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Alarmed by Palestinians' plight, UN rights body sends Robinson to occupied territory

Alarmed by Palestinians' plight, UN rights body sends Robinson to occupied territory

Mary Robinson
Condemning the "frightening" increase in the loss of life in the occupied Palestinian territory, the main United Nations rights body today requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to lead a high-level fact-finding mission to the region immediately and report back on its findings.

The Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights adopted the resolution, which was submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, by a vote of 44 in favour, 2 against and 7 abstentions.

Speaking before the Commission, Mrs. Robinson said she was ready, in principle, to head such a visiting mission. "I would do so and on the understanding that there is broad support in the Commission, as well as full cooperation on the part of Israel and the Palestinian Authority," she stressed, adding that the implementation of a visiting mission would also depend on whether security conditions would permit it.

On Tuesday, the High Commissioner had called on the Commission 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.

Mrs. Robinson said today that in constituting such a mission, she would consult with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and be guided by the previous practice of the Office of High Commissioner, including visits in 1999 to Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

She also said it would be her intention to ask two prominent international personalities to join the group, which would depart "as soon as practicable" and return within a week to file its report to the Commission.

The mission's parameters, the High Commissioner noted, would be those that apply in fact-finding activities in the UN human rights programme: the independence of the members of the mission, freedom to visit places they wish and to speak with those they select, diplomatic immunity, guarantees of safety and security, and the faithful cooperation of the parties.