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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 00:45 GMT 01:45 UK
UN expert rails at Quartet policies
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

John Dugard speaks slowly and carefully. He rarely hesitates. But from his measured voice comes a reputation for being outspoken.

Israeli soldiers escort blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinians captured during an Israeli raid in Gaza (15 September 2007)
Mr Dugard says the Israeli military occupation is fuelling "resistance"
Earlier this year, in his role as special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council for the Palestinian Territories, the South African law professor wrote a report for the UN General Assembly in which he compared Israel's actions to those of apartheid South Africa.

Indeed, the word "apartheid" appears 24 times in the 24-page report.

But in his interview with the BBC, Mr Dugard goes further than before.

He has been trenchant in his belief in the past seven years that he has held the UN post that Israel is collectively punishing the Palestinians.

Now, though, he has the international community, and the UN itself, in his sights for complicity.

'Little good'

A few weeks ago, Mr Dugard was reported to have levelled criticism at the UN secretary general for failing to stand up to Israel.

The reports, he says, followed some of his remarks being "generously translated" into Arabic.

But there is little room for misinterpretation in his comments to the BBC.

Middle East Quartet meeting (23 September 2007)
The UN is not playing the role of an objective mediator that behoves it
John Dugard,
UN special rapporteur

He complains that his catalogues of what he sees as human rights abuses in the occupied territories fall on "deaf ears" in the secretary general's office.

He also says the UN is doing itself "little good" by remaining in the Quartet - the international group charged with overseeing the "peace process" between the Israelis and Palestinians.

He also, tellingly, strays to the very limit of his mandate by saying that the Quartet is hampering the Palestinian right to self-determination.

His argument is not just that it is failing to heal the rift between the militant Islamist group, Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah group of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but that the UN has, through the Quartet, thrown in its lot with Fatah.

"The UN," he says, "is not playing the role of an objective mediator that behoves it."

Harsh warning

In truth, there are many Western diplomats and UN officials based in the region who would agree with Mr Dugard's political analysis.

What is highly unusual is to hear them voiced publicly by somebody with a serious job title.

John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on human rights for the Palestinian territories (file)
Mr Dugard has been the UN's special rapporteur since 2001

That is not to say that his post of UN human rights monitor will exempt him from criticism.

Although some inside Israel agree that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has distorted and damaged Israel's democratic values, there are plenty who will say Mr Dugard's view is one-sided.

They will argue that condemnation of the restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement fails to take into account the right of Israelis to live free from terrorist attack.

Mr Dugard's argument - again shared by some inside Israel - is that the military occupation fuels what he calls "resistance".

And, in an unusually harsh warning from a senior UN official, he worries aloud about how high the Palestinian leadership is raising expectations ahead of next month's scheduled peace conference with Israel.

If, as he fears, those expectations are not met, then, he says, a third intifada could be unleashed.

And he compares the actions of Palestinian militants to those of the French Resistance during World War II.

I put it to Mr Dugard that that comparison in particular would be very difficult for some to stomach. He was unabashed.

"History is replete with examples of populations that have resisted military occupation," he said.

"I can't see why one shouldn't draw these analogies."

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