(CNSNews.com) – Eight months after the Trump administration withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Geneva-based body is preparing for a month-long session that will include multiple resolutions condemning Israel and consideration of a report investigating deadly violence along the Israel-Gaza border last May.
Among the council’s members will be the largest number of repressive regimes represented on the HRC in any year since its creation in 2006 – 14 out of the 47 members, or just under 30 percent.
The 14 are: Afghanistan, Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
All 14 are ranked “not free” in 2019 by the democracy watchdog Freedom House, which score countries each year for political rights and civil liberties. And three of the 14 – Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Eritrea – are among the ten worst-performing countries of the 195 examined this year.
Those two issues – a skewed focus on Israel and the fact that “human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council” – were the main reasons cited by then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley for the decision to exit the HRC last June.
Earlier, despite numerous warnings from Haley and other U.S. officials, the council had ended its regular spring session – one of three it holds each year – by passing five resolutions on a single day condemning Israel, along with one each targeting Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Also, just a month before the U.S. withdrew, the HRC called a “special session” to examine the violence on the Israel-Gaza border, when thousands of Palestinians stormed the security fence as part of a Hamas-instigated protest campaign, leading to more than 60 deaths. (A Hamas official said most of the dead were members of the terrorist organization.)
The special session concluded with a resolution accusing Israel of “disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force” and setting up a new commission of inquiry to investigate. (The resolution passed 29-2, with 12 abstentions. Only the U.S. and Australia opposed it.)
The regular spring session due to begin on Feb. 25 and run through March 22 will consider the final report of that inquiry.
Israel has been the focus of more special sessions than any other single country – eight out of a total of 28 the council has convened in its 13-year history. (The Syrian civil war has generated the next biggest number of special sessions, five, followed by crises in Burma, with two.)
No special sessions have been called in response to abuses in other countries with poor human rights records, including North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia and China.
The upcoming HRC session in Geneva will also see the council vote on – and on past form, easily pass – another half dozen resolutions critical of Israel.
As with the case of special sessions, Israel has been targeted by more condemnatory HRC resolutions than any other single country – and most countries with widely-panned human rights records (such as China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Turkey) have not been criticized in a single HRC resolution.
Millions in US tax dollars
Late last year, the U.N. General Assembly agreed to extend by $29.1 million the funding already approved one year earlier for the U.N.’s human rights activities for the 2018-2019 biennium. (At the U.N., “recosting” adjustments are frequently made halfway through the two-year budgetary period.)
Among reasons for the additional funding request was the need to finance the resolutions passed by the HRC at its three regular sessions in 2018, as well as the Israel-focused special session.
For the Israel-focused commission of inquiry created by the special session alone, it requested $2,306,500, to cover costs including staffing, travel, documentation and operating expenses.
Among the staffing requirements were 15 “temporary assistance positions” for period ranging from one to nine months. They included advisors, researchers, translators and others, among them a “social media analyst” for a six-month period.
About 40 percent of funding for the U.N.’s human rights apparatus comes from the U.N. regular budget, 22 percent of which comes from U.S. taxpayers.
The rest of the funding needs are met by voluntary contributions by member states and other donors. In 2018, the U.S. contributed $18.65 million – almost ten percent of the total $186.81 received that year in voluntary contributions
In 2017, the U.S. voluntary contribution was $20.16 million, in 2016 it was $17.05 million, and in 2015 it was $16.25 million.