UNHCHR planned mission to Mideast – Press release

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

ready to undertake visit

Geneva, 17 April 2002

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today indicated that her Office was maintaining daily contact with Israeli Authorities concerning her proposed mission to the area.

The Commission on Human Rights on 5 April 2002 had requested that a visiting mission travel urgently and report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mr. Felipe González, former Prime Minister of Spain and Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, former Secretary-General of the African National Congress of South Africa, had both agreed to join Mary Robinson in undertaking this mission. Both had spent time in Geneva over the past eight days in briefings by the Office of the High Commissioner and international agencies on the human rights situation in the area.

On 9 April, the Ambassador of Israel, Mr. Yaakov Levy wrote to Mary Robinson indicating that the request was "under consideration". The letter also cited "other important pending visits" as a relevant factor in the Government's considerations.

According to reports, Secretary of State Powell, who has been in the region since last week, is due to depart Israel tonight.

The High Commissioner also referred to growing concerns over recent events in Jenin and the wide discrepancy between reported accounts of what transpired over recent days, the situation of the local population, and actual casualty figures.

Mary Robinson said "it is important that the visiting mission should be able to leave as soon as possible, meet with people from both sides of the conflict as well as United Nations, non-governmental and other bodies on the ground, and report back to the Commission on Human Rights before it completes its current Session at the end of next week".

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