Diplomatic tensions rein at Israel’s UN human rights review

March 20th, 2009 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, March 19 (DPA) Israel Thursday refused to address UN criticisms aimed at its policies in the Palestinian territories, sparking diplomatic tensions.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, said his country would act on recommendations from the Human Rights Council to improve internal compliance with UN standards on such issues as torture, minority rights, women’s issues and prisoner’s rights.

He however only “noted” other countries recommendations related to Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories, which was construed to mean that Israel rejected those proposals. The move sparked anger among developing countries, particularly Arab and Muslim nations.

Criticisms of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories focused on a variety of issues, including Israel’s policy of creating settlements there, its military actions in the territories and its policies of detaining suspected militants.

Adoption of the report on Israel was delayed until Friday, as UN officials and diplomats tried to work out a resolution. Arab states had demanded a vote on the report, which other countries accepted by consensus.

The recommendations were based on a three-hour session held in December, during which Israel’s rights record was reviewed.

A UN system introduced in 2007 aims to review each member state once every four years. This was Israel’s first review.

Leshno-Yaar told DPA after the session that the Universal Period Review, as the system is called, should only focus on a country’s internal issues.

He noted that there would be a special session on the Palestinian issue Monday.

Palestinian officials said the report that was set to be adopted did not highlight Israel’s “role as an occupier”.

“Israel is not only a state with internal issues, it also is an occupier and that should be reflected,” said a diplomat.

Leshno-Yaar complained that the Jewish State’s “enemies” use UN forums to “smear Israel and delegitimise Israel”.

The session on Israel was supposed to resume Friday morning with hopes that a diplomatic solution had been found to adopt the non-binding report.

Some Western diplomats said they were concerned by attempts to put Israel’s report to a vote, as it would set a precedent, but that they were not surprised the issue had become heated.

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