Although Israel’s appearance before the Committee Against Torture (CAT) on 15 May 1998 was marked by a respectful exchange of views, CAT ultimately found Israel in violation of several Articles of the Convention Against Torture.

Analysis: This unfortunate finding seems, paradoxically, to punish Israel for having a transparent system which allows detainees the right to appeal to the High Court during interrogations.

All the same, efforts at genuine debate between Israel and the Committee were attempted. The tone was uncharacteristically hostile when Mr. Sayed Kassem El Masry of Egypt, took the floor to dismiss Israeli claims that Palestinians and Arabs are ensured basic rights while in detention.  El Masry went on to claim that for 50 years the Palestinians and their descendants have been uprooted and dispossessed of their homes, which is a “continuous act of torture.”

Two points should be noted. First, the Chairman of CAT, Mr. Peter Burns decisively negated El Masry’s comment, saying “that might be an expanded definition under our Convention.” For once, someone other than an American or Israeli diplomat stood up for a sense of fairness and accuracy in a meeting dealing with Israel.  Second, El Masry is an expert nominated to CAT by Egypt.  In light of the racially tinged comments of Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, an Egyptian member (and the Chairman) of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Egypt has distinguished itself by twice nominating to treaty bodies individuals who are more concerned with anti-Israel rhetoric than with ensuring the successful application of international treaties.

* On the eve of the World Trade Organization’s Second Ministerial Conference, anti-WTO rioters in Geneva cause over 1 Million francs worth of damage.

Analysis: The UN in Geneva must contend with an ideologically-charged environment where anti-globalization and anti-free trade sentiment is widely shared. In this climate, NGOs and other organizations seek to assert a voice decidedly in opposition to the values of democratic capitalism. Though the policies of the UN do not always reflect this anti-Western agenda, Geneva is a place where monitoring the NGO community is almost as urgent as monitoring the UN itself.

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