If the Israeli government is not careful, it will ruin an important global human rights process for everybody.
The Universal Periodic Review, a process to examine states' human rights records, has until now been truly universal: all United Nation member states were reviewed by the end of 2011 and the second cycle of reviews has already started.
But now the government of Israel is not engaging with the process. Every indication is that the Israel will not be present this afternoon when it is scheduled to be examined under the Universal Periodic Review. As the only recalcitrant state among 193, Israel's deliberate absence would sabotage the principle of universality. Consequently the Universal Periodic Review stands to lose the compelling legitimacy it derives from being applied even-handedly to all states. Why should states that would prefer to escape scrutiny of their human rights record, or are severely resource constrained, submit to this process if Israel's non-compliance demonstrates that it is no longer universal?
UN Watch has the truth:
In reality, the UPR is for the most part a mutual praise society.
Though the New York Times today praised the UPR's "universal and collaborative characteristics," saying it provided "a platform to scrutinize and discuss the situation of human rights in even the most closed and repressive regimes," it apparently forgot that earlier it had reported on how Qaddafi's Libyan regime came out of its review with top marks:
Until Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's violent suppression of unrest in recent weeks, the United Nations Human Rights Council was kind in its judgment of Libya. In January, it produced a draft report on the country that reads like an international roll call of fulsome praise, when not delicately suggesting improvements. Evidently, within the 47-nation council, some pots are loath to call kettles black, at least until events force their hand.
Former Amnesty USA director Suzanne Nossel called the report "abhorrent."
It's not for nothing that despots walk into this court with confidence and ease. See our report on yesterday's lavish UPR party put on by the United Arab Emirates.
What is more, those accusing Israel of desecrating the temple are the same who systematically turn a blind eye to the council's persistent and pathological lynching of Israel: the special agenda item and special day against Israel at every session; the lopsided amount of resolutions against Israel, often amounting to more than the total adopted on the rest of the world combined; Israel's exclusion from any of the council's regional groups; and the completely biased mandate of the council's permanent investigator on Palestine, Richard Falk, who endorses Hamas and the 9/11 conspiracy theory.
For a council that does such things on an ongoing basis to then accuse Israel of undermining principle is the height of audacity and hypocrisy; the complainants come with unclean hands very unclean hands.
See also UN Watch's links.
A glance comparing the previous UPR reports on Israel and Syria show that the UPR is truly a joke.
While at first glance the number of recommendations given were about the same, the phrasing for Israel was consistently combative while Syria was praised. For example, here are typical recommendations for Israel in 2008:
- 35. Acknowledge/recognize, accept and fully implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall (Egypt, Maldives, Jordan, Palestine, Pakistan) that Israel immediately cease work on the construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and begin dismantling it (Maldives); end construction of, and dismantle the already built, illegal separation wall (Cuba); dismantle the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and refrain from expansion of settlements (Brazil); dismantle the separation wall (South Africa).
- 36. Take urgent and immediate steps to end its occupation of all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967; implement all Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and other Arab territories; introduce measures to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their right to return; accept its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law; cease action that would alter the demographic situation of Palestine; and grant access to safe drinking water to Syrian citizens living in the occupied Syrian Golan (South Africa);
But Syria's report includes numerous requests for it to continue to implement its wonderful existing system of human rights:
A - 100.11. Continue to implement measures to enhance national capacities for the promotion and protection of human rights (Belarus);
A - 100.12. Continue to confront attempts of foreign intervention into its domestic affairs and to exercise fully its people's right to self-determination and the country's sovereignty (Cuba);
A - 100.13. Continue the process of taking measures at the national level as well as the national dialogue under the guidance of its legitimate authorities as a means of a political solution to the situation in the country (Cuba);
A - 100.49. Continue the efforts to strengthen food security for all its people, particularly in rural areas (Bolivia);
A - 100.50. Continue to strengthen the achievements of health indicators, particularly related to child and maternal health, through the improvement of public health services (Bolivia);
A - 100.51. Continue policies and programs to improve the quality of basic social services provided to citizens, such as health care and education (Democratic People's Republic of Korea);
A - 100.52. Continue to provide basic healthcare service for people living in rural areas and increase its focus on vulnerable groups such as women, children and minorities (Myanmar);
A - 100.53. Continue to strengthen free education for all its people, particularly in rural areas, through "mobile schools" (Bolivia);
A - 100.54. Continue improving the quality of public education with the aim of maintaining the excellent level of education by which the different stages of education have been characterized (Venezuela);
A - 100.55. Continue with its policy and its good practice to provide assistance and protect the rights of the many Palestinian refugees in the country (Ecuador);
Only one recommendation for Israel used the word "continue" and even that one was written in a combative tone; Syria was happily told to keep going with how wonderfully it was doing on 20 topics. Essentially no praise was given to Israel in its report for its health care or court system or really any achievement in any sphere, while seemingly every dictatorship's report was filled with praise as to how well they are implementing their human rights programs (and the regimes often claimed that they were implementing recommendations that they were clearly ignoring.)
While some countries, notably Canada, tried to hold brutal regimes accountable in the reports, for the most part like-minded abusers of human rights praised each other and blunted any possible usefulness that the UPR was meant to have.
The best that can be said is that the UPR is somewhat less of a joke than everything else the UNHRC does, but it is still a joke. The UPR is essentially a continuation of the UNHRC's one-sided obsession with Israel with a superficial sheen of "universality," and Amnesty cannot even be bothered to point that out.