World The Human Rights Council examines the request for a...

The Human Rights Council examines the request for a fact-finding mission

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648x415 reunion virtuelle conseil securite onu situation proche orient 16 mai 2021

Virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, May 16, 2021. – Lev Radin/Sipa USA/SIPA

An extraordinary meeting of the UN Human Rights Council is to be held this Thursday to discuss the creation of an international commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel.

The meeting is being held at the request of Pakistan, as coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Palestinian authorities. At the meeting, countries will examine the “grave human rights situation” in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and Israel, the UN said in a statement on May 20.

Root causes

The draft resolution calls for the committee to consider “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” that have resulted in recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions. From May 10 to 21, 253 Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, including 66 children and fighters, according to local authorities. In Israel, rocket fire from Gaza killed 12 people, including a child, a teenage girl and a soldier, according to police. The scope of the resolution goes far beyond the most recent conflict.

The text asks the commission to study “all the root causes of recurrent tensions (…), including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity”. The Council session – the highest body of the United Nations in this field – will begin Thursday at 8 am GMT with a statement by Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki is expected to address the assembly, as is Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar.

“Systemic impunity”

The investigation should focus on establishing the facts and collecting evidence and material that could be used in legal proceedings and as far as possible identifying the culprits so that they can be tried. “A long-standing and systemic impunity” has “undermined all efforts to reach a just and peaceful solution”, accuses the text. If it were to pass, it would be the first time that the Council had set up a commission of inquiry with an indefinite mandate. The mandate of other commissions of inquiry, such as the one on Syria, must be renewed every year. Pakistani Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Khalil Hashmi told reporters on Wednesday the most recent conflict was only the latest in a long cycle and said he hoped it would pass by consensus .

20 of the 47 Council members were among the 66 countries that supported the request for a special session. Announcing the meeting, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Shahar, denounced a summons that “proves that this body has an anti-Israel agenda” and called on member states to oppose the meeting. Israel is indeed the only country with a fixed item on the agenda for each Council session, one of the reasons why the United States, under President Donald Trump, had left the organization. New President Joe Biden has brought the United States back as an observer country.

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