UN Rights Council: Israeli Military Operations Breach International Law
Thursday July 6th, 2006 / 13h38
GENEVA (AP)--The U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday deplored Israel's military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as breaching international humanitarian law. By a vote of 29-11 with five abstentions, the council approved the resolution proposed by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference after it was amended to suggest the Palestinians also had a responsibility to refrain from violence against civilians. "It is absolutely unacceptable" that the resolution only names Israel, Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Levanon told The AP. Switzerland had earlier proposed amendments saying armed Palestinian groups also should be called to account in the resolution. However, the council accepted instead a more vague Islamic conference amendment that "urges all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against the civilian population and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions." The resolution expressed "deep concern" over the "arbitrary arrest of Palestinian (Cabinet) ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other officials as well as the arbitrary arrests of other civilians" and military attacks. The vote came in an emergency session of the U.N. body, which decided last week as one of its first acts to make it a priority to examine Israel's human rights practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The emergency session, which began Wednesday, had to be carried over until Thursday after reservations arose about the Muslim states' proposal, which singled out Israel for breaches "of international humanitarian law and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory." In Wednesday's session a U.N. human rights expert said it was clear Israel was in violation of the most fundamental norms of humanitarian law and human rights law. John Dugard, a South African lawyer responsible for investigating alleged human rights abuses by Israel in Palestinian areas, said he had "every sympathy" with Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whose capture by Palestinian militants in Gaza sparked the latest Israeli military reprisals. But he said Israel's response has only increased its violations of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied people. Israel's ambassador to the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva called the session "a planned and premeditated" attack on his country, and said it continued the anti-Israel bias set by the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was phased out this year. Dugard, an anti-apartheid civil rights lawyer in the 1980s, was appointed by the now defunct commission in 2001 to investigate only violations by the Israeli side, prompting Israel and others to dismiss his reports as one-sided. Levanon told the 47-member body that Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip, which followed the capture of the Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid June 25 was "triggered by the attack on our sovereign territory by Palestinian terrorist groups."