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Lawmakers rap Arbour on Arab charter

The leaders of a U.S. congressional committee want the U.N. secretary-general to clarify a top official’s endorsement of an Arab charter.

Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee wrote Ban Ki-moon last week expressing concern over comments last month by Louise Arbour, the U.N. Human Rights commissioner.

Arbour had welcomed the ratification by seven Arab nations of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, a regional document of the kind promoted by the United Nations as a means of binding nations to human rights commitments.

After reports revealed the charter rejects “racism and Zionism, which constitute a violation of human rights and pose a threat to world peace,” Arbour issued a clarification saying the charter was inadequate because it does not meet “international norms and standards, including the application of the death penalty for children, the treatment of women and non-citizens and the equating of Zionism with racism.”

The letter from Berman and Ros-Lehtinen did not address Arbour’s clarification and instead faulted her for her earlier comments, saying “she should have taken the responsible course of action and rejected the charter for its savagery and ignorance, and doggedly confronted the call for the destruction of Israel.”

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