UN Officials Criticize Israel, US and European Countries

Middle East News Online

By Middle East News Online Special Correspondent to the United Nations: Ramzy Baroud

Posted Thursday March 29, 2001 - 12:09:59 PM EST

Thursday, March 29, 2001 UNITED NATIONS, New York: An American veto that killed a Palestinian-backed proposal at the Security Council Tuesday may have protected Israel from yet another indicting resolution. However, the US veto has failed to bring an end to international criticism of Israel's handling of the Palestinian uprising and "excessive use of violence." The harsher criticism came from the UN's three-member human rights committee whose report last week lashed at Israel for widespread human rights violations in the occupied territories.
The UN investigators however directed most of their criticism this time at the United States for unleashing the veto power to suppress Palestinians' need for international protection.
One of the committee's members, Richard Falk told reporters Wednesday that he was disappointed by the US veto, calling on international institutions to direct more pressure on Israel.
He added, "I think it's up to the citizens, particularly of democratic countries, to put pressure on their own governments to pursue a morally and legally responsible foreign policy," and "we hope that our report contributed to that process.
The inquiry commission's report concluded that the Israeli army used "excessive and disproportioned force" against the Palestinians since the outbreak of violence in the occupied territories late last year.
John Dugard, another member, lashed at Western European nations for abstaining from the consequential vote at the Security Council, describing their decision as "an unfortunate failure ... to show their independence of the United States." Dugard assured reporters in Geneva Wednesday, that the EU is able to "theoretically" persuade Israel to accept international presence.
The committee, set up by the UN 53-member Human Rights Commission presented its report to the commission Wednesday. It said that Israel has failed to respond to their findings or recommendations. During their visit to Israel and the occupied territories, the committee received no cooperation from Israel, yet noted that the Israeli army didn't obstruct their mission.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson also presented her own report in which she also accuses Israel of mishandling the situation and violating international law and human rights in their treatment of Palestinian civilians.
In her address to the annual meeting of the commission in Geneva, Robinson urged both sides to work toward ending the violence and defusing tension.
"I have followed with deep dismay and growing concern the escalating violence," Robinson said.
She added, "It is truly tragic that babies and young children on both sides have been killed and seriously wounded." She described her report which was based on an investigation she spearheaded in a visit to Israel and the occupied territories last November as one that "expresses concern at what I judged to be excessive use of force by the Israeli authorities, particularly against youthful protestors." "In discussing the violence, the report sets it in the broader context of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the physical and psychological affect that this has on the Palestinian population," Robinson added.
"Whilst acknowledging the insecurity felt by many ordinary Israelis, and noting a worrying increase in drive-by shootings and other violence on the Palestinian side, the report identifies the steady expansion of the settlements, the destruction without compensation of Palestinian property, and the devastating economic effect of the closures and travel restrictions, as major factors underpinning the present situation," she explained.
Although she found Israel responsible for the escalation of violence through the Israeli army's proactive measures, Robinson stressed that the Palestinian leadership has a role in bringing an end to the cycle of violence. She called on Palestinian leaders to "make concerted efforts to end all violence from their side."
© 2001 Middle East News Online.