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US Rejects Proposal, Report from UN's Robinson
3 April 2002
The United States rejected Tuesday the proposal from the United Nation's top human rights official to immediately send observers to the Palestinian territories to obtain information and make recommendations about the "severe deterioration" of the situation there.
US Ambassador Kevin E. Moley disagreed that any such action, under the auspices of the UN Commission on Human Rights, could contribute towards improving the situation in the Middle East.
The United States questioned the possible intervention of the UN commission in the Middle East and demanded its support for the diplomatic efforts being conducted from Washington and New York, the UN's main headquarters.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, presented the initiative for sending a humanitarian mission to the occupied Palestinian territories and a report on the situation there during debate by the Commission on Human Rights, the UN's highest body dedicated to the issue, based in Geneva.
The Washington delegation once again has come down against Robinson and the resolutions the Commission has adopted in regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Moley said the UN High Commissioner's report is "unbalanced and polemical". The document had been updated as late as midday Tuesday with information received from a UN office in Palestine.
Robinson's new report maintains that Palestinians continue to be subjected to a broad range of human rights violations, all related to the occupation of their lands by Israel.
"Israel also continues to suffer from the deliberate planned killings of civilians," she added.
For her initial words, "I would have liked to congratulate Robinson for her report, but I cannot," said Moley, returning to the animosity of U.S. diplomacy towards Robinson and her office's policy in the Middle East.
Moley had criticized Robinson two weeks ago because she had recommended that the matter of "human security" be taken into account in the global strategy against terrorism.
The ambassador also said he does not share Robinson's point of view that sees the resolutions adopted at the World Conference against Racism, held last year in South Africa, as an antidote to terrorism.
The report Robinson presented Tuesday does not reflect the rights of Israel, said Mosley.
Washington's ill will has cost Robinson her continuation as UN High Commissioner for another term.
Robinson, who assumed the post in September 1997, announced last year that she would leave at the end of her mandate, in September 2001. However, she agreed to another year at the explicit request of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
She did not hide her interest in continuing until the end of a second four-year term, but her intentions ran up against US determination to push her out.
Robinson, who was president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, has indicated that in September of this year she will begin work in the international arena on issues related to problems arising from the globalization process.
The news sent by the High Commissioner's office in the occupied Palestinian territories states that "movement in all these areas is extremely dangerous due to the operation of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) tanks and snipers."
"The last days have brought a frightening increase in the loss of life. Israeli authorities report that in the midst of the Passover holiday, 22 people were killed and 140 injured - 20 seriously - in a suicide bombing in the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya," said Robinson.
Hamas, one of the radical Palestinian groups, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Last weekend, 14 people were killed and 40 were injured in another bomb attack in a restaurant in Haifa.
A report by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), released Monday afternoon, stated that 38 Palestinians had been killed and at least 60 more injured, said the UN official.
"There have been reports of possible extrajudicial executions by the IDF and there are also reports of the killing of eight Palestinians accused of 'collaborating' with Israel," she said.
As far as arrests and detentions, Robinson cited a dispatch from the British news network BBC that more than 700 Palestinians were arrested "in the area inter alia as the result of a house-to- house search conducted by military forces in many areas of Ramallah."
The report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights includes references to the obstacles in the zone affecting freedom of movement, humanitarian assistance, medical attention, and access to water and electricity.
Robinson said the Foreign Press Association in the Palestinian territories had reported that, since Mar 30, the IDF has prevented journalists from entering Ramallah, declaring the city a closed military zone.
She said she had spoken by telephone with the father of Caoimhe Butterly, a 23-year-old Irish woman who has been in Ramallah since January as part of an international peace group.
Butterly has some medical training and initially went to the compound of the president of the Palestine National Authority, Yaser Arafat, to help remove the dead and wounded after the Israeli forces attacked the site.
But after "seeing how bad the situation was she decided to remain inside and has been joined by about 30 more volunteers. On the phone to her father this morning she said, 'We are doing what the UN should be doing'," Robinson said.
"In my report to the Commission on my visit to region in 2000 I asked that the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence be explored. That proposal should now be implemented. International observers on the ground can be a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," says the High Commissioner.
The absence of the UN from the zone of conflict in the Middle East came under fire during Tuesday's sessions of the Commission on Human Rights from the representative of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), Jairo Sánchez.
The latest resolution by the UN Security Council, adopted Mar 29, does not call for sanctions or threats of sanctions of any type in response to non-compliance of international rules by Israel, said Sánchez.
The Security Council even "asks" Israel to withdraw from Ramallah, but does not say to do so immediately nor does it set a deadline, said the AAJ delegate.
Faced with the paralysis of the UN, the governments of Europe are limited to issuing a few verbal reprimands, but they have also failed to take action, Sánchez said.
Gustavo Capdevila, Geneva