UN rights body sets probe into flotilla raid

Reuters June 03, 2010

GENEVA: The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday 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 Organization 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 three 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 one boat in the flotilla died.

The Council decided to dispatch 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 says those who were killed were resisting 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 on Wednesday. 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 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."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York he had met diplomats from Israel, Turkey, Arab nations and Security Council members on Wednesday to consult on the best way to fulfill the demands of the statement. "You may have to wait some time before I make any decision," Ban said.

Most Security Council members, diplomats say, would support an independent international investigation, possibly run by the United Nations, but Washington, like Israel, is opposed. Israel refused to cooperate with an earlier Human Rights Council investigation led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone into Israel's December 2008-January 2009 war in the Gaza Strip.

Israel dismissed Goldstone's report, which accused Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes, as biased and false. U.S. 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 as several African and Latin American states backed the resolution, but France, Belgium, Britain, Hungary, Japan, Slovakia, Ukraine and south Korea together with Burkina Faso 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."


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