Middle East strife, terror cast shadow over UN rights body's session - Robinson
Ongoing violence in the Middle East and last year's terrorist attacks against the United States cast shadow over the just-concluded session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the top UN rights official told the Geneva-based body today as it concluded its session.
Referring to the "first shadow darkening the human rights horizon," High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said the Commission had recognized the need to respond to the severe loss of life of both Palestinians and Israelis by calling for a visiting mission and fact-finding report. "The steps taken by the Commission stem from its commitment to protect victims of violations of human rights in a particularly difficult context," she said.
The "second shadow," she said, was the 11 September terrorist attacks and their aftermath. "A number of strong statements during this session have affirmed the importance of upholding fully human rights and humanitarian law standards in combating terrorism," she noted, pledging her Office's full support for "any initiative the Commission may think appropriate in order to signal clearly that human rights should not be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism."
Mrs. Robinson also voiced concern over "a possible trend seeking to weaken the protection role that this Commission has been exercising." She said this was evident in voting patterns on country situations marked by a preference for excluding action if consensus was not possible.
"The core role of the Commission in protecting human rights through drawing attention to violations and abuses must be retained, but it is clear that in the future it needs to be matched by a much more significant commitment to provide resources for technical cooperation and advisory services to assist countries in building and strengthening their national capacity in the rule of law, the administration of justice, and adherence to human rights norms and standards," she said. "Criticism will then be perceived as constructive and forward-looking, not finger-pointing in a judgmental way."
Responding to press questions after her speech, Mrs. Robinson said she had a "very good" meeting yesterday with the fact-finding mission which is headed to the region to develop accurate information regarding recent events at the Jenin refugee camp.
Asked about Israel preventing her own planned trip to the region, she said, "I made no secret of the fact that I regretted that it was not possible for the visiting mission to go under the mandate which it had been given." She added that it was "particularly difficult to address the human rights concerns in the very complex and political environment of what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel."