GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.S. investigator of alleged Israeli human rights violations in the Palestinian territories criticized Washington Wednesday for vetoing a plan to send unarmed U.N. observers to protect Palestinians.
Richard Falk, a member of a three-man U.N. team sent to look into the charges against Israel, said he and his colleagues were disappointed by the veto and said Washington had failed in its legal and moral duty.
``One needs an international monitoring presence and there is a moral and legal responsibility on the part of the United Nations to establish such a presence,'' Falk said. ``So it is with considerable disappointment that we view this veto and hope that the United States government will reconsider in the light of the realities of the situation.''
Falk, professor of International Relations at Princeton University, was speaking at a news conference by the three members of the U.N. investigating team.
In a report issued last week for the U.N. Human Rights Commission the team said Israel was guilty of widespread rights violations in the current conflict.
Their report called for the establishment of an international presence to protect Palestinian civilians against Israeli security forces and settlers, a proposal also backed by U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.
Eu Envoys Favor Observers
The United States cast its veto in the Security Council in New York Tuesday against a resolution to send unarmed observers. Nine countries including Russia and China backed the resolution but four West European countries abstained.
Falk and his colleagues -- South African professor John Dugard and former Bangladesh prime minister Kamal Hossain -- said consultations with EU envoys in the Middle East had shown that Brussels' perception of the situation was similar to their own.
But the Security Council abstention by EU members Britain, France and Ireland as well as Norway represented ``an unfortunate failure of the European states to show their independence from the United States,'' Falk said.
Dugard told the news conference that during their visit last month the team found ``clear evidence of human rights violations by the Israeli defense forces carried out in an open and obvious manner.''
Participation by youths and even children in confrontations with Israeli soldiers, he said, was ``largely spontaneous... reflecting frustration, opposition to oppression, and a sense of humiliation after years of occupation.''
Falk said the position of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in support of assassinations of Palestinian activists meant they bore ''criminal responsibility'' for the killings.