Dugard – UNSG BAN Ki-Moon should quit Quartet

The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, John Dugard, has said today that the UN Secretary General should pull out of the Quartet that the U.S. has put together to support President Bush’s moves for Middle East peace — unless the Quartet begins to pay due regard to the deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian territory.

His remarks come as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah to check on progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ahead of Middle East peace talks that the U.S. will host in Annapolis later this year.

After a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today, Rice told journalists at a joint press conference that both parties’ “obligations are spelled out in a really rather concrete way in the first phase of the roadmap” and that “the United States will be working with both parties to make certain that those roadmap obligations are implemented. I think that is an important role that we can play as a member of the Quartet and as a party with friendly relations with both Israel and the Palestinians”.

Dugard, a South African professor of international law who formerly opposed the now-eradicated Apartheid regime in his country, was interviewed today by the BBC World Service, and by Al-Jazeera TV’s English service. “Every time I visit [the occupied Palestinian territory], the situation seems to have worsened” he told the BBC. He last visited the Palestinian territory in late September, just a few weeks ago.

On Al-Jazeera today, in English, he criticized the Quartet for not ever having mentioned the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on The Wall.

Rice will have had to pass through a formidable Israeli checkpoint that allows only a few Palestinians to pass through The Wall on her trips to and from Ramallah, in the West Bank, but she is not known to have ever taken a closer look or a more in-depth tour of The Wall.

Dugard has become increasingly testy in recent years, while staying totally on message. Israel has criticized Dugard as biased and pro-Palestinian, yet Dugard is one of the few UN Human Rights experts who has actually come to Israel, in order to investigate the situation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. However, his mandate does not include looking into the human rights situation in Israel itself. Nor has he ever been given an official Israeli visa in his United Nations Laissez Passer to conduct his missions, and he enters the country on his national passport (i.e., as a tourist). Israeli officials do not receive Dugard, officially, either.

Other UN Human Rights officials and envoys have generally refused to come unless they were given official Israeli visas for their missions.

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