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October 27, 2017 4:27 pm

Monitoring Group Pushes UN Palestinian Human Rights Rapporteur to Investigate Serious Hamas, PA Abuses

avatar by Ben Cohen

16 year-old Mustafa Salman was imprisoned and tortured by Hamas in Gaza before he committed suicide. Photo: Salman family.

A prominent monitoring group has urged the UN official dealing with Palestinian rights to investigate serial human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the last year, including accusations of juvenile torture and extrajudicial murder.

In a letter on Friday to Canadian academic Michael Lynk — who serves as the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories — UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer provided what he called “a non-exhaustive list of human rights violations perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas since your UN appointment which you have ignored, and which we urge you to address.”

Neuer’s letter followed the publication this week of Lynk’s report to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In that report, Lynk pushed for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel, arguing that a “determination that Israel’s role as occupant is now illegal would serve several significant purposes.”

Among these, Lynk said, would be an invitation to “the international community to review its various forms of cooperation with the occupying power as long as it continues to administer the occupation unlawfully.”

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At a press briefing in New York on Thursday, Lynk made the same point more plainly, saying, “If all of a sudden, the many and multitude forms of military or economic cooperation or academic cooperation with Israel were now going to come to an end… I think you’d begin to see a sea change in the attitude of ordinary Israelis and in the attitude of the Israeli government.”

The UN Human Rights Council is currently preparing a database of companies that “illegally” conduct business in Israeli communities in the West Bank — the so-called “blacklist” that is expected to be made public by the end of the year.

Lynk’s comments produced an angry response from Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, who accused the UN official of  “exploiting his position to spread hateful incitement against the State of Israel” and “acting as a BDS activist under the auspices of the UN.”

In his letter to Lynk, Neuer criticized the special rapporteur for seeking “to justify your neglect of abuses committed by the PA and Hamas by citing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur…which indeed is ‘to investigate Israel’s violations of the principles and bases of international law.’”

“If you blame the mandate for your refusal to address violations suffered by victims of the PA and Hamas, why have you not asked the Human Rights Council to change it and end the protection gaps?” Neuer asked.

Among the abuses submitted to Lynk by Neuer was the arrest of Ahmad Izzat Halaweh in August 2016 by Palestinian security forces, who beat him severely. Halaweh later died in PA custody in Jneid Prison, near Nablus. Other violations included the imprisonment and torture by Hamas in Gaza of 16-year-old Mustafa Salman, who subsequently committed suicide. Another victim of Hamas torture, Mohammed Sufian al-Qassas, who was arrested for blasphemy, was left unconscious for nearly three days.

In addition to violations against Palestinian civilians, Neuer charged that Lynk had ignored numerous examples of incitement and terrorism against Israelis, including the murder of three members of the Salomon family during a Shabbat dinner in Halamish in July of this year.

A law professor by profession, Lynk was appointed special rapporteur in March 2016 with strong support from Arab ambassadors at the UN in Geneva. An unrelenting critic of Israel, Lynk has in the past cited the prosecution of Nazi war criminals as a precedent for trials of IDF personnel and Israeli government leaders.

Originally created in 1993, the special rapporteur’s position has become an increasingly significant part of the UN’s pro-Palestinian infrastructure — which includes permanent agenda items dedicated to alleged Israeli violations, as well as a “UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” Past incumbents in the post include John Dugard, a South African lawyer who has argued that Israel is “worse” than apartheid South Africa, and Richard Falk, a viscerally anti-Zionist American academic closely associated with the BDS movement.

On Friday, the United States Mission to the UN condemned Lynk’s report, saying it was illustrative of the endemic bias against Israel at the Human Rights Council.

“Unsurprisingly, the mandate for this report comes from the Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item 7, the only Human Rights Council agenda item that targets a single country: Israel,” the US statement said. “Mr. Lynk’s remarks, and the very existence of this report, underscore the Human Rights Council’s chronic anti-Israel bias.”

“The United States will continue to oppose attempts to undermine the UN system through actions that unfairly target Israel,” the statement pledged.

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