By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) Oct.19.2000 - The main United Nations human rights
forum on Thursday endorsed an Arab-Islamic resolution
condemning Israel for ``war crimes'' and ``crimes against
humanity'' in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The resolution, narrowly adopted at the U.N. Commission on
Human Rights, also sets up a five-member international inquiry
into the three weeks of bloodshed.
U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson and seven independent
U.N. investigators would also make five-day trips to the
region, where at least 107 people have been killed in three
weeks of violence, all but seven of them Palestinians and
Israeli ambassador Yaakov Levy and U.S. envoy Nancy Rubin
each took the floor to denounce the resolution as ``one-sided.''
``It is injurious to the peace process,'' Levy declared.
Israel has no vote at the forum. Levy also said that a new
investigating committee was ``superfluous'' as a fact-finding
body had been agreed at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit on Tuesday.
Arab and European diplomats, as well as senior U.N. human
rights officials, said they believed it was the first time that
the Commission had condemned the Jewish state on such terms.
The half-century old rights forum regularly condemns Israel
for alleged violations in the territories, in southern Lebanon
and in the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967.
The vote -- which was applauded -- came amid fresh violence
in the West Bank town of Nablus just two days after the summit
deal in Egypt between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to halt the bloodshed.
Nineteen states voted in favor, 16 against, with 17
abstentions and the Liberian delegation absent. Arab and
Islamic states voted in favor of their text, joined by
countries including China and Cuba.
The two-page resolution denounces ``widespread, systematic
and gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the Israeli
occupying power, in particular mass killings, collective
punishments, such as demolition of houses and closure of the
Palestinian territories, measures which constitute war crimes
and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and
crimes against humanity.''
The United States, Israel's main ally, voted against the
text. The seven European Union member states with voting rights
-- including Britain, France and Germany -- also rejected it,
as did Canada, Japan and several Latin American states.
Rubin, speaking after the late-night vote, rejected the
resolution's language as ``one-sided and vituperative.''
``Its prescriptions are at variance and in conflict with
those agreed to by the parties themselves,'' she said.
``If offers no pathway to reconciliation about peoples who
though on the brink of conflict were so recently on the very
brink of a final peace settlement.''
French envoy Philippe Petit spoke on behalf of the European
Union to explain its bloc vote against the text despite
last-minute negotiations aimed at toning down its language.
He said that the Commission's duty was to defend human
rights worldwide, not make ``political denunciations.''
Levy said the Arab resolution was ``partisan, one-sided and
inflammatory.'' ``There is no call on the Palestinian side to
stop the violence and rioting...'' he added.
Levy was due to give a news conference, followed by one
given by Algerian, Palestinian and Egyptian representatives.
© Reuters 2000