All UN member nations are required to submit to a review by the Human Rights Council, but Israel said last year it would stop cooperating because of plans for an international fact-finding mission to look at Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
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Israel appeared to be opening the door to cooperation when its ambassador Eviatar Manor spoke to the president of the council last week for the first time since cutting ties, but he then asked for the January 29 review to be postponed and skipped a Monday meeting to discuss the situation, according to spokesman Rolando Gomez.
If one country were to forgo the review that could set a precedent, opening the door to other countries that might want to bow out.
The Geneva-based council was set up in 2006 to replace a 60-year-old commission that had become widely discredited for allowing countries with poor human rights record to join and block criticism of their action.
The council has been criticized for failing to change many of the commission's practices, including putting more emphasis on Israel than on any other country and electing candidates accused of serious human rights violations.
UN Human Rights Council hall (Photo: AFP)
President Obama reversed the Bush administration's refusal to join the new human rights body by deciding in 2009 to seek a US seat on the council.
Since then, Israel has gone through one review, in 2008, when more than 50 delegations commented exhaustively on its record and many demanded it recognize and respect Palestinians' right to self-determination and a homeland.
At a meeting Monday, Gomez said, several nations stressed the "utmost importance to preserve the credibility and integrity" of the process, in which all 193 UN-member nations accept an examination of their human rights record every four years.
The council hopes to get a written explanation of Manor's request for a delay in the review process, which is to be led by diplomats from Venezuela, Sierra Leone and Maldives, he said.
No immediate comment was available from Israel's UN mission in Geneva.
US State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said Tuesday the United States is not aware of any official statement from the government of Israel about whether or not it will participate in the review.
"We think it's important for all UN member states to appear for their" review, Vasquez said. "This is an opportunity, every four years, to report on the human rights conditions in each of our countries and receive non-binding, recommendations on how to improve those conditions."
"We also think it is important to maintain our staunch opposition to the council's anti-Israel bias," he added. "It does not serve the interests of the council to single out any one country in an unbalanced manner."
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