Expert faults Israel, UN in occupied Palestinian territories

Expert faults Israel, UN in occupied Palestinian territories

Israel and the United Nations stand to be blamed for human rights conditions in Palestinian-occupied territories, a UN human rights rapporteur said Friday, dpa reported.

Richard Falk said he was barred by Israel to visit the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip to survey conditions there, whereas his predecessor, South African international lawyer John Dugard, was allowed to carry out his mandate.

"The UN may also be faulted for its failure to respond more strongly to complaints arising from this Israeli pattern of non-cooperation," said Falk, a law professor at New York University known for critical stance against Israeli policies in the Middle East.

Israel had not allowed South African jurist Richard Goldstone to visit Gaza to investigate the May 31 flotilla incident, which resulted in nine people killed on one of the ships carrying relief aid to Israeli-blockaded Gaza.

"Widely held impressions of Israeli impunity are thereby encouraged, as well as the lack of political will within the UN itself to take the obligations of international law seriously, or even its own charter," Falk said.

Falk told the UN General Assembly annual review of human rights situations around the world that Israel's policies imposed in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have transformed its occupation into de facto annexation of the territories.

"The cumulative effects of the settlements, the security wall, and the extensive settler-only road network has been to convert conditions of de jure (legal) occupation into a set of circumstances better understood as de facto 'annexation'," he said.

He said world attention on problems in Gaza in recent years has left the impression that conditions in the West Bank are acceptable.

He said "all is not well" in the 60 per cent of the West Bank under complete Israeli military administration where 40,000 Palestinians are living. He said the area has been the scene of a number of demolitions and even destruction of Palestinian villages.

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