UN rights body seeks Israel's cooperation on flotilla probe

4th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The head of UN Human Rights Council said Wednesday that he hoped Israeli authorities would cooperate with its inquiry into May's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Israeli officials have rejected the probe as biased and on Monday Israel agreed to back another, separate panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that will look into the incident on May 31, which left nine Turkish activists dead.

The president of the Geneva-based human rights council, Thai ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, nonetheless reiterated his hopes that Israeli authorities "will engage positively" with his organisation's probe.

"This mission is not about finger-pointing. It's about establishing the facts, it's about looking into the legal aspect of what happened, violations of humanitarian law," he told journalists.

"It is in the interest of Israel to cooperate to this fact finding mission."

Sihasak insisted there was no duplication or overlap between the two parallel UN missions on the Gaza flotilla raid, with the council focusing on human rights while the one set up in New York by the UN chief's was "broader".

The 47-member state Human Rights Council condemned the raid as an "outrageous attack" during an emergency session in June and voted to set up the panel, formed by two outside legal experts and a UN agency official.

Ten days ago a senior Israeli official sharply criticised the rights assembly's move, claiming its three-strong panel "is not intending to look for the truth but to satisfy the non-democratic countries which control the Human Rights Council, who have an automatic anti-Israeli majority."

Israel has repeatedly rejected such United Nations probes into its military operations in the past.

However, on Monday it gave overt support to Ban's proposal for a four member UN panel chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, with outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice chairman.

That panel will also include one Israeli and one Turk.

The about-turn followed behind-the-scenes discussions to ensure that "this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The bloodshed on the aid flotilla sparked a deep crisis in already strained relations between Turkey and Israel, once close allies.

© 2010 AFP

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