The Daily Star
March 7, 2008 - 6:44pm


The United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday condemned Israel's bloody military assault on Gaza while also urging an end to rocket attacks that have killed Israeli civilians. The 47-member council approved the motion calling for "the immediate cessation of all Israeli military attacks throughout the occupied Palestinian territory" by 33 votes to one, with 13 abstentions.

The resolution had been tabled by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

It also urged an end to "the firing of crude rockets, which resulted in the loss of two civilian lives and some injuries in southern Israel," though the final text of the resolution dropped a previous reference to these rockets being fired by "Palestinian combatants."

Canada opposed the vote, while key EU members of the council such as France, Germany and Italy all abstained.

The resolution "urged all concerned parties to respect the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to refrain from violence against civilian populations."

The United Nations Security Council already condemned the violence in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

Addressing the council on Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said the international community should put pressure on both sides.

"I repeat my condemnation of the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilian targets, as well as of the ... [Israeli military's] disproportionate use of force," she added.

"I urge all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable," she added.

The OIC had urged the UN rights body to condemn the Israeli attacks and the "collective punishment" of Palestinians.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the OIC, presented a draft resolution which Israel's envoy promptly dismissed as "political posturing."

The draft text, which was also sponsored by the Arab League, demanded an immediate halt to Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip as well as the firing of crude rockets by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

It also condemned persistent Israeli military attacks on Gaza and accused Israel of "inflicting collective punishment against the civilian population, which constitutes a war crime."

Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan told the UN Human Rights Council: "Israel has resorted to use of disproportionate force, deliberate destruction of infrastructure and killing of civilians."

He said that more than 1,000 Palestinians had been killed in less than one year, including 125 in the last week when Israel conducted a sweep against Palestinian rocket crews.

The Human Rights Council, whose 47 members are holding a four-week session to examine violations worldwide, adopted a revised version of the resolution later on Thursday, diplomats said.

Since being set up in June 2006, the council has rebuked Israel three times for widespread abuses in the Palestinian territories.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017