Saturday, February 16, 2019

(Mara Vigevani/TPS) Prof. Yuval Shany, an Israeli jurist of international renown, made history by being elected on Monday as the first Israeli to chair the UN Human Rights Council.

The HRC is a professional non-political body composed of 18 independent law experts defined as “of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights” according to its website, which examines objectively the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Shany, a former dean of law faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was appointed as a  member of the committee, which meets three times a year in Geneva, in 2013. He was the second Israeli member ever in the committee and the first since David Kretzmer, a law professor and human rights activist who helped found the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (1972).

Shany’s selection comes both in light of long-standing grim relations between the U.N. and Israel, as well as some indications of a thaw in recent months. Israel announced in December 2017 that it would leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following a long string of anti-Israel decisions by the group. That move was followed by the United States’ decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council last month, citing the council’s consistent anti-Israel bias.