An Important Test for the UN Rights Council
The Human Rights Policies of Israel and the United Arab Emirates to be Examined by UN Human Rights Council on the Same Day
On 5 December, 2008 the human rights policies of both Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be examined on the same day at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The two events and their close proximity, carried out as part of the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, will be a particularly poignant test of whether the HRC can rise above politics in order to improve human rights on the ground.
The UPR state reports submitted by both Israel and the UAE attempt to paint a highly favorable picture of the human rights situations in these countries and largely avoid dealing with any substantial human rights violations and challenges occurring in these countries. This contradicts with the UN and NGO UPR reports that give a more accurate and realistic account of the actual human rights crises’ occurring within these two countries.
In the case of Israel, according the UN compilation report, cooperation of Israel with UN human rights mechanisms has been inconstant. Continued widespread human rights abuses and war crimes in OPTs, including torture, collective punishment and targeted killings, are carried out on a regular basis. Furthermore, Israel still refuses to extend legal protections and rights to Palestinians in the OPTs despite continuing to appropriate and exert control over these territories. Additionally, NGOs reports on Israel point out that the government has created a legal form of discrimination against Palestinians and has systematically violated the rights of Palestinians in both the OPTs and within Israel. Most NGOs indentified official and unofficial discrimination combined with impunity for military actions in the OPTs as two main factors responsible for the denial of Palestinians of their basic rights. The extensive contribution by many Palestinian NGOs to the process reflects the robust human rights civil society that exists in the OPTs and Israel.
According to the UN and NGO reports on the UAE, the human rights situation in this country is very dire. The UN compilation report points out that the UAE has not ratified most human rights treaties and almost all reports to Treaty Bodies have been overdue for years. Furthermore, the UAE government has consistently ignored communications of human rights experts at the Human Rights Council. Urgent concerns and questions have been communicated to the UAE on violations of freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and denial of the rights to participate in public and political life. Furthermore, the UN has described the forced labor conditions of migrant workers, which reportedly comprise nearly 90 per cent of the workforce in the private sector , as “equivalent to debt bondage.” The NGOs report clearly and bluntly described the on-the-ground human rights situation in the UAE: no democracy, no independence of the judiciary and almost no respect for the rights to life, liberty and security of the person, freedom of belief and opinion, freedom of expression and most other basic rights, including freedom from discrimination. Credible reports from NGOs cites at least 20,000 stateless residents in the Emirates who are either without citizenship or any proof of citizenship from any country, a group comprised of both indigenous populations and immigrants.
CIHRS calls on the state delegates at the Universal Periodic Review to ensure that the reviews of both of these states focus on the dire human rights situations in these countries and refrain from political rhetoric. Only in this way will the UPR process deliver real solutions to human rights challenges in a universal and fair manner. Unless both Israel and the UAE UPR review sessions result in substantial and meaningful human rights observations and recommendations than the fairness and relevance of the UPR mechanism will be greatly undermined.
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