Robinson stresses need for urgent visit by UN rights mission

17 April 2002

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today indicated that her Office was maintaining daily contact with the Israeli authorities concerning a proposed mission to the Middle East.

"It is important that the visiting mission should be able to leave as soon as possible, meet with people from both sides of the conflict as well as United Nations, non-governmental and other bodies on the ground, and report back to the Commission on Human Rights before it completes its current session at the end of next week," Mrs. Robinson said in a statement issued in Geneva.

The High Commissioner also referred to growing concerns over recent events in Jenin and the wide discrepancy between reported accounts of what transpired in the past several days, the situation of the local population, and actual casualty figures.

Earlier this month, the Commission had requested that a visiting mission travel urgently to the occupied Palestinian territories. Mrs. Robinson subsequently announced that her team would include Felipe González, the former Prime Minister of Spain, and Cyril Ramaphosa, the former Secretary-General of South Africa's African National Congress. Along with the High Commissioner, they have been in Geneva for more than a week receiving briefings on the human rights situation in the area.

On 9 April, Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, wrote to Mrs. Robinson indicating that the request was "under consideration." That letter also cited "other important pending visits" as a relevant factor in the Government's considerations.