'UN Human Rights Council expected to fulfill its mandate to protect rights of Palestinians'

Anadolu Agency speaks to Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s envoy in Geneva ahead of UNHRC's special session.

'UN Human Rights Council expected to fulfill its mandate to protect rights of Palestinians'

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to hold a special session Thursday to discuss the “grave human rights situation” in occupied Palestinian territories.

The announcement came amid intense diplomatic efforts last week to implement a cease-fire, which was achieved on May 21.

At least 285 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed in recent Israeli attacks in Gaza and West Bank that continued for 11 days.

Tensions began after an Israeli court verdict to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem in favor of settlement groups.

The situation flared up after Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulted worshippers inside, and later launched airstrikes on Gaza.

On May 19, Khalil Hashmi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva, wrote to the UNHRC seeking a special session “due to the urgency of the current situation.”

Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in Geneva

Hashmi also acts as coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on human rights and humanitarian issues in Geneva, where the UNHRC headquarters are based.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Hashmi said the UNHRC is mandated to uphold the protection of human rights and “address situations of grave violations of rights and freedoms.”

Session called as ‘situation is grave’

“The gravity, scale and recurrent human rights violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, during the recent wave of violence necessitated the convening of this special [UNHRC] session by OIC countries, with cross-regional support,” said Hashmi.

Many non-OIC members, including Bolivia, China, Cuba, Chile, Eritrea, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela, supported the move.

Hashmi said the OIC has “always stood” behind the Palestinian cause and “called out egregious and systematic violations of basic rights of the Palestinian people.”

“As a global custodian of human rights norms and principles, the UNHRC is expected to act and fulfill its mandate to protect the rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem as well as inside Israel,” said the Pakistani ambassador, adding that the UNHRC is expected to adopt a resolution as well.

‘Political considerations hinder meaningful accountability’

During the March 2020 session, the UNHRC adopted three OIC-sponsored resolutions on different aspects of the human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territories.

Hashmi said these resolutions address specific aspects relating to the right to self-determination, prevailing situation and illegal settlements, respectively.

“This enables the UNHRC to have a comprehensive overview of legal, normative and human rights dimensions of the Palestine question. It also underscores the validity of a standalone agenda item on occupied Palestinian territories at the UNHRC,” he said.

“Several mechanisms are also in place, such as the Special Rapporteur and the publication of the database on business enterprises,” he said, regretting that “political considerations have hindered meaningful accountability, which in turn has fueled the vicious cycle of abuses and impunity.”

He said every year, the UNHRC adopts a comprehensive resolution on illegal settlements of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

“This resolution calls upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and to comply with all its obligations under international law and to immediately cease all actions causing the alteration of the character, status and demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem,” said the Pakistani ambassador.

‘Parties to Rome Statute may help ICC against Israel’

Hashmi said the International Criminal Court (ICC) has already opened an investigation into Israel’s alleged human rights abuses and “it is carrying out a preliminary examination.”

“The state parties to the Rome Statute which are also members of the UNHRC may cooperate with the ICC [in this regard],” he suggested.

Relating the resistance movement in Palestine to the one in Indian-administered Kashmir, he said: “The Kashmiri and Palestinian people are both resisting against foreign occupation and the violent suppression of their rights and freedoms.”

“Both the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the Palestinian question are on the agenda of the UN Security Council, awaiting the implementation of numerous resolutions for the realization of their right to self-determination,” he said, adding that the two situations manifest a “trend among certain countries and groups to ignore human rights at the altar of political expediency and bilateral relations.”

“In that sense, Palestine and Kashmir reflect the deep politicization of global human rights and obvious double standards,” he said.

8th special session on Palestine

Hashmir said the Thursday meeting will be the 8th special session to discuss the human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territories. The last assembly was in May 2018.

“The special sessions are in addition to regular sessions of the Council, which are held thrice a year,” he shared.

According to the rules governing the UNHRC’s work, one-third support is required to call special sessions. This means, he added, 16 members of the Human Rights Council could formally request the convening of such a session.

In the latest request for a special session, at least 70 members, including those with observer status at the UNHRC, signed the letter. It included the signatures of 20 basic members of the 47-member UNHRC.

“A resolution is usually adopted as an outcome of a special session. A simple majority is required for its adoption by the 47-member Human Rights Council,” he said.

The UNHRC has adopted scores of resolutions on Palestine since its inception in 2006.

Hüseyin Demir