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UN Official Requests Probe of Israeli, Palestinian Abuses - 2002-04-24

The United Nations human rights chief has called for an urgent, thorough and independent investigation into violations committed by both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Israeli military occupation must end in the Palestinian territories," said Mary Robinson, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Commission. "Those who have planned and executed terrorist acts against Israeli civilians must stop this heinous policy."

Mrs. Robinson issued a report on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian territories.

"It is not possible in a short report to convey the depth of pain, suffering, humiliation and despair which comes through when reading the accounts furnished to us from the occupied Palestinian territory," continued Mrs. Robinson, "Nor is it possible to convey adequately the level of trauma, fear, and anger experienced by Israeli citizens in the aftermath of a terrible series of suicide bombings."

Mrs. Robinson said this "acute human rights situation fully warrants an independent investigation" and called on both sides for their "full cooperation."

Earlier this month, the Commission mandated Mrs. Robinson and a team of experts to travel to the area and prepare an investigative report. But Mrs. Robinson called off a mission last week to the region saying that Israel could not facilitate such a visit. Israel denies this.

The 13-page document cites killings of Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers and also notes that extrajudicial executions have been carried out by both sides of alleged terrorists and collaborators.

It also draws attention to the destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli army and the alleged use of Palestinians as "human shields" during search operations.

Both Israeli and Palestinian representatives to the U.N. had their complaints over the report.

Palestinian Ambassador Nabil Ramlawi called the report incomplete because Mrs. Robinson's team could not see first-hand what has taken place.

"It would seem that this visit which did not take place has induced Mrs. Robinson to submit this very weak report to us, although the report contains quite a lot of truth," said Amb. Ramlawi. "But the report does not even cover 10 percent of what is happening."

Israel's ambassador, Yaacov Levy, called the report "one-sided."

"It does not indicate what caused these effects, this situation," said Amb. Levy. "That is to say, the Palestinian decision reported here time and again in my speeches, a decision to engage in terrorism and military action, rather than follow the path of negotiations since Camp David."

Mrs. Robinson said the road to peace for the two sides will not be through military means or violence but through dialogue and building of empathy.