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January 31, 2013 11:43 am

Israel Boycotts Review at UN Human Rights Council, Cites Bias

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Israel has become the first country to boycott its United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review, AFP reported.

While Israel is not a member of the UNHRC, it is required, like all 193 UN members, to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of its human rights records.

Israel cut ties with the UNHRC nearly a year ago. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP that that policy has continued.

“We cut all our contacts with the council last March, including the current activity,” Yigal Palmor said. He stressed, “Our policy has not changed.”

Israel’s reluctance to work with the UNHRC stems from the council’s intense focus on Israel and its perceived anti-Israel bias. More than half of the resolutions passed by the council since 2006 have focused on Israel and also is the only country that is a permanent agenda item with the UNHRC at every one of its sessions, according to the New York Times.

According to the UN watchdog group UN Watch, one of the overseers of Israel’s review was Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is a close ally with Iran.

Israel’s boycott has caused a minor diplomatic crisis, as members seek to preserve the UPR’s integrity.

UNHRC president Remigiusz Henczel has called on the council to figure out a way to urge Israel to undergo the review by next fall.

The U.S. representative, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, has backed this approach.

Ironically, Egypt and Pakistan, countries with poor human rights records, according to Freedom House, criticized the “soft” reaction of the council, with Egypt’s representative declaring that the council faced “a moment of truth,” according to AFP.

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