10:21 AM EDT Aug 04
GENEVA (AP) - The barrier Israel is building to seal off the West Bank is a violation of Israel's human rights obligations, a group of UN experts said Thursday.
The eight rights experts called on Israel "to stop construction of the wall" and to pay compensation to Palestinians for damage caused by work on the barrier - a series of fences, walls, watchtowers and trenches along Israel's edge with the West Bank.
The barrier dips deep into the West Bank in places, disrupting some Palestinian communities.
"The wall violates important norms of international humanitarian law prohibiting the annexation of occupied territory, the establishment of settlements, the confiscation of private land and the forcible transfer of people," the statement said.
Officials at Israel's mission to UN offices in Geneva had no immediate comment, but the Israeli government has said the barrier is necessary to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers.
The West Bank barrier is only partially complete, but Israeli security experts credit it with stopping many would-be bombers.
An older security fence around the Gaza Strip is relatively simple but Israel is beefing up its border there in anticipation of its withdrawal later this month.
The UN experts also reminded countries "that they are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation."
The independent experts, who are appointed by the 53-nation UN Human Rights Commission, are Yakin Erturk, who reports on violence against women; Miloon Kothari, housing; Vernor Munoz Villalobos, education; Paul Hunt, health; Doudou Diene, racism; Leila Zerrougui, arbitrary detention; Sigma Huda, trafficking; and John Dugard, conditions in the Palestinian territories.
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