Creating people's geographies
Defensive wording … “alleged”, “likely to hear denunciations”
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session this week to examine allegations of rights violations by Israel in its battles with Hizbollah militants after a group of mainly Muslim countries called for action.
The meeting, expected to be held on Thursday or Friday in Geneva, is likely to hear denunciations of Israel over the conflict. The group’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, was presented by Tunisia on behalf of 16 countries, the required one third of the Council’s 47 member states needed to call a special session.
Tunisia‘s ambassador Samir Labidi submitted the request, seeking a special session “to take action on the gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon, including the Qana massacre, country-wide targeting of innocent civilians, and destruction of vital civilian infrastructure”.
Qana is a Lebanese village where at least 28 people died when Israeli forces shelled a residential building where they said they believed Hizbollah fighters were sheltering.
The letter makes no mention of abuses by Hizbollah, which has fired missiles on Israel‘s northern towns and which Israel accuses of using Lebanese civilians as “human shields”.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that Israel‘s bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana appears to fit a pattern of violations of international law marking warfare between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.
In a report to the UN Security Council, Annan said a comprehensive investigation was needed to gather evidence of possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws affecting both Lebanese and Israeli civilians during the conflict.
“The attack should be seen in the broader context of what could be, based on preliminary information available to the United Nations, including eyewitness accounts, a pattern of violations of international law … committed during the course of the current hostilities,” he said.
“The effects of the current conflict on civilians in Lebanon and Israel rise to a level of seriousness that requires further gathering of information including violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he said.
“Accordingly, I support the calls for a more comprehensive investigation,” he said.
The 15-nation council asked Annan to look into the deadly July 29 Israeli bombing of a residential building in Qana to determine the facts of the raid, which triggered outrage around the world.
Early Lebanese reports on the attack branded it a massacre, putting the death toll at more than 54 people and at one point more than 60 people.
A Security Council statement adopted a day after the bombing expressed “extreme shock and distress” at the shelling and called for a UN inquiry to be completed within a week.
The Lebanese government later said it had found 28 corpses, some 14 of whom were children, but it added the toll could still rise as recovery efforts had been temporarily suspended.
Israel said in an Aug. 3 letter to Annan that it regretted the civilian casualties but “blames Hizbollah for manipulating and using innocent Lebanese civilians as human shields.”
The Lebanese government, however, told the U.N. chief that rescuers found no weapons in the building and no evidence that any of the dead had been Hizbollah militants.
Lebanese military authorities found “no indication that rockets were launched next to the building,” it said.
Annan said a week was inadequate to determine the facts.