The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva. The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251. Its first session took place from 19 to 30 June 2006. One year later, the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” to guide its work and set up its procedures and mechanisms. Among them were the Universal Periodic Review mechanism which serves to assess the human rights situations in all United Nations Member States, the Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s “think tank” providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the Complaint Procedure which allows individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council. The Human Rights Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and now assumed by the Council. These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and publicly report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.
The UN Human Rights Council held a dialogue with Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on OPT. Prof. Falk in July 2012, introducing his reports main recommendation that the Human Rights Council should commission a study on the adequacy of international humanitarian law to cover situations of prolonged occupation and provide Israel and the international community with appropriate recommendation, and that the Human Rights Council should give increased attention to Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the normal functioning of the United Nations. Israel was not present in the room to take the floor. At the end of the meeting, the President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, called on Israel to resume its cooperation with the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Addressing the Council, ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain stated that Israel’s continued demolitions and expanded settlements were politically motivated, hindered development, and exposed Palestinians to ethnic displacement. Palestinian communities were left ever more isolated and the window of opportunity for a two-State solution had closed. Israel’s occupation could no longer be considered temporary, and its implication for the right to development and self-determination should be addressed and redressed by means of an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the legality of prolonged occupation.
In the general debate, numerous delegations deplored Israel’s non-compliance with standards of international human rights law, and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory. Delegations were concerned by increased settler violence; the decision to expand settlements which was seen as a major obstacle to peace; and measures aimed at altering the legal, geographic and demographic character or status of Jerusalem. The Council was urged to take action and pressure Israel to abide by its obligations and comply with all resolutions.
ICAHD further stated that a process of ethnic displacement and Judaization was being witnessed, and was being experienced by Palestinians residing in Area C of the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and concluded that no action on the part of the Council equated Israeli impunity.
ICAHD also held in conjunction with BADIL and Al-Haq a side event on Israel’s prolonged occupation of the Palestinian people and land. The side event featured Prof. Richard Falk, Ms. Annette Groth (German Parliament Member), Ms. Rania Madi (Legal Advocacy Consultant, BADIL), Ms. Nada Kiswanson (EU advocacy officer, Al-Haq), and ICAHD’s Itay Epshtain. The side event was well attended by state delegations, UN staff, and members of civil society; and explored the nature, features, and impact of prolonged occupation.