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UN expert under fire ahead of Palestinian rights report

June 10, 2013 9:38 A.M. (Updated: June 11, 2013 8:32 P.M.)
GENEVA (AFP) -- A pro-Israel group said Sunday that it, with backing from Washington, would call on the UN's top rights body to dismiss a top official after he demanded an investigation of the organisation.

"UN Watch's draft resolution to remove (Richard) Falk has been published by the United Nations as an official document and will be put before the (Human Rights) Council when he addresses it tomorrow," the group said in a statement.

US ambassador to the Human Rights Council Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe also called for Falk's departure in a statement Friday.

The calls came after the outspoken expert on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories published a report in which he urged the council to investigate UN Watch, which he described as "a pro-Israel lobbying organisation accredited as an NGO."

The group has repeatedly attacked Falk in the past for alleged anti-Israel bias, and launched a recent campaign to highlight comments he had made that could be interpreted as justification of the Boston marathon bombing.

In his report, which he is set to present to the rights council in Geneva early Monday, Falk accused UN Watch of launching "a smear campaign" against him, charging it "has issued a series of defamatory attacks demeaning his character, repeatedly distorting his views on potentially inflammatory issues."

He called on the 47-member rights body to investigate UN Watch "to determine whether it qualifies as an independent organisation that operations ... and is not indirectly sponsored by the government of Israel."

UN Watch chief Hillel Neuer hit back, calling on "UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to denounce Richard Falk's McCarthy-style attempt to have rogue regimes conduct a retaliatory 'investigation' of UN Watch, as a punishment for successfully exposing his gross misconduct."

Donahoe supported the group in her statement Friday, stressing that "the United States completely rejects and condemns the irresponsible call ... to investigate a legitimate and UN-accredited NGO."

"Mr. Falk's most recent statement, which he dramatically and recklessly included in an official UN document, ... once again starkly demonstrated that he is unfit to serve in his role as a UN special rapporteur," she said, adding: "We once again call for his resignation."

Falk, a Princeton University international law professor who has labelled Israel's 2008 offensive against Gaza as "war crimes", also met harsh US and Israeli criticism after he last year urged a boycott of companies helping Israel's settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories.

The report he is set to present Monday takes Israel to task for a long line of alleged abuses, many linked to its "illegal blockade of Gaza," an area likened to "a large open-air prison in which the inmates control the interior while the guards control the perimeter."

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