Ban slams human rights council

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.N. Human Rights Council must address abuses where they occur, Ban Ki-moon said in a stinging rebuke to a body notorious for its anti-Israel bias.

"This council can have a tremendous impact," the U.N. secretary-general said Friday at the Council’s Geneva headquarters, in an address marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "But you, its members, must rise above partisan posturing and regional divides. One way to do this is with continued vigilance in carrying out the Universal Periodic Review, which assesses the human rights records of all states. The council must address human rights abuses wherever they occur."

The persistent tilt of the council against Israel and its refusal to deal with abuses in Congo, Sudan, Iran, China and elsewhere has led the United States to drop much of its associations with the body.

Ban told reporters afterward that he would prefer the United States participate, saying its influence would have a salutary effect.

"I would expect and hope that the next administration will seriously and positively consider my call on this matter," he said, referring to President-elect Barack Obama.

Also addressing the Council Friday was Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, the U.N. affiliate that administrates relief to Palestinian refugees. She decried the standard of life in Palestinian lands under Israeli control.

"Fatality figures for the occupied Palestinian territory had surely to make the world question its commitment to upholding the right to life, the most fundamental of all rights," a U.N. statement said. "More than 500 Palestinians had been killed this year as a result of the conflict and 11 Israelis had lost their lives this year."

AbuZayd also cited restrictions on movement and poverty in Palestinian areas.

"Let us make the protection of Palestinian rights the byword of all our interventions," she said.

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