Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is so much easier then messing with governments that will really hurt you

UN rights advocates consider Israel, Colombia on anniversary eve

GENEVA (AFP) — The UN Human Rights Council crossed swords with Israel and campaigners highlighted the carnage in Colombia Tuesday, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The international panel, part of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), adopted a report that called on Israel to end "physical and mental torture" inflicted on Arab prisoners.

It also urged Israel to end all forms of "cruel, inhuman and degrading" punishment and to ratify the the UN Convention against Torture.

The Rights Council was considering Israel's record as part of the "Universal Periodic Review" to which every UN member state must submit.

The report approved by the Council was extremely critical of Israel's human rights record in the Palestinian territories and in particular of Israel's current blockade of the Gaza Strip.
A number of Arab activists and other human rights campaigners nevertheless said they thought the report had not gone far enough in its condemnation.

Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, said afterwards: "Some countries have decided to politicise the issue while we're here to deal with human rights, not politics."

On Sunday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the Jewish state's discrimination between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was increasingly reminiscent of white South Africa's apartheid system.

Also in Geneva, where the UN panel is meeting, Colombian campaigners on Tuesday highlighted the abuses in their country a day before Bogota's human rights record was due to come up for discussion.

From human rights activists and union members to residents calling for land rights, seven people a day have died or disappeared in Colombia since 2002, said Gustavo Gallon, head of the Colombian Commission of Jurists.

"More than 14,000 people have died or disappeared, outside of combat, for socio-political reasons," said Gallon.

Eric Sottas, director of the World Organisation Against Torture, said the Colombia debate would constitute a "test" for the process.

The seriousness of the situation there had been illustrated by the "high number of human rights violations since 2002" and "attacks against the judicial system," Gallon said.
He said that "2,700 union members have been killed or have disappeared over the last 22 years."

And he added: "In this year alone, about 40 have died, while there have been more than 480 since 2002," said Gallon.

He was sceptical of an agreement between the government and the UN's International Labour Organisation on probing the murders and disappearances of union supporters. "At the speed that's going, 60 years will be needed to investigate the 2,700 cases," he said.

And he denounced what he said was the "demonisation" of human rights activists by the government, saying they have been accused of "supporting terrorist activities."
Colombia was also criticised recently by Human Rights Watch, which said that President Alvaro Uribe's administration "hampers justice efforts" by obstructing investigations into its alleged links with paramilitaries.

Colombia will appear before the rights council on Wednesday, 60 years to the day that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

The 30-point document, based on France's 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the 1776 US Declaration of Independence, was adopted by 58 countries at a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

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