UN experts fault Israel on human rights

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A UN panel of experts called Friday on Israel to fall in line with international norms on civil rights and to take action against targeted killings, torture and impunity for security forces.

The UN Human Rights Committee also called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and questioned the independence of Israel's own inquiry into a naval raid on a Gaza-bound relief supply ship in which nine Turkish nationals dead.

In conclusions on its review of Israel's application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the committee also urged a halt to restrictions on Palestinians and raised concerns about discrimination.

"The State party should ensure that all alleged cases of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, including police, personnel of the security service and the armed forces, are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an authority independent of any of these organs," the committee said.

It also reiterated concern that since 2003, the Israeli armed forces "have targeted and extrajudicially executed 184 individuals in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the collateral unintended death of 155 additional individuals" despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 imposing safeguards.

The panel dismissed Israeli assertions that the covenant -- a multilateral treaty ratified by 166 nations including Israel and in force since 1976 -- did not apply in areas under occupation or during armed conflict, saying its government must ensure "full application."

The 18 independent experts, tasked with reviewing how the treaty is applied in each nation that has signed up to it, also took issue with the "extensive use" of administrative detention without fair trial, including for children.

They expressed concern at restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in a "seam zone" with the occupied territories, "frequent" demolition of homes and schools in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and discrimination on housing "disproportionately favouring" the Jewish population in those areas.

Investigations into Israel's most recent major military operations, the operation against the aid activists' boat in May and the military offensive in Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, were criticised.

"All decision makers, be they military and civilian officials, should be investigated and where relevant prosecuted and sanctioned," it said, underlining the human toll and calling for "credible" and independent probes.

© 2010 AFP

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