UN expert to Quartet: Recognize Hamas

UN Human Rights investigator Dugard: Recognition "indispensable" to peace.

john dugard un 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
john dugard un 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
UN Human Rights investigator Dugard says recognition is "indispensable" to peace. An independent human rights expert called Tuesday for the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union to fully recognize the Palestinian government - including Hamas members - as an "indispensable requirement" to peace. John Dugard, the UN Human Rights Council's investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the Mideast Quartet has to treat both sides equally if it wants to broker a successful peace agreement. Israel has consistently rejected Dugard's reports and statements as one-sided. In March he compared the Jewish state's treatment of Palestinians to apartheid - comments that drew strong criticism from Israeli officials, who called them "inflammatory and inciteful." "In order to prevent another season of violence and to protect human rights in the region, the Quartet must intervene immediately in a fair and evenhanded manner," said Dugard, a South African lawyer. "This means the recognition of both Hamas and non-Hamas members of the Palestinian Government of National Unity." The Quartet, which meets in Berlin on Friday, has said it will only recognize those in the Palestinian government who accept key principles - Israel's right to exist, previous agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, and renunciation of terror and violence. In his statement Dugard also said that both Israel and the Palestinians have violated international humanitarian law in recent days, citing the "indiscriminate firing of rockets into (the Israeli town) Sderot" and Israel's military response. More than 250 rockets that have been fired by Palestinian militants - many of them Hamas members - at southern Israel from Gaza, killing two civilians and sending thousands fleeing to safer ground. Israeli aircraft have struck at militant targets dozens of times in an effort to curb the rocket fire, killing some 50 Palestinians, most of them radicals. Dugard said Israel's response "fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants and is a disproportionate use of force." And Israel's arrest of several Hamas legislators was a form of "collective punishment" that undermines the peace process, he said.