For the first time, an Israeli has been chosen to head the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a nonpolitical body that monitors the implementation of a rights pact by member states.
The committee bears no relation to the U.N. Human Rights Council, from which the U.S. recently withdrew because of its anti-Israel bias. Unlike the Council, which regularly pillories Israel, the Committee reviews Israel’s actions only once every few years, comparable to the other countries.
The Israeli is Yuval Shany, a professor in public international law at Hebrew University in Yerushalayim.
This is not the first time an Israeli will be a member of the committee. In fact, Shany has been serving on it since 2013. But he is the first to chair it.
The committee, which works under the aegis of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its signatories.
“Currently, the U.N.’s Human Rights Committee faces several challenges, chiefly that we live in an international climate that no longer supports human rights,” Shany said in a statement. “As head of the committee, I hope to harness its positive and apolitical influence to secure human rights for all citizens of the world.”
In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Shany commented on how people often mix up the Human Rights Committee with the Human Rights Council:
“If I had a shekel for every time that people confuse between the two bodies my financial situation would be different,” he quipped.
Shany conceded that while there were some behind-the-scenes “conversations, a little lobbying… it wasn’t very dramatic or very interesting.”
“Global politics plays much less of a role” in the professional committee, he explained. “People are chosen — quite surprisingly in that environment — according to their suitability for the position.”
Shany begins in his new position on Tuesday, when Bahrain comes before the committee. Later in the week, it will be Algeria’s turn to defend its human rights record.