Israel boycotts UN rights council

…in unprecedented move

The Israeli authorities refused to co-operate with a fact-finding mission investigating settlements

Representatives of Israel have boycotted its regular review by the UN Human Rights Council, the first time a country has ever taken such action.

The move was expected as Israel has long been angered by what it claims is unfair criticism from the body.

A decision last year to investigate Jewish settlements in the West Bank prompted Israel to announce it would no longer co-operate with the council.

Tuesday’s meeting was suspended and a course of action will be decided.

“After a series of votes and statements and incidents we have decided to suspend our working relations with that body,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Financial Times on Tuesday.

“I can confirm that there is no change in that policy.”

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told the Associated Press that Israel’s unprecedented absence had put the council in “new territory” because attendance of the Universal Periodic Review was mandatory.

Haitian representatives failed to appear before the council in 2010, but on the basis that their country had suffered a devastating earthquake.

Otherwise, so far all countries – even Syria and North Korea – have attended.

Israel’s action has prompted concern that it might undermine the UN’s human rights work, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva, where the council is meeting.

Human rights experts fear other countries facing awkward questions might follow suit.

Even Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, had urged Israel to take part. The big question now is what – if anything – the UN can do about Israel’s refusal to participate, our correspondent adds.

A joint statement by eight Israeli human rights groups said: “It is legitimate for Israel to express criticism of the work of the council and its recommendations, but Israel should do so through engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, as it has done in previous sessions.”

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Opinion:

“if anything – the UN can do about Israel’s refusal to participate?”

Sanctions, like North Korea and Iran!

If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander.

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