U.N. Names Panelists to Probe Israel's War Conduct

From the Associated Press

Los Angeles Times

September 2, 2006

GENEVA — The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday appointed a Brazilian diplomat, a Tanzanian judge and a Greek professor to a commission investigating whether Israel committed systematic human rights abuses in Lebanon during recent fighting with Hezbollah militants.

The commission was created last month by the council, which condemned Israel for what it called "massive bombardment of Lebanese civilian populations" and other human rights violations.

The panel is composed of Brazil's Joao Baena Soares, former secretary-general of the Organization of American States; Mohamed Chande Othman, who sits on Tanzania's supreme court; and Stelios Perrakis, a professor of international studies and a member of the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights monitoring body.

The United Nations rights council voted 27 to 11 on Aug. 11 to initiate the inquiry. European countries, Japan and Canada voted against the move, primarily arguing that it lacked balance in failing to mention Hezbollah's possible violations. The U.S. is an observer and has no vote on the 47-member council.

Under the resolution, the three panelists will investigate the "systematic targeting and killings of civilians by Israel," according to the commission's resolution. The commission will also examine the types of weapons Israel used and their conformity with international law.

Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, reiterated his criticism of the council for making a distinction "between the suffering and deaths occurring in different countries" by not naming Hezbollah in the resolution.

Israeli officials have said the actions in the war against Hezbollah were in accordance with recognized norms of behavior during conflicts and with relevant international law.

The fighting began July 12 after Hezbollah guerrillas based in southern Lebanon kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Israel responded with an air campaign and later a ground offensive. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into northern Israel. Hundreds of Lebanese and scores of Israelis were killed in the fighting.

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