UN Human Rights Council kicks off 13th session 2Mar10 March 3, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  2 March 2010

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The UN Human Rights Council kicked off its 13th session on Monday, which will run until 26 March, and is expected to address the issue of a council review, as well as discuss the progress of recommendations made in the Goldstone report on war crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza.

Seventeen delegates addressed the council at the start of the session, notably Maria Otero, American under-secretary for democracy and global affairs, who reaffirmed the “renewed commitment” of the United States for the “defense of human rights and human dignity around the globe.”

As she outlined the agenda of the US with respect to the council, Otero noted the country’s concern over what she called the “disproportionate attention the Council pays to Israel, which is the only country that has its own agenda item,” mainly, the discussion of the Goldstone report, and what rights organizations around the world have called an abysmal attempt to address the concerns raised in the document by the governments of Israel and Palestine.

Otero noted specifically that, the US has “a series of specific concerns about the Goldstone report,” but nonetheless said the country would “continue to call upon all of the parties to conduct serious reviews of the allegations in that report and to establish credible accountability systems.”

The American representative to the council appeared not to share the concerns of international human rights organizations over what many described as the lack of accountability and seriousness of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and de facto Gaza governments displayed when submitting their reports over investigations to the UN.

In a news conference following the UNHRC address, Otero said she supported the internal investigations of the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

“We support the notion of complementarity,” she told reporters, “which assumes that the best way to address these issues is for each party to conduct its own investigations and to carry out its own remedial actions.”

Rights organizations disagree with the estimation, and have called for the issue to be transferred to the International Criminal Court.

Otero returned to the agenda of the US, saying that “[u]ltimately, the United States is committed to working with the parties to bring about a comprehensive peace in the region, including two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” rather than pursuing legal action on the allegations of war crimes.

Also during the news conference, Otero commented on the new role the US will play in the global sphere of human rights, noting, “Clearly, we understand that the way the United States can lead is initially by example, and we don’t have, as President Obama has often said, a perfect human rights record.”

She suggested that part of the role of the US would be to encourage the council to develop “a greater perspective [on Israel] and ensuring that it doesn’t dominate to the degree that it does the undertakings, the proceedings as well as the resolutions.”


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