UN's top rights official urges mission to occupied Palestinian territories

UN's top rights official urges mission to occupied Palestinian territories

Mary Robinson
Reacting to the escalating death toll in the Middle East, the top United Nations human rights official today called on the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights to consider immediately sending a mission to the occupied Palestinian territories in order to gather information and make recommendations on a future course of action.

"The last days have brought a frightening increase in the loss of life," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, noting that suicide bombings had killed dozens of people in Israel, while unknown numbers of Palestinians had also been killed. "There have been reports of possible extrajudicial executions by the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] and there are also reports of the killing of eight Palestinians accused of 'collaborating' with Israel," she noted. "These are tragic examples of a spiral of violence and arbitrary deprivation of life that must be ended."

Mrs. Robinson pointed out that the UN Security Council sends visiting missions to areas of concern, and asked, "Would it not be right for this Commission to dispatch immediately a visiting mission that would travel to the area and return expeditiously to the Commission with their finding and recommendations?" She added that the protection of human rights would require such a step "as a very minimum."

The High Commissioner also recalled that following her visit to the region in 2000 she had asked that the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence be explored. "That proposal should now be implemented," she said. "International observers on the ground can be a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and also can promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians."

Mrs. Robinson painted a grim picture of the deteriorating conditions in the region, noting that hundreds of Palestinians have reportedly been arrested, while movement in all the areas of military operations, including Ramallah, Beit Jala, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and Bethlehem, remained "extremely dangerous." She also cited reports indicating that the Palestinian Red Crescent Society was unable to provide evacuation for the injured in any conflict areas, and that medical personnel were being arrested.