Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon dismissed as “utter nonsense” a United Nations charge that Israel had buried radioactive nuclear waste in the Golan Heights.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres included that allegation in a report his office prepared for the UN Human Rights Council’s 40th session, which is set to open in Geneva on Monday and run through March 22.
“The Syrian Arab Republic noted that Israel continued to bury nuclear waste with radioactive content in 20 different areas populated by Syrian citizens of the occupied Syrian Golan, particularly in the vicinity of Al-Sheikh Mountain [Mt.Hermon],” the report by Guterres’ office stated.
“The practice has put the lives and health of Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan in jeopardy, and constituted a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,’ the report alleged.
Syria has made this charge against Israel for the last decade.
Nahshon dismissed the allegation as “another false report from the UNHRC which specializes in attacking Israel.” He added that many of its member states “are bloody dictatorships hiding behind attacks against Israel in order not to allow scrutiny of their own human rights records.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six Day War and annexed it in 1981. The international community, including the United States, has refused to recognize Israeli sovereignty there. The UN has routinely called on Israel to return the Golan, including at UNHRC sessions.
The Guterres report further charged that Israel is “providing logistical support to terrorist groups,” such as the Nusrah Front, currently operating along the ceasefire line. It accused Israel of providing those groups with weapons, ammunition, money and medical care to frighten the local population and to maintain a no-go zone along the ceasefire lines.”
Israel in the past has rejected charges that it provides arms to the Nusrah Front.
In addition, the report stated: “the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect” and “demanded that Israel rescind forthwith its decision.”
Guterres' office clarified that it compiled the report at the request of the UNHRC and relied solely on information that was provided by member states. His office did not independently verify the information in the report.
The report on the Golan Heights, along with six others will be debated on March 18, under Agenda Item 7. The UNHRC is mandated to debate Israeli alleged human rights violations during every session under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the only country with such a standing mandate. Charges of human rights abuses against all other countries are debated under Agenda Item 4.
As in past years, the UN will hear more reports against Israeli action than against any other country.
The UNHRC had initially said that at this session it would publish for the first time its controversial data base on companies doing businesses with areas of Israel over the pre-1967 lines.
Israel has worked behind the scenes to prevent the publication of the data base. The UNHRC is also expected to debate Israeli actions against Palestinian rioters along its border fence with Gaza. The protests have taken place as part of the Hamas-led Great March of Return. More than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops at the protests, according to the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry.
THE FOUR-WEEK SESSION which ends on March 22, opens with a week of high level speeches from representatives most of the UN member states, including the 47 nations that compose the UNHRC.
Monday’s session will include speeches from Guterres and representatives from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malk is expected to address the council on Tuesday.
China is lobbying hard to thwart scrutiny of its mass detention camps for Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region at the UNHRC’s main annual session opening on Monday, diplomats and activists said.
Saudi Arabia will face criticism for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its failure to cooperate with a UN-led inquiry, diplomatic sources said
And ambassadors from some European countries plan to boycott a speech by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Tuesday, as more countries back opposition leader Juan Guaido and spurn President Nicolas Maduro, they added.
Western countries look to Turkey and other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to shine a spotlight on what China calls re-education and training facilities. UN experts say that the camps hold a million Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language, and other Muslims. China has rejected accusations of mistreatment.
While the 47-member Council’s resolutions are not binding, all countries work hard to avoid its “naming and shaming.” China is especially sensitive to criticism, which it views as interference.
Turkey, whose foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due to address the Geneva forum on Monday, urged China this month to close its camps, calling them a “great shame for humanity”.
“It’s up to the OIC. If they don’t take the lead, it’s very hard for other countries,” one Asian ambassador told Reuters.
Activists have urged European and Muslim nations to take the lead in establishing a UN investigation into the detentions and what they call “forced indoctrination.”
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch said: “We are encouraged that everybody we speak with shares the concern at China’s sweeping violations in Xinjiang, and agrees that China must be held to the same standard as everyone else, that there is a need for collective action, and that the time to act is now.”
But diplomatic sources said that there was no sign that any country would present a resolution on China, although delegations were preparing to raise the issue in statements. Meanwhile, China has failed to block Tibetan and Uighur activists from taking part in the four-week session.
A letter from China’s mission in Geneva, urges the United Nations not to allow 15 activists – including the Dalai Lama and Dolkun Isa, president of the exiled World Uighur Congress – to attend. The request was rejected, UN sources said.
China is also organizing a photo exhibit at the UN in Geneva with some 90 photos, many of smiling Uighurs, they added.
UN rights investigators on Iran, Myanmar and North Korea are to present annual reports. Their mandates are expected to be renewed, despite the United States having quit the forum last year over a perceived anti-Israel bias, diplomats said.Reuters contributed to this report.
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