PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, January 2, 2009 — UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization that monitors the UN human rights system in Geneva, today expressed concern over an unprecedented breach of jurisdiction by a group of UN officials who issued a statement on the Hamas-Israel war, despite having defined mandates on entirely unrelated issues.

 

According to UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, “The vast majority of the experts purportedly represented by the committee in its statement today have entirely unrelated mandates, including on countries like Somalia, Haiti, Burundi, Cambodia, North Korea, or on issues like toxic waste and transnational corporations. They have no legal authority to speak on issues irrelevant to the defined mandates given them by the Human Rights Council.  What one expert cannot address on his or her own does not become justiciable simply by joining others. There are grounds for concern that basic procedures at the Arab-controlled U.N. human rights council and its related entities will fall by the wayside when Israel is in the news and a potential target.”

 

The mandate of the representative committee of experts gives it no independent authority to issue statements on country situations.

 

Worse, said Neuer, the imbalanced content of the statement “seems to follow the party line of the Human Rights Council that oversees these officials, which has condemned Israel in 20 out of 25 of its resolutions on countries, while legitimizing Hamas terrorism and rocket attacks.”

 

“The word Hamas appears nowhere in their statement, and its responsibility for the crisis — as acknowledged by the Arab leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority — is nowhere mentioned by the UN experts. Nor is there any mention of the double war crime of Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians and then hiding among Palestinian civilians. UN Watch reminds the UN experts of their solemn obligation to be objective in carrying out their work.”

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As issued by the United Nations today:

2 January 2009

UN human rights experts call for immediate protection of civilians in Middle East crisis

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson of the coordinating body for independent United Nations human rights experts (known as “Special Procedures”) issued the following statement today:

“The Coordination Committee of Special Procedures is deeply alarmed at the continuing violence in Gaza. We stress that international human rights law continues to apply and that it imposes binding obligations on all parties in situations of armed conflict.

We call on all parties to immediately cease all actions that result in civilian casualties, or put them at great risk. Both air strikes by Israeli Government forces and rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are resulting in inexcusable loss of life and placing the civilian populations in the affected areas in extreme danger.

The use of disproportionate force by Israel and the lack of regard for the life of civilians on both sides cannot be justified by the actions of the other party. They constitute clear violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.

We are particularly concerned at the impact of the current violence and destruction of vital infrastructure on the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. We call on all parties to immediately ensure full access to humanitarian actors and supplies and enable them to carry out their work of distributing food, treating the sick and injured, and guaranteeing the provision of essential energy and sanitation.

Independent human rights monitoring, including by the various UN Special Procedures, is particularly crucial in these circumstances which result in an exceptionally broad range of human rights violations.”

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