Human Rights Council tempers its focus on Israel

By David Bosco

One of the most persistent criticisms of the UN’s Human Rights Council is that it has focused disproportionately–almost obsessively–on the Israel-Palestine dispute. The Obama administration has argued that its engagement with the Council has helped to improve that situation. And a new Brookings Institution report by Theodore Piccone and Naomi McMillen provides some empirical support for that claim:

An analysis of the Human Rights Council’s behavior toward country-specific issues since 2006 also demonstrates that while Israel/Palestine continues to dominate country-specific human rights issues at the Human Rights Council, recently – especially since 2011 – states have begun to more seriously address human rights situations in other countries and regions. For instance, in the early years of the Council, commissions of inquiry disproportionately dealt with the human rights situation in Israel/Palestine, but in the last four years new COIs have been established for a wide range of countries, including the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Sri Lanka. Additionally, special sessions have been convened in the last three years regarding the situations in the Central African Republic, Iraq, and Nigeria (Boko Haram). While Israel/Palestine continues to occupy a significant amount of the Council’s agenda, states are clearly starting to expand their attention to include a more diverse array of country-specific human rights issues around the world.

The report, which is chock full of data and insightful analysis, also notes that state participation with Council’s special rapporteurs and with the new Universal Periodic Review process has improved.

About David Bosco

Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics and Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World
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