US leads 27 countries in condemning UN Human Rights Council probe into Israel

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The United States, on behalf of 27 countries, condemned on Tuesday the open-ended nature of the UN investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US Ambassador Michele Taylor told the United Nations’ Human Rights Council the group of countries was “deeply concerned” about the Commission of Inquiry (COI), with its “open-ended mandate with no sunset clause” or closing date.

The countries, including Austria, Britain, Canada and Italy, demanded an end to the “long-standing disproportionate attention given to Israel in the council.”

The COI, which is the highest-level investigation that can be ordered by the Human Rights Council, was set up in May 2021 following a surge in deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians earlier in the month.

The council established an ongoing independent, international COI to investigate “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

It is charged with looking into “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council Michele Taylor delivers a speech at the opening of hearings of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva on August 11, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

The first-ever open-ended COI is chaired by former UN rights chief Navi Pillay of South Africa, with India’s Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti of Australia as the other two conducting the probe.

At a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Kothari referenced the calls for a sunset clause.

“We would like to see a sunset of the Israeli occupation… but until that time, an open-ended mandate is more than justified,” the former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing said.

Israel is refusing to cooperate with the investigation, citing what it says is longstanding bias against the Jewish state at the UN.

“Isn’t it a spurious, very silly reason not to talk to the commissioners because they have an open mandate?” Pillay told the press conference.

In their second report published earlier this month, the investigators found that authorities both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories were violating Palestinian civil society rights through harassment, threats, arrests, interrogations, detention and torture.

Israel’s authorities were responsible for the majority of the violations, the report said.

“Our report found that Israeli authorities have used a variety of punitive methods intended to deter and interfere with the activities of Palestinian civil society members,” Pillay told the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, via video link.

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