Israel denounced the Human Rights Council on Tuesday for targeting the Jewish state "in an obsessive and discriminatory fashion," but Egypt said it is imperative that the U.N. body investigate violations of Palestinian rights.
The performance of the council, which replaced the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission 2 1/2 years ago, was the subject of debate in the General Assembly which was considering the annual report of the Geneva-based council.
Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador Daniel Carmon told the 192-nation world body that since it considered last year's report the council had adopted seven resolutions condemning Israel and held "a one-sided special session against Israel" — far more than any other member of the United Nations.
"We all witness a U.N. human rights body targeting Israel in an obsessive and discriminatory fashion," Carmon said. "We can only watch in disbelief as the council ignores human rights abuses around the world while offering silence at best, and praise at worst to some of the world's most ruthless, abusive dictators."
But Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told the assembly "it is imperative to maintain the sustainability of the engagement of the council in ensuring respect of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, and verifying Israel's full adherence to its international obligations."
Those obligations include Israel's commitment to full cooperation with the special U.N. investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories and the fact-finding missions established by the council "to investigate the gross violations of human rights," he said.
Abdelaziz noted Israeli officials refused to cooperate with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's investigation into the 2006 shelling of the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun and the simultaneous firing by Palestinian militants of Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians.
One aim in replacing the highly politicized Human Rights Commission with the Human Rights Council was to keep some of the world's worst human rights offenders from becoming members.
But the council has been widely criticized for failing to change many of the commission's practices, including putting much more emphasis on allegations of human rights abuses by Israel than on any other country.
Muslim countries form a strong bloc on the council and have used their votes to push through resolutions against Israel and block condemnation of their allies, including Sudan. The United States argued against the council and has not sought to join it because rights-abusing countries remain members.
Nigerian Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, the Human Rights Council's president, appealed to U.N. members "for greater circumspection, objectivity and patience in assessing the work of the council."
"Two years is hardly enough time to be overly critical of an institution which we strongly believe holds great promise as a universal human rights body," he said.
Uhomoibhi did not mention the seven resolutions against Israel, but he said the council held special sessions on the human rights situation in Myanmar and the negative impact of the worsening world food crisis on the right to food as well as on Israeli attacks in Gaza.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted the three special sessions and reaffirmed the need for the council to debate rights violations in the Palestinian territories — but he said the EU would also urge members to come up with "balanced" solutions.
North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador Pak Tok Hun also criticized the council for adopting a "stereotyped resolution" on his country in defiance of repeated calls to stop approving country-specific measures.