|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
Fourth Committee Elects Israel Vice-Chair as General Assembly’s Main Bodies
Choose Bureaux for Sixty-Ninth Session
Nominee Exceeds Majority of Votes Required after Arab Group Requests Secret Ballot
The General Assembly’s six Main Committees elected their Bureaux for the sixty-ninth session today, with the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) holding a secret ballot requested by the Group of Arab States over Israel’s nomination as Vice-Chair.
Mordehai Amihai (Israel), nominated by the Group of Western European and Other States, was elected Vice-Chair with 74 votes, exceeding the required majority of 39. Guy Rayée (Belgium) and Iselin Hebbert Larsen (Norway) each received one vote.
Speaking before the action, Israel’s representative called the vote an assault on the rules and norms of the United Nations, asking delegates whether it served the General Assembly’s interests or the “hate-filled politics of a small group of nations”. The Arab Group had presented “fictitious and unfounded” claims, questioning Israel’s eligibility to serve as Vice-Chair and standing against the 28 Western European and Other States. The vote had set a dangerous precedent, allowing the Organization to be degraded and discredited, he said.
Qatar’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, cited two letters sent to the Committee Chair, on 11 and 17 June, and outlining its rejection of Israel’s candidacy. The Group had requested an election by secret ballot, in line with article 103 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.
Elected by acclamation to the Fourth Committee’s Bureau were Durga Prasad Bhattarai (Nepal) as Chair, Inese Freimane-Deksne (Latvia) as Vice-Chair, and Gabriel Orellana Zabalza (Guatemala) as Rapporteur. The Committee postponed the election of the Vice-Chair from the Group of African States.
In other business, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) elected, by acclamation, Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica) as Chair. Also elected were Saad Abdullah N. Al Saad (Saudi Arabia), Maria Victoria González Román (Spain) and Narcisa Daciana Vlãdulescu (Romania) as Vice-Chairs, and Saada Daher Hassan (Djibouti) as Rapporteur.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) elected Sebastiano Cardi (Italy) as Chair, as well as Tarik Iziraren (Morocco), Aleksandra Stepowska (Poland) and Tishka Francis (Bahamas) as Vice-Chairs, and Tham Borg Tsien (Singapore) as Rapporteur.
Also acting by acclamation, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) elected Sofia Mesquita Borges (Timor-Leste) as Chair, in addition to Pierre Faye (Senegal), Kurt Oliver Davis (Jamaica) and Johanna Nilsson (Sweden) as Vice-Chairs, and Ervin Nina (Albania) as Rapporteur.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) elected František Ružička (Slovak Republic) as Chair, as well as Paula Coto-Ramírez (Costa Rica), Aline Mukashyaka (Rwanda) and Chamithri Jayanika Rambukwella (Sri Lanka) as Vice-Chairs, and Matthias Dettling (Switzerland) as Rapporteur.
In final action, the Sixth Committee (Legal) elected Tuvako Nathaniel Manongi (United Republic of Tanzania) as Chair. Also elected were Hossein Gharibi (Iran), Mirza Pašić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Fernanda Millicay (Argentina) as Vice-Chairs, and Salvatore Zappalà (Italy) as Rapporteur.
Israel’s representative, speaking before the election of Vice-Chairs, said his Government had serious concerns about Iran’s nomination because that country abused its judicial system and subjected prisoners to inhumane treatment. It was also responsible for the murder of innocent people, and the Sixth Committee should not permit an “outlaw regime” on a body devoted to advancing the rule of law.
Canada’s representative said that, given Iran’s “shameless” violation of international law, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and continuing non-compliance with nuclear obligations, among other things, it was unsuitable to hold the position of Vice-Chair.
Iran’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it was surprising to be given a lecture by a country that had a long history of violating human rights and international law. Iran deplored the fact that such hateful accusations had been expressed in the Committee.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date to be announced.
Several delegations made statements about Israel’s election.
The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reiterated its rejection of Israel’s candidacy, describing the country as a State that violated the United Nations Charter and international law. Because its track record was rife with murder and its occupation had lasted more than 66 years, Israel was not qualified to preside over questions pertaining to Palestinian refugees, peacekeeping and the investigation of its own illegal practices, he emphasized. Israel’s negative track record in voting against the majority of draft resolutions before the Committee showed its flagrant contempt for that body’s work and that of the General Assembly, she said, expressing regret that there had been no other candidate from the group of States to which Israel belonged.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, expressed disappointment with the decision to call a recorded vote, stressing that challenging a candidate endorsed by a regional group contravened norms and regulations. The Western European and Other States had fully respected the decisions of other regional groups and refrained from objections targeting a single State. Today’s action could set a precedent for other groups.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called the election a sham provoked by the Western European and Other States, adding that it was the moral equivalent of placing the apartheid regime of South Africa in charge of a committee to end racism. It was a travesty of United Nations principles, based on the right to sovereignty and self-determination — the same rights denied by a country now in charge of a decolonization committee. The election was also an affront to democracy because the “winning” candidate had received the support of only 38 per cent of Member States, yet the candidacy was being forced down the entire world community’s throat. While acknowledging the principle of respect for regional nominations, he emphasized that the representative of the United Kingdom was totally inaccurate in saying that her Group had respected the nominations of others. It was not a question of challenging nominations, but a matter of principle — an end to occupation and self-determination — which the occupying Power did not feel the appropriate need to say it supported. The election was not a victory for Israel, but a defeat for the United Nations.
The representative of Libya noted that the Assembly had, for the first time, elected an occupying entity to a committee entrusted with ending decolonization, which was a shame for humanity. While paying tribute to those who had taken the “right” side by denying the candidate their votes, he said everyone knew Israel’s human rights violations and its usurpation of Palestinian territory. The vote had made clear the defeat sustained by the Israeli entity, which had garnered less than half of the United Nations membership’s support.
The representative of Lebanon pointed out that Israel occupied the territory of other countries in violation of the Charter. It did not implement General Assembly or Security Council resolutions, nor respect the decisions of the International Court of Justice. It was the country most condemned by the Assembly for its violation of international norms, especially self-determination.
The representative of Israel, thanking colleagues, said that on far too many occasions, the Arab Group had been allowed to hijack United Nations practices, and today delegations had stood together to preserve its rules and norms.
The representative of Canada expressed deep disappointment with the unprecedented recorded vote, reiterating his Government’s unflinching support for Israel.
The representative of Syria, pointing out that the Fourth Committee was charged with addressing decolonization and Israel’s illegal practices in occupied territories, said that country adopted negative positions on decolonization draft resolutions. Its representatives did not respect the Committee’s work, making provocative statements during its sessions and describing its work as politicized and not impartial. Israel’s goal was to obstruct its work in order to serve its
own agenda and criminal practices in occupied territories. The vote’s outcome proved that Israel was “unqualified” to hold the post.
The representative of the United States expressed regret that a recorded vote had been requested, and with the divisive and politicized rhetoric of those who had requested it. The United States unequivocally supported Israel’s election, she said, adding that her colleague would serve as a worthy Vice-Chair.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the Committee’s resolutions were important for the Arab Group, directly impacting its strategic and political direction, including on Palestinian rights. It was no longer reasonable to trust the Bureau, which now included a member who did not recognize the Committee’s resolutions.
The representative of Egypt, aligning himself with the Arab Group and OIC, said 74 out of 193 Member States had voted in favour of a candidate that had competed only with itself. Egypt hoped that the occupying Power and the Group that had presented its candidacy had heard that message.
The representative of Nepal thanked delegates for his unanimous election as Chair and reaffirmed his commitment to doing his best in that new capacity. He said that was aware of the sensitivity of the Committee’s work and understood that he would receive cooperation from membership and Secretariat in carrying out his important duties.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it was obvious why his Israeli counterpart had referred to his country in his “racist” remarks. Today’s meeting was about a country involved in occupation, colonization and war, and Iran deeply regretted the fact that the Committee must endure the representative of a brutal occupying force as a Vice-Chair.
MAFIROANE MOTANYANE (Lesotho), Acting Committee Chair, said the election of a Vice-Chair to be nominated by the Group of African States would be taken up at a later date.
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* Consecutive meetings held for the purpose of electing the Chairs and the Bureaux of the Main Committees at the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly.