Europe Human Rights Official Defends Circumcision

The human rights officer of the Council of Europe criticized members of his own organization who called ritual circumcision of boys a violation of children’s rights.

Philippe Boillat, director general of human rights and legal affairs of the Council of Europe — an intergovernmental organization with no executive powers, leveled the criticism Monday during a meeting with delegates of the Conference of European Rabbis, the conference’s president, Pinchas Goldschmidt, told JTA.

The meeting concerned a nonbinding resolution which the council’s parliamentary assembly passed in October, and which called the Jewish and Muslim practice a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”

But during a meeting in Strasbourg with delegates of the standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis, Boillat said the resolution “ran totally contrary to all the European laws on religious freedom,” said Goldschmidt, who is a chief rabbi of Moscow.

The statement by Boillat is one of several steps by Council of Europe officials, who have distanced themselves from the controversial resolution of October 2013.

The following month, Thorbjorn Jagland, the council’s secretary general, said the council did not wish to see a ban on the practice and last month the council’s committee of ministers, which is the council’s governing body, advised inaction on the issue.

“I think the resolution to some extent could have undermined brit milah [Jewish ritual circumcision] and would have signaled to many parties from different countries to take steps against brit milah, but once the other and more important branches of the council turned against the resolution, the position against circumcision was undermined within the Council of Europe itself,” Goldschmidt said.

The 40 delegates of the Conference of European Rabbis to Strasbourg concluded their meetings Tuesday.

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