US vows to vote against every anti-Israel resolution at upcoming UNHRC vote

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council opened its main annual session in Geneva with eyes fixed on the US seat, occupied for the first time by an envoy from President Donald Trump's administration
FABRICE COFFRINI (AFP/File)
Israeli UN envoy: 'Time has come to end this shameful chapter in the history of the UN.'

The United States on Monday said that it "strongly and unequivocally opposes" a debate by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the State Department lambasting the Council's "bias" against Israel as a threat to its credibility.

A statement from the US State Department's acting spokesman Mark Toner said Monday's agenda item on "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories," is "yet another reminder of that body’s longstanding bias against Israel."

"No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the Council. The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the Council," Toner said.

The statements from the US come after a UN rights expert issued a blistering criticism of Israel's policies on Monday.

In the report, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, charged Israel with "the subjugation of (Palestinians') humanity" and intensifying a crackdown on human rights campaigners.

Lynk made the claims in a report presented to the UN rights council during the Geneva-based body's mandated session on Israel, known as Agenda Item Seven.

The European Union condemned the continuing loss of life on all sides but voiced concern that Lynk's mandate and the Israel debate was one-sided.

The US said it would not participate in the council's discussion over Israel and vowed to vote against any resolution which comes of it, stating that it "does not serve the interests of the Council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter."

UN Photo/Mark Garten (United Natio/AFP/File)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed the debate, and the council as "absurd" for its continued bias against Israel.

"The UN Human Rights Council has turned harming Israel into its raison d'etre," said Danon. "The time has come to end this shameful, and even embarrassing, chapter in the history of the UN. Members of the Council must put an end to the bias in this absurd body."

Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a letter to human rights groups that the country would quit the UNHRC unless it undergoes "considerable reform."

The United States was elected to the 47-member council, the UN's main body for promoting and protecting human rights worldwide, for a three-year term ending in 2019. Tillerson did not give any indication of the deadline for a decision on the US seat at the council.

The UNHRC is mandated to discuss Israel's human rights record with regards to the Palestinians during every session under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the only country for which such a mandate exists.

MANDEL NGAN (AFP/Archives)

The Council on Monday will begin hearings on five pro-Palestinian resolutions under Agenda Item 7, including one which demands that the international community boycott Israeli settlements. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the council is expected vote on the resolutions Friday.

President Donald Trump's administration has vowed to defend Israel at the United Nations and rebuked the rights council for adopting resolutions that criticize Washington's Mideast ally.

The State Department vowed in a statement "to vote against every resolution put forth under this agenda item."

A top official at the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that the resolutions are likely to pass however, despite lobbying efforts from Israel, as the Palestinians hold an automatic majority in the council.

Meanwhile, as part of its obligations under the Israel agenda item,

Meanwhile, as part of its obligations under the Israel agenda item, UN chief Antonio Guterres' office presented its latest findings to the council on Monday.

"Chronic violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties have persisted," the secretary general's office said, condemning Israel over settlement expansion among other offences.

The Human Rights Council was established in 2006, replacing the Human Rights Commission which had faced frequent criticism, also for its acceptance of members with records of human rights abuse.

Several countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran hold chairs on the Council and are known to be frequent offenders of human rights, however, Israel has been condemned more times than any other country.

(Staff with agencies)

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