y 499 UN chief urges Israel to halt, reverse settlement decisions UN chief urges Israel to halt, reverse settlement decisions Spat at UN rights council over open-ended Israel probe

GENEVA: The United States, on behalf of 27 countries, condemned Tuesday the open-ended nature of the UN investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the “disproportionate” attention on Israel.

US ambassador Michele Taylor told the United Nations’ Human Rights Council that the group of countries was “deeply concerned” about the Commission of Inquiry (COI), with its “open-ended mandate with no sunset clause” or closing date.

The countries, including Austria, Britain, Canada and Italy, demanded an end to the “long-standing disproportionate attention given to Israel in the council.”

The COI, which is the highest-level investigation that can be ordered by the Human Rights Council, was set up in May 2021 following a surge in deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians earlier that month.

The council established an ongoing independent, international COI to investigate “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

It is also charged with looking into “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict.”

The first-ever open-ended COI is being conducted by UN rights chief Navi Pillay of South Africa, along with India’s Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti of Australia.

At a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Kothari referenced the calls for a sunset clause.
“We would like to see a sunset of the Israeli occupation… but until that time, an open-ended mandate is more than justified,” he said.

Israel is refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

“Isn’t it a spurious, very silly reason not to talk to the commissioners because they have an open mandate?” Pillay told the press conference.

In their second report published earlier this month, the investigators found that authorities both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories were violating Palestinian civil society rights through harassment, threats, arrests, interrogations, detention and torture.

Israel’s authorities were responsible for the majority of the violations, the report said.

“Our report found that Israeli authorities have used a variety of punitive methods intended to deter and interfere with the activities of Palestinian civil society members,” Pillay told the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

After the report was published, Israel slammed the findings, saying the country had a “robust and independent civil society… that can operate freely.”

Israel, the United States and other Western countries regularly criticize the amount of attention devoted to Israel by the Human Rights Council.

As Israel is not cooperating with the investigation, its representative did not take part in Tuesday’s discussion of the report in the council.

Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi condemned the US-led joint statement, calling it “disgraceful.”

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of several countries including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Syria, gave its full support to the commission’s mandate.

“We express grave concern over attempts to undermine the… COI,” said Venezuelan ambassador Hector Constant Rosales.

The European Union’s representative noted that some EU member states had not supported setting up the commission “because of concerns about its broad mandate” and permanent nature.