Robinson wants UN rights team in West Bank


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, has called for the UN to send an urgent fact-finding mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to report back on human rights violations by Israeli and Palestinian forces.

Speaking as a ferocious battle raged in the occupied territories this afternoon, she also reiterated an appeal for international monitors to be deployed.

"Would it not be right for this Commission to dispatch immediately a visiting mission that would travel to the area and return expeditiously with their findings and recommendations?" Mrs Robinson asked the annual meeting of the UN Commission she heads.

"I call you to conscience," declared Mrs Robinson, a former president of Ireland. International observers on the ground could be a deterrent to violations of human rights and "promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians," she said.

Her proposal, met by general applause, is to be taken up tomorrow. Palestinian envoy Mr Nabil Ramlawi thanked Robinson for her "courage" but Israel's Mr Yaakov Levy and US ambassador, Mr Kevinn Moley dismissed her speech as unbalanced.

Diplomats saw little chance of the Jewish state allowing a visit by an international team from the top UN rights body, noting that it had rebuffed a previous group in early 2001.