UPDATE (PALESTINE): UN Envoy says Jenin devastation ‘horrific beyond belief’ – requires immediate intervention

PALESTINE: Urgent need to heed Kofi Annan’s call for multinational peacekeeping force 

The conditions in the Jenin refugee camp…. 

UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen: 
“There are people all over the place digging with their hands looking for their relatives and dear ones.” 

Richard Cook, Director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank: 
“The reports we are getting are of wholesale destruction of a kind more normally associated with natural disasters such as earthquakes…. We implore the Israeli authorities to open up the camp to allow our relief teams to help its desperate population.” 

If an earthquake takes place these days, the first thing we hear from all over the world is the need to send humanitarian assistance to remove the rubble of the buildings so that if there are any living persons they can be saved, and the dead can be taken out with dignity. The government of Ariel Sharon is preventing even this minimum regarding the destroyed area of Jenin. 

What is being witnessed in this refugee camp is: 
a) a clear crime against humanity as far as death and destruction is concerned; and 
b) a clear violation of the international law in deliberate prevention of humanitarian assistance to the victims. 

In recent history, there has been no situation like this. 

The international community is faced with an enormous challenge. If it keeps quiet at this moment, it will cease to have a moral right to speak about other massacres and crimes against humanity without being accused of practicing double standards. On the other hand, if the international community does not force its way, it is not likely to be allowed by the Israeli government to carry out the its duties under the international law. The time is running out for the resolution of this grave dilemma. It has to be stated that the United States of America has played a role in ensuring the delay in resolving this problem. The people of the United States and the international community have a clear duty to point out the gravity of this situation to the Bush administration. 

Last night, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made his proposal to the Security Council for the sending of an international force to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, saying ‘the situation is so dangerous, that the international community has an obligation to provide this assistance.’ Obviously, this is a necessary and unavoidable intervention. We hope that the international community will support the Secretary General in this move. 

We reproduce below a summary of the report of UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen on the prevailing situation from ABC, as well as three UN Press Statements: 
– details of Kofi Annan’s plan for a multilateral peacekeeping force 
– Mary Robinson’s appeal to allow her to visit the occupied territories 
– official news from the two Special Envoys. 

We draw your attention to the Urgent Appeal we sent earlier available at http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2002/229/ and urge you to do all you can to pressurize the United States and Israel to comply with the international obligations they owe under international law. 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 


A UN special envoy to the Middle East has described the devastation of Jenin refugee camp, invaded by the Israel army, as “horrific beyond belief”. 

…UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen says 2,000 people are without a roof over their heads and the devastation at the heart of the refugee camp is nearly total. He says nothing can justify the colossal suffering of women, children, and the elderly. 

“I think its one of the saddest and most terrible experiences I have ever had,” he said. “The stench of decaying corpses are all over the place. I saw personally about a 12-year-old boy being dug out, his body totally destroyed. I saw two brothers digging under the rubble for their father and their brothers. 

“There are people all over the place digging with their hands looking for their relatives and dear ones.” 

Until now the army has been restricting the movement of aid workers and medical teams when it let them into the camp at all. A pullout is also underway in the city of Nablus but the troops will remain around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. 

[Source: ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] 

UN PRESS STATEMENT, 18 April 2002 

Expanding on the concept of a multinational force he had floated last week in response to the spiralling Middle East violence, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told a private meeting of the Security Council that the latest tragic developments in the region gave additional urgency to the consideration of his idea and outlined the goals, nature and functions of such a force. 

“The force must be impartial and capable of taking decisive action,” Mr. Annan told the closed-door session of the Council, according to a copy of his remarks made available to the press. “It must have a robust mandate, credible strength and be large enough to carry it out.” 

The Secretary-General stressed that he contemplated not a United Nations contingent, but rather “a multinational force formed by a coalition of the willing” that was authorized by the Council under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, which provides for the use of force. 

Such an operation would not be risk-free, he added. “However, the situation is so dangerous, that the international community has an obligation to provide this assistance.” 

According to Mr. Annan, the force would have four key objectives. Firstly, it would work with the parties to end the violence, in part through monitoring the withdrawal and redeployment of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to positions held before 28 September 2000, in accordance with a plan put forward by CIA Director George Tenet. 

The second goal would be to gradually create secure conditions in the occupied territories for the resumption of normal economic activity and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian and development assistance. The force, working with the international donor community, would also create conditions to allow the Palestinian Authority to rebuild its institutions, including those dealing with law and order, which have been damaged or destroyed in the current military campaign. 

Finally, the multinational force would work to create a stable environment to permit the resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving a political settlement. 

“It is time for the international community to pursue such an option in a pro-active way, rather than waiting for the parties to arrive at this conclusion on their own,” Mr. Annan said. “A multinational force is essential to a gradual restoration of trust between the two sides, which is so vital if further steps toward a broad framework for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace are to be taken.” 

Before briefing the Council on the force, the Secretary-General told the 15-member body that he was deeply disturbed by the information he had just received from Terje Roed-Larsen, his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Peter Hansen, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who had visited the Jenin refugee camp today and described the situation there as “horrific.” 

UN PRESS STATEMENT, 17 April, 2002 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today indicated that her Office was maintaining daily contact with Israeli Authorities concerning her proposed mission to the area. 

The Commission on Human Rights on 5 April 2002 had requested that a visiting mission travel urgently and report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mr. Felipe González, former Prime Minister of Spain and Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, former Secretary-General of the African National Congress of South Africa, had both agreed to join Mary Robinson in undertaking this mission. Both had spent time in Geneva over the past eight days in briefings by the Office of the High Commissioner and international agencies on the human rights situation in the area. 

On 9 April, the Ambassador of Israel, Mr. Yaakov Levy wrote to Mary Robinson indicating that the request was “under consideration”. The letter also cited “other important pending visits” as a relevant factor in the Government’s considerations. 

According to reports, Secretary of State Powell, who has been in the region since last week, is due to depart Israel tonight. 

The High Commissioner also referred to growing concerns over recent events in Jenin and the wide discrepancy between reported accounts of what transpired over recent days, the situation of the local population, and actual casualty figures. 

Mary Robinson said “it is important that the visiting mission should be able to leave as soon as possible, meet with people from both sides of the conflict as well as United Nations, non-governmental and other bodies on the ground, and report back to the Commission on Human Rights before it completes its current Session at the end of next week”. 

UN PRESS STATEMENT, 18 April, 2002 

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he was deeply disturbed by the report of “horrific” devastation he received from two top UN officials in the Middle East who had visited parts of the Jenin refugee camp earlier on Thursday. 

Addressing a closed-door meeting of the Security Council this morning, the Secretary-General said that Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), had described scenes of massive destruction that had a “devastating” impact on the civilian population. 

“They witnessed people digging out corpses from the rubble with bare hands,” Mr. Annan said, according to the text of his remarks that was made available after the closed session of the Council. “Meanwhile no major rescue operation has been allowed to begin.” 

“Many questions have been raised about what occurred in the Jenin camp and more will be raised,” Mr. Annan stressed, before briefing the Council on his proposal for a multinational force in the Middle East. “For the moment, I am calling on the Government of Israel to comply fully with its obligations under international humanitarian law to provide full and unimpeded access to humanitarian agencies.” 

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