The UN Human Rights Committee on Tuesday appointed legal scholar Yuval Shany as its new chairman in an unprecedented development, marking the first time in history that an Israeli will lead the committee.
The UN committee is a body of 18 experts that meets three times a year for four-week sessions to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by about 170 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is distinct from the UN Human Rights Council, which regularly holds overtly anti-Israel sessions and which the US withdrew from in June.
Shany is a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he was a past dean, and also a senior official at the Israel Democracy Institute.
“Currently, the UN’s Human Rights Committee faces several challenges, chiefly that we live in an international climate that no longer supports human rights. As head of the committee, I hope to harness its positive and apolitical influence to secure human rights for all citizens of the world,” Shany said.
Dealing with grave international problems on the committee helps put Israel’s issues into perspective, he told The Jerusalem Post previously.
“There are many places much worse than Israel. Much worse,” he said.
The comparative perspective, he added, also shows Israel’s uniqueness.
“The situation in the territories is very unique. It is hard to find an analogy of a country ruling an area for so long whose status is undecided and with an interim situation that goes on for decades and impacts millions of people.”
During his time on the committee, Shany has seen countries enact “very weird claims [that] push the borders of logic.”
He gave an example of Belarus, which has signed on to many conventions that require it to respond to many complaints about human rights violations. To help it get around complying, Belarus, according to Shany, has instituted a series of “outrageous procedural obstacles.”
Shany takes pride in achievements regarding the provision of detailed guidance on the right to life, which he hopes will cause states to better defend people’s lives.
Moreover, he was involved in reforms to make the process for handling human rights claims faster, more efficient and more public.