The Council of Europe refuted reports in Israeli media that it had canceled a resolution from 2013 that called nonmedical circumcision of boys a harmful violation of children’s rights.
The clarification Thursday on the position of the Council, a body for pan-European dialog that has no executive powers and is not part of the European Union, came following statements by Israeli politicians, Jewish activists and media suggesting the Council had reversed its position on the practice.
According to those statements, the change came in the passing on Sept. 30 by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly of Resolution 2076 on “Freedom of religion and living together in a democratic society.”
Milah UK, a leading Jewish advocacy group supporting the practice, on Tuesday said in a statement that Resolution 2076 “cancels a previous motion that had cast into doubt the legality of religious circumcision.” Milah is the Hebrew-language name for the ritual circumcision of eight-day-old males. Muslims also circumcise their children.
The previous resolution referenced by Milah UK is Resolution 1952, which the assembly passed in 2013 and which lists milah along with female genital mutilation and calls both practices a harmful “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
But Nathalie Bargellini, a spokesperson for the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly, on Thursday told JTA that Resolution 2076 “does not cancel nor replace Resolution 1952.” She noted the more recent resolution references the older one.
Bargellini also said that Resolution 2076 “calls for strict conditions governing the exercise of this practice.” According to the new resolution, “circumcision should not be allowed ‘unless practiced by a person with the requisite training and skill, in appropriate medical and health conditions,’” Bargellini said.
Resolution 1952 carried no such recommendation for outlawing certain types of circumcision — a divisive issue in Europe for its relevance to immigration by Muslims and to children’s rights.
Though it is nonbinding, the 2013 resolution was controversial and was seen as significant because it was the first time that a prominent pan-European institution weighed in on the circumcision debate.