OIC asks UN body to up scrutiny of Israel’s human rights record

Published May 26, 2021
Palestinian volunteers and municipal workers clear the rubble of buildings, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district on Tuesday. — AFP
Palestinian volunteers and municipal workers clear the rubble of buildings, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district on Tuesday. — AFP

Member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up a permanent commission to report on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

The move comes in the wake of the latest surge in Israeli aggression in Palestine. If passed, it would mark an unprecedented level of scrutiny authorised by the UN’s top human rights body.

The proposal, formally presented late on Tuesday, comes ahead of a special session of the Geneva-based council on Thursday to address “the grave human rights situation” in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The meeting was sought by Pakistan, as the OIC’s coordinator.

The session at the 47-member-state rights body paves the way for a daylong debate over the recent deadly violence in the Mideast conflict that has raged for decades.

See: A timeline of Israel's latest military offensive in Gaza

A vote on the draft resolution is likely at the end of Thursday’s session, which will be largely virtual. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is set to address the meeting in person.

The draft resolution calls on the council to “urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry” appointed by the council president to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and Palestinian areas.

The commission would also investigate “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict” including discrimination and repression, the text said.

A commission of inquiry is the highest level of scrutiny that the council can authorise. Another commission of inquiry, for example, has been regularly reporting on Syria’s war nearly since its inception a decade ago — partially in hopes of collecting evidence that could be used in court one day.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said passage of the draft resolution would mark the first time that a commission of inquiry received a “continuing mandate”.

Israel — backed at times by the United States — accuses the council of anti-Israel bias and has generally refused to cooperate with its investigators. Israel’s ambassador, Meirav Eilon Shahar, has called on member states to oppose Thursday’s meeting.

The special session is the 30th at the council, and the ninth on the issue of the Occupied Palestinian Territories alone — the last was in May 2018. The council’s most recent special session, on Myanmar, was held in February.

The United States, under President Donald Trump, quit the council in mid-2018 — partially over his administration’s allegations that the council has an anti-Israel bias. President Joe Biden has returned the US to participation, and the US plans to seek a seat next year.

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