UN Human Rights Body to Focus on Middle East Violence in Special Meeting
The UN's top human rights body will focus on Tuesday on the weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has left more than 100 dead at a special session in Geneva which could set up its own commission of inquiry.
Some 47 of the UN Human Rights Commission's 53 members backed an initiative by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to hold the meeting, only the fifth time the body has met in special session in its history.
Arab and Muslim countries want the UN body to establish an international commission of inquiry to look into the "causes and perpetrators" of the violence, according to a draft resolution obtained by AFP.
Fierce clashes broke out in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after a visit by Israel's hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on September 28. About 3,000 people have also been wounded.
The compound is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sherif and to Jews as Temple Mount, and is at the center of the two sides' claims to the holy city as their capital.
The proposed commission of inquiry should also suggest "ways and means of preventing the repetition of the recent tragic events" and determine responsibility for human rights violations in the Palestinian territories, according to the document.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an international commission of inquiry to be set up soon after the clashes broke out.
Leaders gathered in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for a vital summit starting Monday were due to discuss the possible establishment of such a commission.
Arab states also hope delegates at the special two-day meeting will agree to call for UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson to "undertake an urgent visit" to the Palestinian territories to "take stock of the persistent, gross and systematic violations" of human rights of the Palestinian people by Israeli forces.
And it calls for the UN body's special rapporteurs in areas such as torture, violence against women and religious intolerance to immediately visit the Palestinian territories.
The draft resolution will be discussed by members of the Commission before any vote on it takes place. Arab countries had hoped Arafat would attend the special session but sources said Monday he would not be able to come because of the Egypt summit.
The UN Commission on Human Rights holds its annual six-week sessions in March-April. It has only met in special session four times so far -- twice in 1992 to discuss Yugoslavia, in 1994 on Rwanda and last September to discuss East Timor – GENEVA (AFP)
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