CBC News & United Nations – 2006-09-03 00:22:27
UN To Probe Alleged Israeli
Targeting of Lebanese Civilians
CANADA (September 1, 2006) — A three-person team will investigate allegations of “systematic targeting and killings of civilians” by Israel during its month-long conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the UN’s top human rights body announced on Friday.
The Human Rights Council “strongly condemned the grave Israeli violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law in Lebanon,” it said in a release Friday.
The council — composed of 47 states — also approved the team “to examine the types of weapons used by Israel and their conformity with international law” and “assess the extent and deadly impact of Israeli attacks on human life, property, critical infrastructure and environment.”
Last week, UN de-mining experts suggested Israel violated some aspects of international law by using American-made cluster bombs — anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — in civilian areas.
Twenty-seven states on the council — including Russia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — voted on Aug. 11 in favour of the probe, which was proposed last month by the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League.
Canada joined the United Kingdom, Germany and nine other countries in voting against the call for the probe, while eight nations abstained.
Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, called the convening of the special session “one-sided” and reiterated his criticism from last month, when he said it was “painful” that the council has made a distinction between suffering and deaths occurring in different countries.
Canadian Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the council must “impress upon the parties to the conflict the urgent need to comply with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The team will include Brazil’s Clemente Baena Soares, a former secretary general of the Organization of American States; Mohamed Othman, who sits on Tanzania’s supreme court; and Greece’s Stelios Perrakis, a professor of international studies and a member of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog.
Annan in Syria
The announcement of the probe came as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Syria would step up border patrols and work with the Lebanese army to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.
Syria will increase its own patrols along the Lebanon-Syria border, and establish joint patrols with the Lebanese army “when possible,” Annan said after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Assad made no public comments after their meeting, but Annan spoke with reporters at the Damascus airport before he departed midday for Qatar.
The UN resolution that halted fighting between Israel and Hezbollah calls for an arms embargo on the guerrilla group, and for Lebanon to “secure its borders and other entry points.”
Annan said Assad informed him that Syria would “take all necessary measures” to implement paragraph 15 of UN resolution 1701, which calls on countries to prevent the sale or supply of weapons to entities in Lebanon without the consent of the Lebanese government or UN peacekeepers.
The UN chief also asked Syria to “use its influence” to win the release of three Israeli soldiers — two captured by Hezbollah in a July 12 cross-border raid that started the war, and one captured by Hamas-linked militants in Gaza the previous month.
Assad said he supported their release, but raised the issue of Syrian prisoners held in Israel, Annan said.
With files from the Associated Press
Copyright ©2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommerial, educational purposes.
UN Humanitarian Chief Condemns
Use of Cluster Bombs against Lebanon as ‘Immoral’
UNITED NATIONS (August 30, 2006) — The UN humanitarian chief on Wednesday accused Israel of “shocking” and “completely immoral” behavior for dropping large numbers of cluster bombs on Lebanon when a cease-fire in its war with Hezbollah was in sight.
Jan Egeland said Israel had either made a “terribly wrong decision” or had “started thinking afterwards.” The remarks were unusually harsh even for Egeland, who often ignores an unwritten rule that UN officials should not criticize member states too severely.
“What’s shocking and I would say, to me, completely immoral is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution,” Jan Egeland said at a news conference.
The spokeswoman for Israel’s mission to the UN, Anat Friedman, said she had no immediate comment on Egeland’s remarks. In Israel, the Israeli army referred to its earlier statement that all the weapons it uses “are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards.”
An unusual number of cluster bombs used in the war did not detonate on impact, possibly because they were old, Egeland said. Usually 10 percent to 15 percent of the bomblets fail to explode immediately. According to some estimates, up to 70 percent of the Israeli bomblets failed to explode on impact.
Civilians returning to their homes in southern Lebanon are experiencing “massive problems,” as a result of these unexploded munitions, Egeland said.
‘Every Day People Are Maimed’
Approximately 250,000 Lebanese, of the 1 million displaced, cannot move back into their homes, many because of unexploded munitions.
“Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordnance,” Egeland said.
UN and human rights organizations said Wednesday that 13 people, including three children, had been killed between the Aug. 14 cease-fire and Tuesday, and 46 people had been wounded.
“Every day we have to revise our count of what the scope of the problem is,” said Chris Clark, program manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Center in southern Lebanon. “We just don’t know how big the problem is, only that it is huge at the moment and getting bigger every day.”
Human Rights Watch researchers have said the density of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon was higher than in any place they had seen.
Talks with US Urged
Egeland urged countries that sold cluster bombs to the Israelis, including the United States, to have “serious talks with Israel.”
The UN Mine Action Coordination Center, which has so far assessed 85 percent of the bombed areas in Lebanon, has identified 379 bomb strike areas that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets.
Egeland said about 750,000 people had managed to return home, which he called “remarkable.”
Egeland will travel to Stockholm on Thursday to launch a revised humanitarian appeal for Lebanon.
The appeal has raised about $90 million, which Egeland indicated would be enough for the initial, emergency response. The Lebanese government will launch its own appeal for several hundred million dollars to continue the rebuilding.
© 2006 The Associated Press
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.