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UN Investigator Calls Israel's Security Wall an 'Act of Conquest' - 2003-09-30

A U.N. special investigator is calling Israel's construction of a security wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem an act of conquest. The investigator is urging the international community to condemn the wall as an unlawful act of annexation.

In his report, U.N. investigator John Dugard says the international community should condemn the security wall as an unlawful act of annexation in the same way that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights has been condemned as unlawful.

He says the barrier cuts deep into Palestinian territory, thereby cutting off more than 210,000 Palestinians who live between the wall and the so-called Green Line from their farmlands and workplaces. The Green Line refers to the 1967 boundary between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

A U.N. human rights spokesman, Jose Dias, says the special investigator notes there is strong evidence that Israel is determined to create facts on the ground amounting to de facto annexation.

"He says the wall has all the features of a permanent structure. And, he says, the fact that it will incorporate half of the settler population in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem suggests that it is designed to further entrench the position of the settlers and the settlements," he said. "The fact that there appears to be a measure of annexation is of great concern to the rapporteur."

Mr. Dugard, a South African lawyer, says the restrictions on freedom of movement continue to create a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories. The restraints on the movement of goods and persons, he says, have given rise to unemployment, poverty and poor health care.

The U.N. special investigator accuses Israel of using excessive force against the Palestinians. He acknowledges that Israel has legitimate security concerns, but he says there must be some limit to the extent to which human rights may be violated in the name of counter-terrorism.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, describes the report as one-sided and politically biased. He says it emanates from a fundamentally flawed mandate.

"His report disregards the context of continuous violence directed against Israeli civilians since September 28, 2000, in which close to 900 Israelis have been killed and thousands wounded," he said. "When judged against such background, Israel's self-defense measures, including a security fence being constructed to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel, would appear proportional as well as within her right to self-defense."

Mr. Dugard's report is based on a visit he made to the region in June. He says the Israeli government, which does not accept his mandate, refused to cooperate with him.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission is expected to consider the report early next year.