India abstains at U.N. Human Rights Council on vote calling for Gaza ceasefire, arms embar...

India abstains at U.N. Human Rights Council on vote calling for Gaza ceasefire, arms embargo against Israel

Four resolutions critical of Israel passed by 47-member HRC, India votes in favour of other 3

India on April 5 abstained on a resolution at the Human Rights Council that called on Israel for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and called on states to implement an arms embargo, which was adopted by the 47-member Human Rights Council.

While India’s abstention is believed to be in line with previous votes on any HRC resolutions that call for “accountability”, it did vote in favour of three other resolutions that criticised Israel for human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel’s occupation of Syrian Golan, and called for the Palestinian right to self-determination. All four resolutions were introduced at the HRC in Geneva by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

Friday’s vote was significant as it followed the killing of seven international aid workers in Gaza in Israeli airstrikes, and a military strike by Israel on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, which India had expressed “concerns” about. While the Ministry of External Affairs did not issue any explanation for the vote, it is understood to follow previous abstentions on similar resolutions, and also in line with its vote at the UN General Assembly in October 2023, since the HRC resolution (A/HRC/55/L.30) failed to condemn Hamas, while condemning Israel’s killing of more than 33,000 Palestinians, blockade of food and humanitarian aid into the area, and “forcible transfer” of civilians from one part of Gaza to another in the past six months. 

The United States, Germany and four other countries voted against the resolution, titled “Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice” and India joined France and Japan amongst 13 countries that abstained. However, a significant majority, 28 members of the HRC including Bangladesh, China, Maldives, the UAE, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa voted in favour of the resolution. 

The Israeli Ambassador, who criticised the resolution for its failure to mention Hamas and condemn the October 7 attacks in which 1,200 Israelis were killed, walked out of the plenary session in protest at the end of her speech.

The resolution that was finally adopted demanded that Israel “immediately lift its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip and all other forms of collective punishment and siege”, called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, condemned Israeli actions that “may amount to ethnic cleansing”, and spoke of the “starvation of civilians” by the Israeli forces. It also pressed for punitive measures, calling on all states to “cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel” and to refrain from the transfer of “surveillance goods and technologies” used to violate or abuse human rights.

India voted in favour of three other resolutions that were also adopted with large majorities on “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”, “Human rights in the occupied Syrian” Golan, and “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan”.

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