United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon defended the appointment of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice chairman of the U.N. inquiry into an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, following requests from over 150 human rights organizations that it be reconsidered, reports EFE.
Organizations from Europe and the Americas questioned Uribe’s suitability for the role, saying that the former president was not qualified to defend international law.
Last week Ban Ki-moon announced Uribe’s inclusion in the panel, which will investigate Israel’s May 31 storming of the Turkish-owned flotilla, in which eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed, after the boat tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip.
In a press conference Monday, the secretary general offered his full support to Uribe and the rest of the committee, which includes former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, as well as Israeli and Turkish representatives Joseph Ciechanover and Ozden Sanberk.
“Having known him (Uribe) from my position as secretary general … I have full confidence that his contribution to this panel will be positive,” Ban said.
Mark Romero of the Colombian human rights organization CODHES, which was among the organizations to write to Ban, said that Uribe has had a tumultuous relationship with Colombia’s supreme court and was too closely aligned to the agenda of the U.S. Republican Party and the Israeli Government.
Romero said that the Uribe administration “was the only Latin American government which participated in the war against Iraq, so his (Uribe’s) insight into the Arab-Israeli conflict is completely polarized.”
Other NGOs and activist organizations pointed to the Uribe government’s cross border raid on Ecuadorean soil in March 2008, which was seen by many as an illegal act and should therefore deem the former Colombian president unfit for his flotilla investigative committee role.
In response the UN head said that “bilateral relations between Colombia and Ecuador, and elsewhere, has nothing to do with the specific case of the fleet.”
Left-wing Spanish politician and Member of the European Parliament Willy Meyer also condemned Uribe’s appointment to the committee, saying he was “completely indignant” that a leader of a country which “has the largest mass grave in Latin America” would be included in the U.N. panel, because “it is like leaving the fox to guard the chickens.”
Israel and Turkey have accepted Ban’s inquiry panel, and the four-person panel will start work on August 10.