UN Rights Body Castigates Israel for Killing Hamas Leader

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The top United Nations human rights body has condemned Israel for the "tragic assassination" of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Only the United States and Australia opposed the move.

By a vote of 31-2 on Wednesday, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), holding its annual six-week session in Geneva, backed a resolution brought by Islamic nations, accusing Israel of violating the 1907 Hague Convention on the customs of war.

The measure was backed by African and Latin American members, as well as China, Russia and India, while 18 mostly European nations abstained.

The resolution was adopted at a special sitting, called outside the planned UNCHR agenda to deal specifically with the killing of Yassin in a helicopter missile strike on Monday.

The Israeli government said Yassin was directly responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks, which have killed hundreds of Israelis in the past three-and-a-half years. It has threatened to pursue the controversial "targeted killing" policy further against Palestinian terrorist planners and leaders.

At the special sitting in Geneva, Palestinian envoy Nabil Ramlawy called Israel a "terrorist state" and said it should not be allowed to continue flouting laws "under the pretext of security."

Israeli representative Yaacov Levy said the UNCHR chamber had become accustomed to "Israel-bashing," and the body had reached a low point by giving moral standing to terrorism.

Yassin had neither been "an innocent spiritual leader" nor "an elderly gentleman," he said, but rather "a prominent practitioner of international terrorism and a chilling manipulator of the lives of his followers" who distorted religious principles to recruit suicide bombers, including women and children.

Representing the U.S., Ambassador Richard Williamson said the UNCHR's agenda already contained several items focusing on Israel and containing "one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions."

"It is precisely this sort of politicization of Commission deliberations that discredits our work and diminishes the effectiveness of this body," he said.

Australian envoy Caroline Miller said Canberra opposed the resolution because it was clearly intended to single Israel out for unbalanced criticism and would do nothing to advance the cause of peace. Australia had consistently supported Israel's right to defend itself from terrorism, she said.

Numerous countries supporting the motion accused Israel of "brutality," "barbarism" and "cold-blooded" behavior, while Cuba argued that it was the strategic alliance with the U.S. that provided Israel with "total immunity."

One of several non-governmental organizations participating in the sitting was United Nations Watch, a Geneva-based group which monitors the performance of the world body.

Its representative said the sitting was another example of UNCHR discrimination against a single country, and charged that "the plight of millions of victims worldwide will go ignored to make time for this transparent political maneuver."

Critics of the U.N. point to the participation in the human rights body of countries that are themselves widely condemned for their rights records, including at present Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

In January 2003, Libya was voted as the rotating chairman of the body, despite opposition from the U.S. and human rights campaigners.

Also last year, former U.S. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick said there had been a noticeable trend over the past decade for rights abusing countries to seek membership in the UNCHR, as political cover.

Since pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square were crushed in 1989, the U.S. has regularly introduced resolutions at the annual Geneva sessions criticizing China for abuses. China has each time managed to avoid having the resolution debates by security sufficient support for a procedural "no-action" motion.

After refraining from bringing a China resolution last year because of "limited but significant progress" in respecting rights, the Administration announced this week that it plans to introduce a resolution targeting China again during the current session.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow