U.N. to Send Mission to Mideast
GENEVA – The United Nations' top human rights body voted Friday to send an urgent mission to investigate the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel said the special discussion that produced the resolution was another example of a one-sided attack on the Jewish state at the United Nations. The U.N. Human Rights Commission is dominated by Arab and developing nations.
The commission voted 44-2, with seven abstentions, to send Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, on an immediate fact-finding mission to the region, where Israel has occupied Palestinian territory in a recent military offensive. Canada and Guatemala opposed the resolution.
The resolution sponsored by Islamic countries condemned "the frightening increase in the loss of life, the invasion of Palestinian cities and villages, the arrest and detention of Palestinians" and other suffering by the Palestinians as well as restrictions on journalists and U.N. and Red Cross workers.
Under a last-minute Swedish proposal, the resolution was amended to make clear that the U.N. investigation is "to look into the civilian suffering on all sides."
Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy told The Associated Press that the resolution was still "one-sided." He said it is "not helpful will not contribute to the peace process.
"There is no need for one other mission which could inflame the delicate situation," Levy said.
The United States, which usually defends Israel at the commission, is not a member for the first time since the 53-nation panel was founded in 1947. Israel also is not a member.
U.S. Ambassador Kevin E. Moley told the commission that it shared the concern about the "rights and dignity of all those affected" and noted that President Bush was sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to try to ease tensions.
"We are all here to promote an outcome consistent with the mandate of the commission that reinforces the president's message and Secretary Powell's travel, without creating new forums for uncoordinated initiatives in the region," Moley said.
Palestinian Ambassador Nabil Ramlawi said the world was witnessing "the perpetration of the most hideous crimes at the hands of the Israeli army against the Palestinian people."
Ramlawi said Israeli violence "has reached an unprecedented level" and occupation forces were demonstrating a desire "to kill as many Palestinians as possible, destroy their society and their national authority."
Egyptian Ambassador Naela Gabr said she was speaking for the commission's Arab members when she warned Israel not to act against the Palestinian Authority and Arafat.
"Israeli actions are a violation of human rights," Gabr said.
Malaysian Ambassador Rajmah Hussain, speaking for the 57-country Organization of the Islamic Conference, said Israel's "state terrorism" must be condemned.