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Gaza report gathers support ahead of UN vote

Oct. 13, 2009 1:55 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 15, 2009 9:09 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The PLO envoy in Geneva has secured the support of 16 countries for a motion in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in support of the Goldstone report on Israel’s winter war on Gaza, an attorney familiar with the negotiations said on Tuesday.

The HRC confirmed in a statement released on Tuesday that it will hold a Special Session on the "human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem" on Thursday. The meeting is expected to continue until Friday.

In a statement the HRC said the meeting “comes at the request of Palestine. The request is co-sponsored by the following 18 Member States of the Human Rights Council, namely Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Senegal.”

It is expected that the Special Session will continue on Friday, 16 October. This will be the twelfth Special Session of the Council.

Shawky Issa, the director of the Ensan Center for human rights in Bethlehem, said representatives of the 16 countries in question held a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday to discuss how to ensure it passes the HRC.

The pro-Goldstone camp still needs another eight votes to form a majority in the 47-nation Council. The fear now, Issa said, is that the US, Israel and pro-Israeli groups will pressure key states to vote against the report.

International sources in Geneva also told Ma’an that Qatar was opposed to holding a new HRC meeting on the report. Other Arab states declared their support for the report during the last debate on the issue, and are thought to be continuing this support.

The countries expected to vote against the report, in the event of a meeting are China, Russia, the US, Chile, Brazil, Britain (which changed its position to support the report last week), the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada.

France and Switzerland are hesitating to form a position and are likely to vote against the report on Friday.

Norway and South Africa, the sources said, could vote in favor of the report, but are not strongly in favor of it.

The non-Arab countries who are will vote for the Goldstone report are Pakistan, which represents the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and Nigeria.

The report was the result of a UN fact-finding mission by South African former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone; it accuses both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of committing war crimes during Israel’s offensive against Gaza last winter.

In early October the Palestinian Authority leadership reportedly buckled to US pressure and withdrew a resolution from the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva to refer the report for further action.

Palestinian public outage at the deferral caused President Mahmoud Abbas to reverse course, demanding a new meeting of both the HRC and the Security Council.

On Monday UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced through a spokesperson that he supports the call for a new meeting of the HRC and discussed the issue with Abbas in a phone conversation on Sunday.
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