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Council of Europe official raps group’s resolution against ritual circumcision

(JTA) — The human rights officer of the Council of Europe reportedly criticized members of his organization who called the 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 in France with delegates of the Conference of European Rabbis, the conference’s president, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, told JTA.

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

Boillat at the meeting said the resolution “ran totally contrary to all the European laws on religious freedom,” according to Goldschmidt, a chief rabbi of Moscow.

Several Council of Europe officials have distanced themselves from the controversial resolution.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the council’s secretary general, said the council did not wish to see a ban on ritual circumcision, and last month the committee of ministers, 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,” Goldchmidt said, “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.”

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

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