Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pro-Israeli Canadian lawyer ejected from UN

UNITED NATIONS -- Guards ejected an accredited Canadian commentator from the United Nations after she denounced a controversial report that focuses heavily on alleged Israeli war crimes.

Anne Bayefsky, a York University political science professor, offered the only pro-Israel commentary on Thursday night at a microphone outside the General Assembly hall following remarks by its Libyan president, Ali Treki, and the chief Palestinian official at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour.

Arab and Muslim countries had overcome Western opposition in the adoption of a resolution endorsing the report by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, which focuses on the Israeli assault last winter on Gaza.

Ms. Bayefsky said four guards confiscated two UN passes the organization had issued to her as director of Touro Law Center's Institute on Human Rights and The Holocaust, and removed her from the building after questioning her.

"I am quite sure that if I had congratulated the United Nations, no one would have said anything," said Ms. Bayefsky, who was unable to get her credentials reinstated after spending more than two hours drafting a request at the UN last night.

UN-based blogger Matt Lee said Mr. Mansour, after being told a "pro-Israel non-governmental organization" had spoken at the microphone, asked: "Did we capture them?"

Mr. Lee said he spoke with Mr. Mansour after the guards had led Ms. Bayefsky away, and security officials were unable to confirm last night whether they had acted of their own accord, or in response to a complaint.

Mr. Treki's spokesman, Jean Victor Nkolo, said Ms. Bayefsky was "not authorized at all" to use the mike.

"This is a stakeout for member states and for the General Assembly," he said. "NGOs and private individuals have nothing to do there. Period."

Mr. Nkolo dismissed suggestions Ms. Bayefsky would have felt free to approach the microphone on grounds that other similarly accredited organizations have done so in the past.

Human Rights Watch's Steve Crawshaw spoke there in 2007 as he complimented the assembly on a widely cheered human rights decision, Mr. Lee's Website notes. Actress Mia Farrow, an activist against Sudanese actions in Darfur, also spoke at a microphone generally used by diplomats, addressing reporters outside the UN Security Council this year.

Ms. Bayesfky herself had previously spoken at the microphone following the UN's Human Rights council elections, without incident.

The drama unfolded less than two weeks after UN guards faced criticism for allowing a man disguised as Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harland "Colonel" Sanders to enter the complex and pose for publicity pictures.

Ms. Bayefsky had offered her assessment of the resolution, which gives both Israel and the Palestinians three months to launch "independent credible investigations" into alleged war crimes outlined in the Goldstone report.

Part of her focus was on Hamas, which controls Gaza, but which most western countries list as a terrorist organization. "The idea that ... a terrorist organization is going to decide for itself whether or not it violates the rule of law is something that, I think, no serious democratic society will take seriously," she said.

"You just have to ask yourselves whether this process has done anything in terms of bolstering the credibility of the United Nations."

Little more than half of the assembly's 192 members approved the resolution, which passed 114 in favour, 18 against (including Canada), with 44 abstentions.

Source: National Post

H/T: Atlas

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