UN monitor accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, apartheid

Updated 15 May 2014

UN monitor accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, apartheid

GENEVA: A UN rights expert who probes Israel’s conduct toward Palestinians on Friday accused the Jewish state of a campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.
“The realities on the ground are worsening from the point of view of both international law and from the point of view of the Palestinian people,” Richard Falk, an 82-year-old American who is an emeritus law professor at Princeton University, told reporters.
Falk is due to step down this month as the UN Human Rights Council’s monitor for the Palestinian territories taken over by Israel in 1967 — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Since he was appointed in 2008, he said, Israel has built more settlements in Palestinian territories, imposed “collective punishment” on Gaza, demolished homes and repeatedly deployed “excessive force.”
He also accused Israel of a “systematic and continued effort to change the ethnic composition of East Jerusalem” by voiding Palestinians’ residence permits, confiscating property and allowing unlawful Israeli settlements there.
“This is systematic discrimination on the basis of ethnic identity, with the objective of creating a different demographic in Jerusalem,” he said, calling it a form of “ethnic cleansing.” “All of these features that are objectionable from the point of view of international law have continued and intensified during my six years,” he said.
“What is called occupation is now more widely understood to be a form of annexation, the embodiment of apartheid in the sense that there’s a discriminatory dual system of law, giving legal protection to the Israeli settlers and subjecting the Palestinian population under occupation to a continuing existence without rights,” he added.
Falk has repeatedly locked horns with Israel, the United States, Canada and some human rights groups for positions including labelling Israel’s 2008 offensive against Gaza a war crime, and urging a boycott of companies helping Israel’s settlement drive in the Palestinian territories.
Washington has said he should quit his UN role, which like other rights monitors at the world body he holds on an unpaid, voluntary basis.
Falk has brushed off the criticism.
“Anyone who is 10 percent objective would come to similar conclusions about international law and international morality to the conclusions I’ve reached on the main issues that are in contention,” he said.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 10 min 59 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.