UNITED NATIONS — Two UN experts working independently have issued reports this week that identify human rights abuses in two rival Middle East nations — Israel and Iran — one for its control over Palestinians’ lives and the other for denying basic privileges to its own people.
Israel was cited by Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk as an “illegal” occupier of Palestinian lands, while Iran drew criticism from Asma Jahangir for denying rights to its own people, especially women, including the right to act as a journalist or engage in political dissent without persecution.
“This is the longest-lasting military occupation in the modern world, and shows no signs of ending,” said Lynk, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, who presented his findings during a news conference at UN headquarters in Manhattan. “Israel’s role as occupier in the Palestinian Territory — the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza — has crossed a red line into illegality.”
Lynk said he was working on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council — which Israel’s backers, notably the United States, have said harbors an “anti-Israel bias” and has within its ranks several nations that are ill-equipped to judge others because they are human rights violators themselves. But he stressed that he was not paid by the UN and was free to come to his own conclusions based on his research.
His conclusions — that Israel has caused a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and builds Jewish settlements in violation of law in the West Bank while demolishing homes of Palestinians in East Jerusalem — formed the basis for Lynk to say Israel had crossed a legal line from occupier to illegal occupier.
His report was sharply criticized by Israel’s ambassador to the UN.
Lynk said the 50-year-old occupation of the territories should end, citing both UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that call for it, and that the General Assembly should seek an advisory opinion from the World Court on the legality of the occupation.
A legal determination calling the occupation illegal, Lynk said in his 22-page report, could encourage UN member states to avoid interacting with Israeli institutions and corporations, thereby hampering the country’s ability to function in much the way boycotts, divestment and sanctions have on states, such as South Africa when it practiced apartheid.
“Mr. Lynk is exploiting his position to spread hateful incitement against the State of Israel and is acting as a BDS activist under the auspices of the UN,” said Danny Danon, the ambassador. “The UN Human Rights Council has lost its legitimacy as it focuses obsessively on attacking Israel instead of working on resolving the real human rights problems plaguing the world. The Council has lost all touch with reality and the original intent of upon which it was founded.”
Lynk’s report followed Jahangir, a special rapporteur monitoring human rights in Iran, who delivered to the UN General Assembly a report that said little had changed in the country. She said that the country still denied women a host of freedoms ranging from the ability to dress the way they choose to the right to attend sporting events without male accompaniment.
“Nothing much has improved,” she said, but she enumerated a few bright spots: Now, women are allowed to teach while they are pregnant and the death penalty is applied in only more extreme drug trafficking cases.
But Iran rejected Jahangir’s report as biased, Reuters reported.
“The report is politically motivated, illegitimate, rancorous and disreputable,” Iranian state TV channel IRINN quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying on Thursday.
Journalists have reported harassment and intimidation, as have human rights advocates and political dissenters, she said.
Jahangir said women remain second-class citizens under President Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected to a second term in May.
“The dress code where women cannot decide what to wear and what to and how much of their head should be covered is a serious violation of their rights,” Jahangir said, calling the restrictions on freedom of movement another violation of women’s rights. “She is in fact not treated as an equal citizen, but, in fact, as the spouse of a citizen.”