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Amnesty Criticizes Israel, Zimbabwe - 2002-03-15

The human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that countries should not be allowed to use concerns about terrorism as an excuse to weaken human rights standards. Amnesty officials made their comments at a news conference in Geneva, where the 58th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission begins next week Monday.

Amnesty officials said the Human Rights Commission, as the U.N.'s supreme human rights body, cannot allow countries to turn a "blind eye" to human rights abuses in their fight against terrorism.

Amnesty officials said they plan to focus attention, when the commission is in session, on several areas, including Zimbabwe and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Amnesty's representative to the United Nations, Melinda Ching, called Israel to task for what she described as an escalation of human rights violations on an unprecedented scale. But she said the group wants the U. N. commission to examine abuses by both Israelis and Palestinians.

"We will be urging condemnation of all killings of any unarmed civilians, and also, we will be insisting that fair trials take place for the perpetrators of these crimes," she said.

Ms. Ching said Amnesty International plans to repeat its call for the stationing of human rights observers in Israel and the territories to help end the bloodshed.

Turning to Zimbabwe, Amnesty official Catherine Turner said the organization was concerned, not only about the fairness of the country's recent election, but about what will happen after the election.

"There are huge human rights concerns with the way the elections have been carried out," she said. "What we are also then concerned is, after the elections, and this is also based on past experience by Amnesty, we are concerned that there will be widespread bloodshed."

Amnesty wants the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.