UN expert asks UNHRC to widen his mandate

Falk says he should also probe Palestinian violations in order to silence criticism against him.

unhrc human rights 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
unhrc human rights 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
A UN expert charged with investigating Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians says his role is biased and should be widened to include violations carried out by Palestinians as well. Richard Falk, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, asked the UN Human Rights Council on Monday to address persistent criticism of his post by changing the job description. "I think the idea of investigating violations of international humanitarian law only make sense if all the relevant parties are included," Falk told The Associated Press after the meeting. Attention has been diverted from Israel's human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories by those who argue his role is one-sided and biased, he said. "One exposes the real character of the occupation much more effectively if one responds to that criticism, which I think is in any event a fair criticism," Falk said. Widening the mandate given to him by the 47-nation Human Rights Council would make his job both more effective and fairer, he said. Falk, like his predecessor John Dugard, has faced scrutiny for his comments about Israel's presence in the Palestinian territories. Dugard, a South African law professor, compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, the discriminatory policy of the former white regime in South Africa toward blacks. And Israel reacted angrily earlier this year to comments by Falk that appeared to equate Israel's treatment of Palestinians with Nazi atrocities against Jews during the Holocaust. Falk said he would be disappointed if the Geneva-based council does not expand his job when it reviews the role for the first time in September. He said, however, he would not want to investigate abuses by Palestinians against their own people. "I think the [UN's] special attention to the occupation has to include resistance to the occupation," he said. "That is why I favor expanding the mandate, but not expanding it to include what Palestinians do to each other." Reports compiled by the unpaid UN experts are presented to the council for debate, occasionally resulting in critical resolutions. During its two-year lifetime the council has condemned Israel some 20 times - more than any other country - for its actions in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. The council's resolutions are symbolic and carry no legal weight.