Israel must end Gaza military siege, permit flotilla probe: UN

Israel must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip and invite an independent, fact-finding mission to probe its raid on an aid flotilla, a UN rights body said.

Israel must end Gaza military siege, permit flotilla probe: UN

Israel must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip and invite an independent, fact-finding mission to investigate its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a United Nations rights body said on Friday.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee also told Israel to ensure that Palestinians in the occupied territories can enjoy the human rights that Israel had pledged to uphold in the main international human rights treaty.

The committee's non-binding recommendations add to new pressure on Israel over brutal killings of Turkish aid activists.

On July 23, another U.N. rights forum, the Human Rights Council, named a panel of experts to investigate whether the Israel raid, in which nine Turkish activists in international waters were shot dead, breached international law.

The UN fact-finding team comprises three independent experts -- Sir Desmond de Silva (Britain), Karl Hudson-Phillips (Trinidad and Tobago) and Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia) -- a U.N. statement said.

De Silva is a former chief war crimes prosecutor at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. Hudson-Phillips is a former judge at the International Criminal Court who also served as attorney-general of Trinidad and Tobago.

Shanthi Dairiam is a Malaysian women's rights activist working in U.N. and Asian regional forums.

The U.N. team is expected to travel to Israel, Turkey and Gaza in August to interview witnesses and gather information before reporting back to the Council in September. The Council opens a three-week session in Geneva on Sept. 12.

However, Israel is expected to prevent UN experts from entering Israel.

The panel is due to present its findings in mid-September.

Israel maintains that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to the occupied West Bank and Gaza, although it says that the treaty does apply to Jewish settlers there, committee member Christine Chanet said.

"In Israel's written responses to the committee, one could see a total discrimination in the sense that settlers benefited from the pact," she told a news briefing.

"We have maintained our position on the applicability of the covenant. We are stronger because the International Court of Justice has said we were right on this position," she added, referring to the World Court's 2004 advisory opinion.

Chanet, a former French judge and international human rights expert, said: "It is very difficult to have a real dialogue (with Israel)."

"Ending extra-judicial executions"

The committee is a body of 18 independent experts, mainly prominent in international and human rights law, that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by countries that have signed up to it.

The recommendations on Israel's regular report to the committee on its compliance included calls for investigations into human rights abuses including killings in Israel's military offensive in Gaza between Dec. 27, 2008, and Jan. 18, 2009.

Israel had killed up to 1500 Gazans, a third of them children and wounded more than 5000 Palestinians in the 22-day military aggression in December 2008 on Gaza.

Israel, which has a long history of refusing cooperations with UN over war crimes charges, had halted a visit of UN team led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge.

The Goldstone report said, "Israeli forces deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Geneva Convention."

The committee also told Israel to end extra-judicial executions of "suspects", make torture illegal, end construction of settlements in the occupied territories, stop building a wall cutting off some of the territories from other regions, and stop destroying homes as a collective punishment.

It asked Israel to say in its next report due by July 2013 what action it had taken on these and other recommendations.



Related news reports:

Turkey expects UN to impose pressure on Israel if no coop

Israel refusal to another UN probe coop after Goldstone report

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2010, 16:08