The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a United Nations human rights mechanism, which ensures a comprehensive review of each and every UN Member State’s human rights situation every four years.
So far, having just finished its first global cycle, the UPR has proved itself to be a valuable awareness-raising and advocacy mechanism, as well an effective tool for improving human rights situations on the ground.
However, now this mechanism is in danger of being seriously undermined, as Israel has made its intentions public not to participate in its own upcoming review.
On 14 January, the Human Rights Council (HRC) proceeded to the drawing of lots to select the troikas of countries to be reviewed at the 15th Working Group session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) from 21 January to 1 February.
What were the stakes of this meeting?
Since Israel had announced its intention not to take part in the process, the attitude of the HRC in this organizational meeting (business as usual or exceptions allowed) was crucial for the future and the integrity of the UPR mechanism.
Following up on our UPR campaign, we would like to inform you that the Human Rights Council has decided not to conclude its Organizational Meeting but to suspend it until 29 January, date on which the Israel review is still scheduled.
Even though we regret that no Israeli representative attended this meeting, we praise the decision of the HRC to draw the troikas for Israel in the same neutral conditions as any other country. Thus the three countries that will be assisting the UPR process for Israel are the following: Sierra Leone, Maldives and Venezuela.
What is going to happen now?
Israel has orally requested the President of the Council to postpone the UPR process of Israel given their difficult relation with the HRC. Therefore considering the uncertainty surrounding the participation of the Israeli delegation to the UPR Working Group session, the HRC member States agreed to postpone the decision making until 29 January, in order to give themselves more time to reach a solution to this unusual issue, as it is the very first example of non-cooperation with the UPR mechanism since it has been implemented.
Should Israel not be represented by a delegation on 29 January, the Organizational Meeting will be resumed with a view to assess the situation and come up with a common decision on how to proceed.
By then, the Human Rights Council Chair will try to intensify its contacts with Israel to get them involved and to cooperate for their own review.
Representatives of Canada, Costa Rica, the EU and others strongly insisted on the UPR guiding principles such as non-discrimination, impartiality, equality of treatment and universality but also cooperation and full involvement of the country under review.
But while these States seem to think that postponing the decision making was the only way to avoid a conflict and to go forward, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has expressed its fear that this postponement might set a precedent that could be used in the future by Member States to avoid human rights accountability. The delegate reminded the room that if they were to postpone the decision until the 29th of January, no more delays should be allowed then with the aim of protecting the periodicity, credibility and integrity of the UPR mechanism.
All member States called upon Israel to accept and resume the UPR procedure as soon as possible.
At this point, WILPF would like to remind of our statement (find it in French, Arabic and Spanish) and urge Israel to return to the UPR process and the HRC. However, should Israel not attend on the 29th, we urge all members of the HRC to take immediate action and decide that the review of the Member State will have to be carried out with or without their attendance to preserve the principles of non-discrimination, impartiality, equality, universality and the accountability of States forwards their obligations to Human Rights.
This means we have two more weeks ahead of us to pursue our UPR campaign and to do our best so that the review of Israel can be upheld at the earliest opportunity.