UN expert defiant amid threats after Israel ‘genocide’ finding

UN expert defiant amid threats after Israel ‘genocide’ finding
UN expert defiant amid threats after Israel ‘genocide’ finding

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights Situation in the Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese speaks during a press conference during a session of the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on March 27, 2024. — AFP pic

GENEVA, March 28 — A UN expert who determined that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza on Wednesday said that she had faced threats over her work but insisted it only made her more determined to push ahead.

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories, said this week there were reasonable grounds to believe Israel was committing “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel, which has long been highly critical of Albanese and her mandate, denounced her report as an “obscene inversion of reality”, while pro-Israeli groups have called for her to step down.

Asked about the blowback at a news conference in Geneva, Albanese acknowledged that “it has been a difficult time”.

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The independent expert, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2022 but who does not speak on behalf of the United Nations, said she had “been attacked since the very beginning of my mandate”.

“I do receive threats,” she acknowledged, but said that she had received “nothing that so far I have considered needing extra precautions”.

And the pressure merely encourages her “not to step back”, Albanese said.

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Israeli visa ban

Israel last month announced a visa ban on Albanese over comments denying that Hamas’ October 7 attack was “anti-Semitic”.

And it said that her report was “simply an extension of a campaign seeking to undermine the very establishment of the Jewish State”.

The US State Department on Wednesday highlighted its longstanding opposition to Albanese’s mandate, “which we believe is not productive”.

Spokesman Matthew Miller accused the expert of having a “history of anti-Semitic comments”, including some “that appeared to justify the attacks of October 7”.

As for her report, he reiterated Washington’s belief that “allegations of genocide are unfounded”.

Albanese on Wednesday insisted that she did not “question the existence of the State of Israel”, but wants Israel to behave “in accordance with international law”.

She also reiterated that she had found no evidence that the October 7 attacks were “propelled by anti-Semitism”.

The expert, who has argued the attack was motivated by “Israeli oppression”, acknowledged that her comments were not “strategic” but said that she stood by her report.

Albanese, who has received support from a long line of mainly Arab and Muslim countries since releasing her report, said that when she eventually does leave her post, it will not be because of her critics.

“It won’t be because they vilify or they mistreat me in the public discourse.”

Complicit?

Albanese said that she “of course” condemned Hamas and its brutal attack on Israel, but added: “nothing justifies what Israel is doing”.

The October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,400 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas health ministry, and has spurred a humanitarian catastrophe and UN warnings of a looming famine.

Albanese has called for an “international protective presence” in Gaza, and has also demanded that other countries impose sanctions and an arms embargo to stem the violence.

Countries, she stressed, have obligations under the UN Genocide Convention to act “immediately” when a risk of genocide is detected.

Albanese said she next intended to investigate the possible “complicity” of the United States, Israel’s main backer, and also other countries.

“The genocide has already been committed,” she said, but added that “we can still save lives and we can still halt the descent into the abyss.” — AFP

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