Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva

23 March 2004


Marie Heuzé, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which also saw the participation of the following spokespersons: José-Luis Díaz (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights); Fadéla Chaib, World Health Organization (WHO), Kris Janowski, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Christiane Berthiaume (World Food Programme), Carine Richard Van Maele (World Meteorological Organization), Chris Lom, (International Organization for Migration); and Natalie Domeisen of the International Trade Centre.

Ms. Heuzé began the briefing by announcing the statement made yesterday by the Secretary-General strongly condemning Israel's killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and eight others. The Secretary-General warned that intensified clashes could ensue and was “concerned that such an action would lead to further bloodshed and death and acts of revenge and retaliation" and reiterated that “extrajudicial killings are against international law and calls on the Government of Israel to immediately end this practice”.


Human Rights

José-Luis Díaz of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, drew attention to the statement of Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, voicing deep concern over Israel’s continued use of assassination in the occupied Palestinian territories following the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and a number of Palestinians in Gaza on 22 March 2004. Mr. Ramcharan stressed that “using targeted killings raises serious questions of legality and proportionality and is likely to make more difficult efforts to move towards peace, as well as risking further undermining respect for human rights of Palestinians and Israelis”.

With regard to that event, Mr. Diaz announced that the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights (15 March to 23 April 2004) would be acting today on a draft decision submitted to it yesterday by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The resolution would call for a “special sitting” on an urgent basis of the Commission to consider the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. The Commission is expected to consider the draft at 5 p.m. today. If approved, the special sitting could take place as early as tomorrow morning.


Humanitarian issues


WFP reported disruptions in its ability to deliver food to Palestine refugees in the wake of the assassination of Sheikh Yassine and the ensuing three days of mourning. Things were slowly getting back to normal now although the situation remained tense. WFP responds to the needs of 340,000 people in the West Bank and 15,000 people in Gaza.


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For information media - not an official record