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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
UN envoy attacks Mid-East Quartet
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on human rights for the Palestinian territories (file)
Mr Dugard presents independent reports on human rights to the UN
A top UN expert has said he will urge the world body to withdraw from the Quartet of Middle East mediators unless it addresses Palestinian human rights.

John Dugard, the UN human rights envoy for the Palestinian Territories, told the BBC the US, EU, UN and Russia were failing to protect the Palestinians.

He said the UN "does itself little good by remaining a member of the Quartet".

In his role as a UN special rapporteur, Mr Dugard has been visiting the West Bank and Gaza for the past seven years.

Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

They are advisers and do not decide UN policy.

"Every time I visit, the situation seems to have worsened," he said in a BBC interview.

I will suggest that the secretary general withdraw the UN from the Quartet, if the Quartet fails to have regard to the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories
John Dugard,
UN special rapporteur

"This time, I was very struck by the sense of hopelessness among the Palestinian people."

Mr Dugard attributed this to "the crushing effect of human rights violations", and in particular Israeli restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement.

He said that although Israel did have a threat to its security, "its response is very disproportionate".

He said the purpose of some of the checkpoints in the middle of the West Bank was to break it up "into a number of cantons and make the life of Palestinians as miserable as possible".

'Weak' response

The South African retired professor of international law said the response of the Quartet was weak because it was "heavily influenced" by the US.

An Israeli officer checks the shopping bag of a Palestinian woman at the Israeli Hawara checkpoint on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus (7 August 2007)
Israel's checkpoints are a source of frustration for Palestinians

The Quartet failed to engage properly on human rights, he said, and was also failing to deal with the current rift between the rival Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas.

The militant Islamist movement Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June, ousting Fatah, which is led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Dugard said the rift was threatening the Palestinians' right to self-determination, and that the UN "should be playing the role of the mediator".

"Instead the international community has given its support almost completely to one faction - to Fatah," he said. "That's not the role the UN should take."

Pessimistic

For these reasons, Mr Dugard said it might be time for the UN to leave the Quartet.

If [Palestinian] expectations are not met, I fear there may be serious consequences
John Dugard

"In my most recent report to the General Assembly, which I will present later this month, I will suggest that the secretary general withdraw the UN from the Quartet, if the Quartet fails to have regard to the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories," he said.

It is a backdrop which makes him pessimistic about the major US-sponsored peace conference between Israel and the Palestinians, expected to be held next month.

Mr Dugard said he saw a greater danger - that of the Palestinian Authority raising expectations too high in the Palestinian community.

"If those expectations are not met, I fear there may be serious consequences," he added.

The consequences include the possibility of a third "intifada", a large-scale, violent uprising against the Israelis, he said.

Mr Dugard said this should be no surprise.

"Inevitably in a military occupation, there are likely to be those engaged in resistance."

These people may be labelled terrorists, Mr Dugard added, but history treats them differently.

He cited the example of the French Resistance during World War II, and those in Namibia who fought occupation by South Africa.

"Now," he said, "they are in government and treated as heroes."

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The members of the Middle East Quartet



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