- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

From combined dispatches
GENEVA The United Nations' top human rights body urged Israel yesterday to start dismantling Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, saying they violate international law and are a major obstacle to peace.
In a separate vote, the 53-state Commission on Human Rights also "strongly condemned" Israel's military occupation as "an aggression and an offense against humanity and a flagrant violation of human rights."
The resolution on Israeli settlements, proposed as in past years by the 15-nation European Union, also attacked lengthy curfews imposed in West Bank cities as well as the building of a security wall around Israel.
This time, the European Union went beyond calls to "reverse" the settlement policy and urged "a first step towards their dismantlement" by immediately halting "the expansion of existing settlements, including natural growth."
Israel, which does not sit on the commission, and its ally the United States, which does, attacked both resolutions as biased, saying they failed to condemn in sufficiently strong terms the threat faced by the Jewish state.
The text rejected "all acts of violence, including indiscriminate terrorist attacks killing and injuring civilians." But the United States objected to the word "indiscriminate," saying that no terrorist attack was acceptable.
The United States, which is preparing to announce a "road map" for Middle East peace to include a freeze on Israeli settlements, was the only commission member to oppose the EU call. Costa Rica and Australia abstained.
The Middle East is typically a source of tension at the annual six-week meeting of the commission. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the only issue to be given a special space on the agenda.
Yesterday's resolution on the general situation in the occupied territories was backed by 33 countries, with 15 abstaining and five against.
It expressed "grave concern … at the gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular, acts of extrajudicial killing, closures, collective punishments, the persistence of establishing settlements."
Washington, meanwhile, turned up its criticism of Cuba a day before a vote on the communist island at the commission.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell slammed Cuba's recent crackdown on dissidents and called on the U.N. commission to condemn President Fidel Castro's government.
"With respect to Cuba, it has always had a horrible human rights record and rather than improving as we go into the 21st century, it's getting worse," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell said the crackdown, during which 75 dissidents were arrested on treason and other charges and sentenced to harsh prison terms, was "condemnable" but "not surprising" given the history of Mr. Castro's communist government.
Since the jail terms were handed down last week, Washington has been working in Geneva to include the crackdown in the Cuba resolution, which was proposed by Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

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