UN rights body sets probe into flotilla raid


The United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday voted to set up an independent fact-finding mission to look into what it called violations of international law in Israel’s raid on a Gaza aid flotilla.

In a resolution proposed by Pakistan for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Sudan for the Arab group, the Council by a vote of 32 of its 47 members also condemned the Israeli action as outrageous.

The United States, Israel’s longtime ally, together with Italy and the Netherlands voted against, while nine European, African and Asian nations abstained and 33 more African countries did not vote.

The resolution called “for full accountability and credible independent inquiries into these (Israeli) attacks” in which Israel says nine people on boats in the flotilla died.

The Council decided to despatch an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law in the attack, it said.

The team would be appointed by the Council president and Belgian diplomat Alex Van Meeuwen — whose own country along with four other European Union members abstained in the voting.

Israel unlikely cooperate

Israel says nine people were killed when they resisted commandos who boarded the ships of the flotilla to stop it reaching Gaza. It began releasing the 682 pro-Palestinian activists it arrested on the vessels earlier yesterday.

It was not immediately clear when the rights council mission would be set up or who might be on it. Diplomats said it was unlikely that Israel, which has announced its own probe, would agree to cooperate with it.

The rights council, set up in 2006, is effectively controlled by developing countries among whom the OIC has strong influence, and regularly condemns Israel.

The text of the flotilla resolution differed from a statement from the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday which called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”

The difference, diplomats said, reflected the fact that while the United States with its veto power could have a determining influence on a Security Council text it could exert no such power in the Geneva rights body.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Washington supported an Israeli investigation but was open to different ways of ensuring that it was credible.

In the rights body, Russia and China as well several African and Latin American states backed the resolution, but France, Belgium, Britain, Hungary, Japan, Slovakia, Ukraine and south Korea — together with Burkina Fasso — abstained.

In a statement to the Council, US ambassador Eileen Donahue said: “Unfortunately the resolution before us rushes to judgment on a set of facts that… are only beginning to be discovered and understood.”

Pic: Flag of Israel

Source: www.af.reuters.com