UN rights council extends Gaza mission mandate

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The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a Palestinian bid to extend a human rights mission pressing Israel and Hamas to take credible action on violations during the Israeli military offensive on Gaza.

The resolution tabled by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, was approved with 27 votes in favour and 19 abstentions. The United States voted against.

The resolution "decides to renew and resume the mandate" of the mission and requires it to present an update on the status of Israeli and Hamas' actions to the council during its meeting in March 2011.

The mission was set up in March after a UN-mandated report by South African judge Richard Goldstone accused both Israel and Palestinian groups of war crimes during the three-week conflict which erupted in late December 2008.

Goldstone had asked for a follow-up to ensure both sides held "credible" investigations.

Earlier this month, the mission reported that both Israel and Hamas had failed so far to carry out adequate probes into allegations of war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict nearly two years ago.

The finding prompted the OIC to seek the extension of the mission's mandate.

But campaigners criticised the resolution for failing to push for accountability.

"We condemn the resolution presented by the Palestinian Authority," said Raji Sourani, president of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

"We missed a very good opportunity for pursuing accountability for crime committed during Israel 2008-2009 offensive on Gaza," said Sourani, speaking on behalf of 11 Palestinian non-governmental groups.

"The resolution asks for a postponement of further six months to conduct domestic investigations. This is an insult to victims," he told journalists.

The United States also opposed the resolution, telling the Human Rights Council that extending the mandate was "unnecessary and unhelpful."

"We must all do our part to help shape an environment conducive to the ongoing peace talks and to create an atmosphere of trust that can help the parties reach an agreement," said US ambassador Eileen Donahoe.

"For this reason, we have deep concerns about the longstanding pattern and handling of this issue," she added.

© 2010 AFP

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