UNHRC 521 / (photo credit: Reuters)
One of the first decisions of the newly-elected administration of US President Joe Biden was to return to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Former president Donald Trump left the organization claiming it was extremely biased against Israel.
The American decision to return to the council is the right decision bringing a lot of hope. It is worth transforming the problematic organization from within instead of leaving it to our enemies to do all they wish. On several occasions, Israel stated that the UNHRC is so biased and corrupt from the inside that we don’t need to be there. Practically speaking, it is true, but as you do not desert a military outpost even considered secondary in importance you do not leave an international organization that gives you a hard time.
The council was created a little more than a decade ago, on the ruins of the Human Rights Committee. During a full year of debates, in which I took part, we discussed the best mechanism for the new body. We had a lot of hope in creating a fair and just organization. Indeed the new council became more efficient than the committee. All countries without exception would have to face the scrutiny of the council during two days of debate regarding human rights in their countries and would be subject to implementing recommendations. However, negative elements were also inherited by the new council. One of them is the “hunch” of the committee, the special article on Israel… we failed in stopping that discrimination. My frustration was skyrocketing.
With the declaration of its return to the UNHRC, Washington expressed its intention to initiate changes in the mechanism of the body. This intention is to be praised and encouraged. Only a superpower like the United States can lead such a profound process.
Two steps, if taken, will allow both the US and Israel to live in peace with the council. The first is to annul the article which singles Israel out for criticism. Israel shall be equal to all members of the UNHRC. Like all others, Israel will face the scrutiny of the council – fairly.
The second step would be to change the process of the election of members of the council for three years. Today this election takes place on a regional basis. Instead, the countries should be elected on their merits, their performance in regard to human rights. That way, we will put an end to the farce that rogue countries such as Syria, Iran, Cuba and others sit without impunity on the stage of the council.
In light of the disturbing violations of human rights in several countries, civil wars, coup d’état, persecution of NGOs, the changes from within the UNHRC have become urgent.