the past, Monday was the first time one was chosen to lead the forum which, according to its website, “monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties.”

The rights council and the rights committee sit under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.