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Monday, December 11, 2006

Tutu mission to probe Beit Hanoun deaths cancelled

11 December 2006

Tutu mission to probe Beit Hanoun deaths cancelled

GENEVA — A United Nations (UN) mission to be led by Nobel Peace
laureate Desmond Tutu to probe last month's deaths of 19
civilians in Gaza under Israeli shelling has been called off
because Israel did not authorise the trip, spokeswoman Sonia
Bakar said today.

Tutu, who was asked to head the team by the Geneva-based Human
Rights Council, had other engagements and could not wait any
longer for Israeli permission, she said.

"It has been cancelled. We were supposed to go yesterday
(Sunday)," Bakar said.

The United Nations' top human rights body condemned the November
8 deaths at Beit Hanoun and last month voted to send a mission to
investigate the incident.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said Israel
had investigated and acknowledged its mistakes in the incident,
seeing no role for the UN mission.

"The commission was sent on the premise that Israel targets
civilians and it did not take into account the daily rocket fire
targeting Israeli civilians."

The 47-state Human Rights Council, which in June replaced the
UN's discredited Human Rights Commission, has already passed
seven resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestinian
territory and in Lebanon and held three special sessions
dedicated to Israel.

Although Israel, which is not a member of the Council, has
accepted visits by special UN investigators on human rights, it
has never agreed to any mission of inquiry from either the
Commission or its Council successor.

Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, was awarded the Nobel
prize in 1984 for his fight against apartheid. He had been due to
report back to the council by the end of this week.

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