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UN rights panel to hold emergency session

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October 11, 2000 


GENEVA (AP) - Arab countries won approval Tuesday for an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission to examine Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the West Bank and Gaza, U.N. officials said.

Some 35 countries, well above the required majority of the 53 nations on the panel, agreed to the Arab League's move to hold the special session, the officials said.

The timing of the session is to be determined Wednesday, they said. It will be only the fifth emergency session ever conducted by the body under procedures adopted a decade ago to deal with human rights crises.

Yaakov Levy, the Israeli ambassador to U.N. offices in Geneva, said he regretted the decision because speeches to the special session might further incite violence in the region.

"This is inopportune," Levy told The Associated Press. "What we need is a calming down of the situation."

The decision followed an announcement that a U.N. human rights expert would make a five-day trip to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Giorgio Giacomelli of Italy, the U.N. expert on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, will be in the region from Wednesday through Oct. 15, said Veronique Taveau, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"He will go everywhere he can go, meet a maximum number of people, non-governmental organizations, officials - be they Palestinian or Israeli," Taveau said. "We are extremely concerned by the situation in the Mideast."

The previous four special sessions of the Human Rights Commission, which meets regularly in Geneva every March and April, were in 1992 and 1993 to discuss the situation in the former Yugoslavia, in 1994 to tackle Rwanda's genocide, and last year to discuss human rights violations in East Timor.

The commission, which is dominated by developing countries, regularly criticizes Israel for settlement activity and rights abuses in the occupied territories and over its occupation of the Golan Heights.

Last spring Israel said Giacomelli, who took up his post last December, had presented an unbalanced report because it failed to include areas under control of the Palestinian Authority.

Giacomelli noted that his instructions from the commission were to report only on Israel, but he said the panel should consider extending his mandate to cover Palestinian-controlled areas.

He said there were well-documented cases of torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, lack of due legal process and limited freedom of speech in the Palestinian-controlled areas.

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