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UN monitor for human rights in West Bank quits over access

Makarim Wibisono, who replaced Richard Falk, says Israel never let him into areas he was supposed to monitor; Israel: His entire mandate was ‘unbalanced’

Makarim Wibisono addresses the UN's Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014. (UN/Violaine Martin)
Makarim Wibisono addresses the UN's Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014. (UN/Violaine Martin)

The UN expert on the human rights situation in the West Bank resigned Monday, complaining that Israel had never granted him access to the areas he is meant to monitor.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories [West Bank], Makarim Wibisono, today submitted his resignation to the President of the Human Rights Council, effective as of 31 March 2016,” a UN statement said.

Wibisono, who took up the independent expert in June 2014, “expressed deep regret that, throughout his mandate, Israel failed to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said.

“Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Wibisono said in the statement.

The Indonesian diplomat said he had been assured before taking up the position that he would have access to the West Bank.

“I took up this mandate with the understanding that Israel would grant me access, as an impartial and objective observer,” he said.

But he said repeated requests for access were unsuccessful.

“With no reply from Israel to my latest request, in October 2015, to have access by the end of 2015, it is with deep regret that I accept the premise upon which I took up the mandate, which is to have direct access to the victims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, will not be fulfilled,” he said.

By contrast, the Palestinian government had “cooperated fully” with his mandate, he said.

Israel responded that his resignation was a result of the lack of balance in the mandate he had been given.

“The Mandate of the Special Rapporteur is clearly an unbalanced one. And so are the conduct of the Human Rights Council and the content of its resolutions. The Palestinians and their supporters in the Council enjoy an automatic majority leading to a one-sided and discriminatory performance of the Council and its various mechanisms,” Israel’s embassy in Geneva said in a statement. “The human rights of Israelis are violated on a daily basis with full disregard by these organs. As long as this state of affairs persists, Israel’s attitude will reflect it.”

Israel has long had stormy relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council, which it accuses of having a built-in bias against the Jewish state.

Wibisono took over from American professor Richard Falk, who repeatedly locked horns with Israel, Washington and others over his harsh criticism of the Jewish state, which included a call to boycott companies profiting from its settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

The Indonesian diplomat has proven less controversial, although he harshly criticized the deadly 2014 Gaza war, warning the “ferocity of destruction and high proportion of civilian lives lost in Gaza cast serious doubts over Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law.”

And in November, Wibisono accused the Israeli security forces of using excessive force against the Palestinians and may have carried out summary executions as they sought to crack down on a wave of lone-wolf attacks with knives, guns and cars.

In Monday’s statement, he voiced deep concern over the lack of protection for Palestinians who face an ongoing range of human rights violations.

“I reluctantly wish to pass the baton to a successor, selected by the Human Rights Council,” Wibisono said.

“It is my sincere hope that whoever succeeds me will manage to resolve the current impasse, and so reassure the Palestinian people that after nearly half a century of occupation the world has not forgotten their plight and that universal human rights are indeed universal,” he added.

He stressed that it was important for Israel’s own human rights credibility to cooperate with the mandate and to provide access to the Palestinian territories.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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