UN Commissioner Calls for Respect for Human Rights in Middle East
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said here Friday that the Middle East peace process must include respect for human rights, including self-determination and refugees' right of return.
Robinson visited the Shifa hospital in Gaza, where she saw Palestinians wounded by Israeli bullets and said she understood concerns about "the excessive and disproportionate using of force."
She called the situation in the region tragic and said the peace process "must include concern about having respect for human rights, including the right of self-determination and the right of return."
Robinson, who arrived in the region Friday, will pay visits Saturday to a refugee camp and a site of demonstrations between Palestinians and the Israeli army, aides to the commissioner said.
She will leave the Gaza Strip for Jerusalem late Saturday and then travel to Egypt and Jordan.
On Wednesday, she will meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, her spokeswoman Veronique Taveau told AFP in Geneva.
Robinson's aides have taken pains to note that her visit to Israel has been planned and delayed since February and that it was not linked specifically to an October 19 resolution by the UN Human Rights Commission calling on her to travel urgently to the region to investigate Israeli actions against Palestinians.
"This is a mission the high commissioner was to make for months in the context of human rights. She has pushed it back for various reasons. This mission is not part of the very political resolution," Taveau said.
But Nabil Ramlawi, the permanent Palestinian observer at the United Nations in Geneva, called on Robinson to use her visit to investigate Israeli forces' violations of human rights. He reproached Robinson for having her trip cleared with Israeli authorities.
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority said Wednesday that Robinson would not be welcome in the territories if she went ahead with reported plans to meet with Israeli right-wing leaders.
Robinson, the former Irish president, had announced plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but made no mention of any visit with the Israeli opposition – GAZA CITY (AFP)
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