The HRC , which convenes three times a year, is "an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them." It is the body responsible for overseeing the Universal Periodic Review, a state-driven mechanism intended to review the compliance of all UN member states with international law and human rights norms. Notably, Israel boycotted its second UPR review earlier this year, claiming that the HRC is biased. The HRC was also responsible for the UN Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza in the aftermath of Israel's 22-day assault on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which produced the "Goldstone Report." During this Session, the HRC discussed its most recent mission to the OPT on Israeli Settlements.
On 18 March 2013, the Council held an Interactive Dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements. During the Dialogue, several countries expressed grave concern over Israel's ongoing settlement practices. Israel was not present to take the floor as the concerned country. While the controversy over the HRC's adopted resolution is quite discreet in content, its impact is profound.
The PHROC urged the HRC to endorse the resolution, rather than simply recommend states to implement it. The difference is that endorsement would have created an obligation on behalf of all states to hold Israel to account for its settlement-expansion project.
In his post about the topic on 21 March 2013, Ali Abunimah explains :
Subtle but important changeWhile the changes may appear subtle to the those of us not versed in the arcana of UN technical language, the difference is important as my source explained, especially about who has responsibility for moving the report forward. My source told me:
The reason we want these changes, and particularly this reporting mechanism, is that it will lead to (1) Further delineation of third state responsibility as it pertains to Israeli settlements … (2) Leads to reporting from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [rather than the UN Secretary General] on the implications to and implementation by states of this recommendation. (3) Thus, including these paragraphs will push our work on accountability forward.
According to the source, human rights organizations have been assured of support for such a change from the delegations from several states and typically African, Latin American, Arab and Muslim-majority states have supported whatever resolution the Palestinians put forward.
Today the PHROC issued a joint statement expressing their disappointment at this missed opportunity to advance the rights of the Palestinian people. The full text of the statement is posted below and on Jadaliyya: Joint PHROC Statement: UN Resolutions on Settlements, Another Missed Opportunity.