PA asks UN for formal inquiry into impact of settlements

March 23, 2012
Sarah Benton

Palestinians ask for U.N. human rights investigation
Al Arabiya/Reuters

The Palestinian Authority has asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct a formal inquiry into the impact of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said on Monday.

The probe should look into “attempts to confiscate land and settler violence along with the impact of settlement expansion on Palestinian life and basic human rights,” he said, adding that the proposal for an inquiry was formally tabled on Friday.

If it goes ahead, the investigation would be similar in format to recent U.N. inquiries into Syria and Libya, and would involve three or four experts who would report back to the U.N. human rights body in June.

Unlike the U.N. Security Council, the Human Rights Council functions by majority vote, meaning the United States and other big powers could not veto the resolution. Israel could still refuse to allow investigators to enter the occupied territories however.

“If this is the case, we will go back to the Human Rights Council to pass new resolutions that condemn the Israeli policy and call for just policies which respect Palestinian rights and offer a clear condemnation of Israel on this issue,” Maliki said.

“Certainly we coordinate our steps: first, we will wait for the resolution to pass; second, for the committee to be formed; third, for the to U.N. to demand Israel allow the committee to enter.”

Asked about the fact finding mission, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “This is another move by the Palestinians to dodge negotiations and choose a strategy of confrontation. We hope that the countries who aspire to end the conflict through a peace agreement will reject this request.”

The international community says the settlements are illegal. Israel disputes that.

Golan Heights tension

U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe did not mention the Palestinian request for an inquiry when she addressed the U.N. forum in Geneva on Monday. But she did say that the council was biased and had a disproportionate focus on Israel, adding it should hold all countries to the same standards.

The debate also gave an opportunity for the Syrian delegate to complain about Israel’s behavior in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But Donahoe said it was hypocritical to hold a debate that included a resolution on human rights in the Golan Heights, saying it was “motivated by the Syrian regime at a time when it is murdering its own citizens”.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay catalogued abuses by both sides, recommending a series of “small steps” that each country could take to improve human rights now, without waiting for advances in the Middle East Peace Process or any other development.

“Doing so will not only improve the lives of civilians; it will demonstrate the leaders’ commitment to the goal of living side by side in peace and security,” she said.

Egypt supports international commission on Israeli crimes against Palestinians

Middle East Monitor

Ambassador Hisham Badr, Egypt’s permanent representative to the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, has confirmed Cairo’s full support for the establishment of an international fact-finding committee to investigate the impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian human rights. A proposal for the committee was submitted by the two Arabic and Islamic groups on the UN Human Rights Council.

Badr’s announcement came in a speech to the latest session of the Council to discuss the developments of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories. The Egyptian representative said that any talk about the latest developments in the Middle East should not ignore the increasing suffering of the Palestinian people and the population in the occupied Arab territories due to the ongoing Israeli occupation.

“The Israelis are an obstacle to the fundamental rights of the Palestinians,” he argued, “especially the right to self-determination and their right to establish their own independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.” This right, he said, exists without needing permission or approval from Israel, the occupying power which stands in defiance of all the international resolutions on the issue.

“Egypt renews its call to the Council to carry its responsibilities in this regard, taking into consideration the historical transformations witnessed in the region which must be extended to include the fulfilment of the Palestinians’ right to freedom.”

Ambassador Badr stressed that Egypt “has not and will not spare any effort to support the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate demands and recover their rights”. He noted that Egypt’s mediation in the exchange of prisoners deal last year and the current truce in Gaza is “fully consistent” with this.

In closing, the ambassador said that the UN Human Rights Council has “direct legal and moral responsibility to work on the release of the Palestinian political detainees in Israeli prisons, to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem, and to end the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.”

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