Israel absent from UN rights agency’s session on Gaza

Israeli envoy fails to attend UN Human Rights Council special session on Palestinian territories and 2014 Gaza conflict.

The US was also absent from Monday's discussions at the UN agency [Getty Images]

UN Human Rights Council has launched a special session on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the 2014 Gaza conflict, with Israel’s representative for the UN agency not attending.

“I note the representative of Israel is not present,” said council president Joachim Ruecher.

Israel provided no immediate explanation for not being at the session dedicated overwhelmingly to discussion of its policies and alleged abuses.

“We will not comment on that,” a spokeswoman with the Israeli mission in Geneva told the AFP news agency.

Mary McGowan Davis, head of the investigation team, said 'the process cannot be rushed' [Getty Images]
Mary McGowan Davis, head of the investigation team, said ‘the process cannot be rushed’ [Getty Images]

The US was also absent from Monday’s discussions.

Asked to explain why the US was not taking part, a spokesman said only that the US ambassador to the council Keith Harper was in Washington.

Monday’s session had originally been scheduled to discuss a probe on the 50-day war in Gaza last year, but the investigators obtained a delay after the head of the team quit.

“The process cannot be rushed,” former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis, who has taken over as head of the team, told the council.

Schabas denies claims

Canadian international law expert William Schabas resigned as chair of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict last month after Israel complained he could not be impartial because he had prepared a legal opinion for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in October 2012.

Schabas strongly denied that he was beholden to the PLO but said he was reluctantly stepping down to avoid the inquiry into the July-August conflict being compromised in any way. 

Israel’s absence on Monday does not mark the first time it has failed to attend the council.

It cut all ties with the council in March 2012 over its plans to probe how Jewish settlements were harming Palestinian rights, and did not resume relations until late 2013.

Monday’s session came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party scored an election victory last week.

Israel’s war on Gaza ended with a truce between Israel and the occupied territory’s rulers Hamas on August 26 after the deaths of more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

Source: AFP