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UN Rights Chief Slams Israel Storming of Relief Boat to Gaza

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has joined a chorus of international condemnations of Israel's storming of a boat carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The High Commissioner expressed her shock while reviewing human rights conditions around the world at the opening of the 14th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

U.N. Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. But, says this does not excuse the government's heavy-handed measures against the inhabitants of this Palestinian territory.

She is particularly critical of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying this undermines human rights on a daily basis.

Pillay notes there have been marginal increases in the amount of goods allowed into Gaza recently.

"But, the current situation falls far short of what is necessary for the population to lead normal and dignified lives," she said. "Today, I am also registering my shock at reports that humanitarian aid was met with violence early this morning reportedly causing death and injury as the boat convoy approached the Gaza coast."

Israeli commandos killed at least nine people when they stormed a convoy of ships delivering aid to Gaza. Israel says it responded to attacks against its soldiers, 10 of whom were injured.

U.N. High Commissioner Pillay criticizes the human rights situations in other countries as well.

She says she is concerned that Sri Lanka has not investigated the alleged gross violations committed by both government and Tamil Tiger forces in the last stages of fighting last year. She is calling for an independent commission to examine this issue.

Pillay is also calling for an independent investigation of the recent unrest in Thailand. And, says all those found responsible for human rights violations should be held accountable.

Turning to Africa, she says she is very concerned about the violent clashes between communities, which took place in Nigeria in January and March.

"My office continues to receive troubling information on the situation in Jos, with serious concerns for the risk of further violence," she said. "I encourage the government to work closely with local authorities and civil society to take effective measures to prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing its underlying causes and by punishing abuse. Measures to address the issue of hate speech are also of paramount importance here."

The high commissioner has some warnings regarding the proposed withdrawal of U.N. peacekeeping forces from Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She says the reduction or withdrawal of U.N. military forces must not put at risk the lives and security of civilians. She appeals for support from the international community to make sure human rights in these countries continue to be monitored.