Robinson says UN human rights mission to Middle East still reviewed by Israel

15 April 2002

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Geneva today that Israel was still considering a request for cooperation with her planned mission to the Middle East.

"The visit is still under active review by the authorities," Mary Robinson told the UN Commission on Human Rights, which mandated her to go to the region in response to the escalation of violence there.

In her statement, which was delivered also on behalf of the mission's other members - former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and former African National Congress Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa - she stressed that they remained "ready to travel to the area."

Mrs. Robinson called attention to serious human rights violations in the region, including suicide bombings that killed Israeli civilians, and "extraordinary military measures" taken by the Israeli Defence Force in West Bank towns "which have left hundreds dead, thousands displaced and which has created enormous physical damage." She added that the unresolved stand-off in Bethlehem and the virtual destruction of Jenin "are of deep concern to us all."

"The tragic killings of Palestinians and Israelis must be brought to an end," said the High Commissioner. She called for a process "to account for the death and destruction that has taken place," saying her mission could play a preliminary role in that effort.

"The international community cannot permit the indiscriminate killings of Israeli civilians or the wanton killings of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of the civilian infrastructure to support life," she said. "Force should never triumph over justice; in the long run, justice must prevail."

In a related development, the Commission today voted 40 in favour and 5 opposed, with 7 abstentions, to adopt a resolution strongly condemning the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps, saying that it had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians and calling on Israel to withdraw. The text also strongly condemned extra-judicial executions carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians and the establishment of Israeli settlements. The five countries voting against the resolution were Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Guatemala and the United Kingdom, while Burundi, Cameroon, Croatia, Italy, Japan, Poland and Uruguay abstained.