At UN Rights Council, Don’t Use the Word ‘Genocidal’ in Reference to Palestinian Terrorists

By Patrick Goodenough | July 2, 2015 | 4:17am EDT
Germany’s Joachim Rücker is the current president of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. (U.N. Photo/Pierre Albouy)

(Editor’s update: The HRC on Friday passed the Gaza inquiry resolution by a 41-1 vote, with the U.S. casting the sole no vote. All European Union members states voted in favor. India, Kenya, Macedonia, Ethiopia and Paraguay abstained.)

(Editor's update: Adds comment from HRC spokesperson)

( – The president of the Human Rights Council took issue this week with the use by a non-governmental organization representative of the term “genocidal killers” to describe Palestinian terrorists, but Venezuela’s representative was not reprimanded from the chair when he called Israel’s offensive against Hamas last year a “genocidal attack.”

In a hard-hitting statement, Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, slammed a report mandated by the Geneva-based HRC into last summer’s Israel-Hamas conflict, saying that it said nothing about Israel’s right to self-defense in response to armed attacks from Gaza.

“In the field there are genocidal killers targeting Israeli civilians while using Palestinian civilians as shields – classic war criminals,” she said. “At the Human Rights Council, there are their legal apologists.”

As Bayefsky completed her statement, the HRC’s president, Joachim Rucker of Germany, said, “‘Genocidal killers’ is not in accordance with the language used in this council and I would ask you to refrain from using such language.”

Earlier in the session, dozens of countries’ delegates denounced Israel, with some calling for it to be answerable to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them, the Saudi envoy Faysal Trad called Israel “the worst racist regime in the world” and Venezuela’s representative Felix Pena Ramos described its military operation against Hamas as a “genocidal attack.”

“The Venezuelan state demands that criminal responsibility be determined of those who have promoted and executed this genocidal attack,” Ramos said through an interpreter. “The perpetrators must be held accountable before international criminal courts.”

After the U.S. representative objected to Venezuela’s language – without citing specific words – Rücker did raise concerns about Saudi Arabia’s earlier use of the term “racist regime” to describe “a fellow U.N. member-state,” but said nothing about Venezuela’s use of the word “genocidal.”

In a general comment, the president asked “all speakers to respect U.N. language.”

Ramos retorted that he had not used the term Rücker raised (“racist regime”), and continued with his statement.

The Saudi envoy, Trad, then defended his earlier statement, saying, “What the Israeli occupation power is doing is more than racism at this moment.”

Queries sent to the German mission in Geneva were forwarded to HRC spokesperson Rolando Gómez, who in a statement early Friday (Geneva time) said the HRC president “has repeatedly stressed that the language used by any participant in council meetings should be appropriate.”

“While the president may not have the opportunity to respond to each and every instance when inappropriate language is used, the term ‘genocidal killers’, but also the term ‘genocidal attacks’, would fall into a category generally deemed inappropriate,” Gómez said.

“The exception would be if the term was applied in the context of a U.N.-recognized genocide.”

The Gaza inquiry report accuses Israel and “Palestinian armed groups” of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, some of which it said could amount to war crimes.

On Friday, the council is expected to vote on a draft resolution, sponsored by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), calling on all countries to implement all the recommendations of the Gaza inquiry.

Those recommendations include full cooperation with the ICC, both in a preliminary investigation the tribunal is currently carrying out as well as in “any subsequent investigation that may be opened.”

The Geneva-based NGO U.N. Watch is urging European members of the HRC to join the U.S. in vote against the resolution, although it is expected to pass, given the council’s composition.

U.N. Watch pointed out that if it passes it will be the 62nd resolution condemning Israel passed by the HRC since its establishment in 2006 – more than those condemning any other countries in the world, combined.

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