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Human Rights Session on Lebanon Violates Charter

August 8, 2006

Human Rights Council Session on Lebanon Violates U.N. Charter


Geneva, August 8, 2006 – UN Watch expressed grave concern over today's move by Arab and Islamic countries to urgently convene the UN's top human rights body regarding alleged "gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon." The sponsors dominate the large African and Asian blocs, guaranteeing the adoption of an anti-Israel motion that will become only the third country resolution of the new Human Rights Council—all of which have targeted the Jewish state to the exclusion of the UN's other 191 member states.

The Geneva-based non-governmental organization condemned the loss of innocent life on both sides of the conflict, and urged all nations to support the Security Council's efforts to end the hostilities, return abductees and disarm Hezbollah as required by Resolution 1559.

However, because the Security Council is already treating the dispute, Article 12 of the UN Charter expressly prohibits the Human Rights Council, as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, from entering the fray, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. He called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to "fulfill his obligations under the Charter and notify the Geneva rights panel that the Security Council is seized of the matter."

Neuer said the convening of the session in violation of the Charter followed a worrying pattern during the recent Hezbollah-Israel war, whereby key UN human rights institutions are being subverted, blatantly ignoring the limits of their mandates to make statements on the crisis. Worse, each of these statements has entirely ignored the role of Hezbollah in igniting the war, as well as the death, injury and suffering that its 3000 missiles has caused on the Israeli side.

Recent examples of such trespassing include:

- Statements by UN independent human rights experts having no nexus to the conflict, such as the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo. It is difficult if not impossible to discern the war's apparent connection to issues of freedom of speech.

- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination suspended its work for a special session last Thursday where members said Israel's targeting of Hezbollah was a "mass genocide" motivated by "blatant racism." The Danish and American members argued that the issue was beyond the panel's mandate, but to no avail.

- Yesterday's meeting of the Subcommission on Human Rights, by condemning "the massive denial and violation of human rights in Lebanon," openly flouted its prime directive to refrain from addressing country-specific situations. The members expressly agreed to omit any reference to Israeli suffering. Member Francoise Jane Hampson warned her colleagues that they would be "breaking the rules," since its supervisory body had given "express instructions that the Sub-Commission was not to pass country-specific resolutions." Again, to no avail.

"It is astonishing that these and other egregious breaches of mandate are being ignored by the responsible U.N. leadership," said Neuer. "With the basic credibility of the UN human rights system at stake, where is Secretary-General Kofi Annan, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, Human Rights Council Chair Luis de Alba? How can the UN speak in the name of international law while its own institutions act as rogue agents, openly flouting the terms of their own authority?"

For the UN to be credible and effective as a peacemaker and human rights promoter with both sides, said Neuer, it had to show a balanced approach. "Instead, Geneva's human rights bodies now seem to be operating according to an unwritten 'Israel clause', whereby the issuance of one-sided condemnations of Israel is considered a matter of inherent jurisdiction."

But the greatest loser, said Neuer, will be human rights victims around the world. "By diverting all of its resources to denouncing the Jewish state, the Human Rights Council has forgotten that its power to call special sessions was designed to address gross and persistent abuses of human rights around the world, and not just one country repeatedly."

"Don't other world crises—mass rape in Darfur, four million killed in Democratic Republic of Congo, repression and strife in Burma, East Timor, Colombia, Somalia—deserve special sessions?"

UN Watch noted that Canada, Japan, and E.U.-affiliated countries opposed the resolution of the last special session, for its failure to condemn the role of Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations. The NGO urged democracies once again to reject the misuse of the Council by speaking out forcefully and opposing any one-sided resolutions.


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