By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA Jan 24 Israel is expected to boycott a
session of the U.N. Human Rights Council next week despite the
United States urging its ally to show up for an examination of
its record, the U.S. ambassador said on Thursday.
The Jewish state is scheduled to be in the dock of the
Geneva rights forum on Tuesday, Jan. 29 as part of the Universal
Periodic Review (UPR) process, the council's regular scrutiny of
all United Nations member states.
"They (Israeli officials) signalled that they want it
postponed. It is very unlikely they will participate on the
29th," Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. human rights ambassador,
told reporters in Geneva.
If the review goes ahead, Israel would likely face criticism
for its practices in the Palestinian territories, including
treatment of detainees, settlement expansion and its naval
blockade of the Gaza Strip which Palestinians say is collective
punishment of the enclave's 1.6 million residents.
Arab states would be expected to denounce Israel's deadly
air strikes on Hamas-ruled Gaza last November, launched with the
declared aim of ending rocket barrages.
Israel's last review was in December 2008, when it attended.
A boycott would be unprecedented and diplomats fear other
countries might follow suit to avoid scrutiny of their own human
Israel suspended relations with the council last May because
of what it called an inherent bias against it, and has
informally told the council's president that it wants the
session postponed, a U.N. spokesman said.
"A decision will be taken in the event Israel does not show
up for its UPR, the council will decide on a course of action.
States are working very hard behind the scenes to come up with a
solution," council spokesman Rolando Gomez told Reuters.
A team of U.N. investigators, set up by the council last
year, is due to report soon on whether Jewish settlements in the
Palestinian territories violate international human rights law.
Washington cast the only vote against the initiative brought by
the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinians said on Wednesday they would complain about
Israel to the International Criminal Court if the Jewish state
proceeds with plans to build housing on land the Palestinians
want for a future state.
"We see a strong bias against Israel that has not gone
away," U.S. Ambassador Donahoe said.
"We have encouraged Israel to come to the UPR, to tell its
story, to present its own narrative of its human rights
situation. We think it is a good opportunity to do that."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Roche and