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U.N. Human Rights Body Condemns Israel
The Foreign Ministry announced this morning that Israel will not cooperate with an upcoming UN Human Rights Commission inquiry on the situation in the territories. The commission decided yesterday in Geneva to send Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson to conduct the inquiry. The commission also unanimously approved a resolution by Arab countries accusing Israel of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity."
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 Arabs.

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.

Vote Close

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

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