Question of Palestine home
24 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
FACT-FINDING MISSION MEETS IN GENEVA FOR FIRST TIME
The UN fact-finding mission to the Middle East met in Geneva today for the first time. Team members and a number of additional experts met for an internal organizational meeting. Two additional members were present: Tyge Lehmann, a legal adviser for the Danish Government, and Helena Ranta, a forensic expert at the University of Helsinki.
As other members of the team gather in Geneva over the next few days, the fact-finding team will continue to prepare its mission. It is expected to be in the Middle East by this Saturday.
Asked about additional members of the team, the Spokesman said that any additional expertise could be brought on board as needed. Gen. William Nash, the US military adviser on the team, had suggested additional military expertise on the team, he noted, and the Secretary-General had accepted the suggestion. If team leader Martti Ahtisaari believes that recommendations for additional experts are helpful, they will be brought on board.
The Spokesman added, in response to questions about adding a US member to the team, that Ahtisaari had already stated there would be no divisive lines among members of his full team.
Asked about any Israeli objections to existing team members, the Spokesman said he had only seen comments in the media. He noted that the Secretary-General had received an indication from Israel in advance that it would cooperate with any team that he named. “These are his people,” Eckhard said.
Asked whether the Secretary-General or Ahtisaari would decide on additional members of the team, the Spokesman said that, now that Ahtisaari has been designated as the head of the team, he should make the final decision.
UN, ISRAELI DELEGATIONS TO MEET ON FACT-FINDING TEAM
On Tuesday afternoon, Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry came to see Secretary-General Kofi Annan to convey the position of the Israeli Cabinet concerning the UN fact-finding mission to the Middle East. The Ambassador sought clarification on the team’s composition and scope of action, as well as other issues.
The Secretary-General said clearly that the mandate of the team was
Security Council Resolution 1405
of April 19. While he would not discuss his choice of team members, he did not rule out adding additional experts as might be deemed necessary.
The Ambassador said that his Government wished to send representatives from Israel to brief the Secretariat staff to make sure that the Government’s point of view was understood. That team could arrive in New York on Thursday.
The Israeli Mission has notified the United Nations of the names of three individuals on their side who will participate, one each from the defence ministry, the foreign ministry and the Israeli Defence Forces.
The United Nations intends to set up a meeting at mid-day that would be chaired by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, with representatives from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Legal Affairs.
The Secretary-General agreed to postpone the departure of the fact-finding team to allow this consultation to take place, but still expects the team to be in the Middle East by this Saturday.
In response to questions about what the results of the meeting could be, the Spokesman said the United Nations was confident that the team would go to the Middle East, and that any differences would be resolved. He hoped that both the Israelis and Palestinians would agree that “this is going to be a fair and impartial study.”
Asked whether the talks would go on beyond Thursday, he said he didn’t think so.
Asked whether a counter-terrorism expert would be added, he noted that Lancry had mentioned that idea, but added, “Let’s see what happens.”
Asked whether the Secretary-General would attend the meeting, the Spokesman said he would not. He added that no Secretariat personnel would talk about the mission until it was over.
Asked about criticism of UN Special Coordinator Terje Roed-Larsen, the Spokesman declined to comment but suggested that some of the recent media reports on him should be taken with a grain of salt.
SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR COOPERATION WITH TEAM
The Security Council Tuesday afternoon held consultations on the Middle East, and afterward, Council President Sergey Lavrov of Russia said that
Council members fully supported
the Secretary-General’s efforts to implement Resolution 1405 and expect the full cooperation of Israel with the Secretary-General and the fact-finding team.
Council members also expressed serious concern for the
safety of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat
, and emphasized that there must be no harm to him or others in his compound, and that the siege must be lifted.
HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ISSUED ON PALESTINIAN SITUATION
Today in Geneva, High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson presented to the Commission for Human Rights a
report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory
, which, since her visiting mission was not given clearance to visit the area, is based on reports from all concerned organizations that are present there.
It is indisputable, the report says, that there has been extensive loss of life on the Palestinian as well as the Israeli side. In addition, the report notes, citing estimates by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA
), there has been extensive destruction of property and infrastructure, with some 4,000 to 5,000 people left homeless in the Jenin refugee camp.
It also mentions reports from Israeli human rights groups of the difficult conditions in detention centers for Palestinians and the violent treatment of some detainees, and cites numerous reports that the Israel Defence Forces used Palestinians as human shields. The report also notes accusations from various sources of a denial of humanitarian access and lack of access to medical assistance.
The High Commissioner, in the report, appeals for everyone in a position to do so to help the two sides to return to negotiations for a peaceful outcome, and stresses, “The military operation must be brought to an end. Equally, all attacks against Israeli civilians must end.” [...]