The State of Israel announced its decision to ‘suspend its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Council (HRC) and its subsequent mechanisms’. The review of Israel by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group of the HRC is to take place in the upcoming session at the end of January. Israel has not, however, submitted its report to this body and has announced its intention not to send a delegation to the review.
In the UPR process, this is completely unprecedented and has therefore raised uncertainty about what will happen in the upcoming UPR session. Suggestions have been put forward such as postponing the review to a later session, holding the review without the Israeli delegation or the dangerous and counterproductive suggestion of the review not taking place.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) would like to underline the value of the UPR process for the rights of all individuals around the world and our concern about the possibility that this process may be undermined.
Furthermore, WILPF would like to stress the dangers of the review not taking place and encourage all members of the HRC and all peaceful States to safeguard the principle of equality within the human rights system and to convene the review of Israel and any other Member State as planned.
The UPR process is built upon the principle of equal treatment with respect to all States and the full involvement of the country concerned, as established in Article 5e of GA Resolution 60/251. This entails no State may be awarded favourable treatment by exempting them from their review. Furthermore, Israel has been fully involved by the UPR process, as they have been given the opportunity to submit their report and can still attend the session. In WILPF’s opinion, the full involvement of the country should be read as an obligation, not only a right, and thus non-compliance with this should not entail exemption from all other State obligations.
Letting the non-cooperation of a State produce a double standard in the UPR process and setting such a precedent would undermine its object and purpose put forward in Chapter B of HRC Resolution 5/1. We especially note Paragraph 4b in this regard, establishing ‘the fulfilment of the State’s human rights obligations and commitments and assessment of positive developments and challenges faced by the State’ as among the UPR’s objectives.
We invite the members of the HRC to follow the example of UN Treaty Bodies who have faced similar situations in the past (such as the CEDAW Committee, CAT Committee, etc.). Though we acknowledge the differences between the Human Rights Council and the Treaty Bodies, the above-mentioned objective of establishing the fulfilment of the State’s human rights obligations and commitments is a common feature in these two systems. With this objective in mind, Treaty Bodies proceed to what they call a “review procedure”: the consideration of a country situation in the absence of a State report using the available information from UN bodies and civil society. This procedure encourages States to choose to send a delegation to the review, yet it ensures the legitimacy of the process is not undermined by a State’s refusal to take part in it.
Thus, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and all signatories to this statement:
- Remind Israel that the UPR process is a mutual cooperation for the benefit of its population and humankind and should not be interpreted as a hostile assessment of its performance.
- Call for all States to encourage the State of Israel to resume its full participation in the UPR process, the HRC and all its mechanisms.
- Call for the Human Rights Council to hold the UPR concerning Israel, irrespective of whether a delegation is present at the session.
Download this Statement in PDF in English here.
If you want to take action on this urgent issue, check out our WILPF UPR Campaign.