Update: 12.12.2006

Switzerland worries about the dysfunctions of the HRC

The new Human Rights Council held its third special session on November 15th, 2006, for the third time on the Middle East, ending with a resolution condemning Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza and the killing of at least 18 civilians in Beit Hanoun. Drafted by the Arab and Islamic states, it was adopted by 32 votes to 8 with 6 abstentions, including Switzerland. Among others, the Swiss government becomes increasingly concerned with the politisation of the fledgling UN human rights body based in Geneva.

For the first time, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey voiced her frustration over the body, which is the result of a Swiss initiative. She had warned that its reputation was suffering, because some countries were more intent on scoring political points than tackling human rights. Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, said that he was also disappointed by the failure of some western countries, including Switzerland, to take a strong lead either in raising issues such as Darfur or against the repeated targeting of Israel. «There has been no political will to do that at all», he said.

Independent UN experts in peril

The African block at the Council on Human Rights proposed a «code of conduct» for Special rapporteurs charged with investigating human rights issues in various countries. This resolution, launched during the October session and backed by some Asian countries and by members of the Islamic Conference as well as Cuba and Russia, risks seriously crippling the actions of these experts. Their autonomy, which give credibility to the entire system of UN human rights protections, would be seriously compromised.

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