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How to foil a human rights probe: Keep the investigator out

Makarim Wibisono resigns as UN special rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories — because Israel never allowed him to visit Palestine.

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Makarim Wibisono, 23 July 2014. (UN Photo/Violaine Martin)

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Makarim Wibisono, 23 July 2014. (UN Photo/Violaine Martin)

The UN special rapporteur charged with monitoring and investigating Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories resigned Monday in protest of Israel’s consistent refusal to give him access to said occupied territories.

Refusing access to human rights monitors is a tactic generally employed by non-democratic regimes.

Special Rapporteur Makarim Wibisono, who previously served as Indonesia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said that when he accepted the position he was assured he would have access to the Palestinian territory. He did not say who made that assurance to him.

Israel has for years denied UN special rapporteurs access to Israel and the occupied territories. As the occupying power, Israel makes all decisions on who may enter or exit Palestine.

“Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Wibisono said in a statement on Monday.

Wibisono added that he hopes his successor will be able to overcome the Israeli restrictions he faced. Doing so, he added would “reassure the Palestinian people that after nearly half a century of occupation the world has not forgotten their plight and that universal human rights are indeed universal.”

A year ago, Israel denied entry to another special rapporteur, this time on violence against women, just because she requested to visit “Palestine” as opposed to the “Palestinian Authority.”  Israel is part of a constantly shrinking minority of UN member states (less than 30 percent) that do not recognize the State of Palestine.

The previous special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, was also denied entry into Israel and the territories.

Israel’s justifies its refusal to cooperate with UN Human Rights Council investigations into its actions vis-à-vis the Palestinians by asserting that the Council is biased against it, namely that it singles out Israel in comparison to other countries..

The United Nations Human Rights Council chamber in Geneva (Stock photo by Vogel / Shutterstock.com)

The United Nations Human Rights Council chamber in Geneva (Stock photo by Vogel / Shutterstock.com)

The United States even briefly boycotted the UN body in protest of what it describes as a biased approach to Israel. The U.S. State Department on Monday said it hopes Wibisono’s replacement “can take a fair and balanced approach.”

But while expressing hopes for what the next special rapporteur might accomplish, the State Department also said that Washington opposes the very idea of the special human rights rapporteur.

“We remain strongly opposed to this one-sided mandate which falls under the Human Rights Council agenda item 7, the only agenda item dedicated to one country – Israel,” Kirby said.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is currently conducting a preliminary examination into violations of international law in the Palestinian territories.

Human Rights Council reporting is not admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings, neither at the ICC nor elsewhere, but can play a significant role in the prosecutor’s decision on whether to open a criminal investigation.

Two UN Human Rights Council special reports on Israel’s two most recent wars in Gaza, operations Cast Lead (the Goldstone Report) and Protective Edge (chaired by Mary McGowan Davis), were conducted without any Israeli cooperation.

Israel has refused to cooperate with almost all international investigatory mechanisms directed at its own alleged human rights and war crimes violations. For a country that is so adamant about “explaining” (hasbara) its side of the story and its narrative, however, refusing to get its side on record seems a bit odd.

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    1. Hannibal

      The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an de facto extension of the Arab League and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference). It has no credibility as a human rights institution and its official may not be allowed into the Jewish State on National Security grounds.

      “As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by the Council since its creation in 2006—the Council had resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined. The 45 resolutions comprised almost half (45.9%) of all country-specific resolutions passed by the Council, not counting those under Agenda Item 10 (countries requiring technical assistance). By April 2007, the Council had passed nine resolutions condemning Israel, the only country which it had specifically condemned. Toward Sudan, a country with human rights abuses as documented by the Council’s working groups, it has expressed “deep concern”. The council voted on 30 June 2006 to make a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every council session. The Council’s special rapporteur on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is its only expert mandate with no year of expiry.”


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    2. Felixio

      We all know what Israel is been doing for the last 48 years, hiding facts is not going to help them in the long run, so they can have as many excuses as they want.

      Reply to Comment