October 13, 2009 / 2:08 PM / 9 years ago

U.N. rights body opens door to new Gaza debate

* Human Rights Council meeting requested by Palestinians * Session to follow Security Council debate on Middle East

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an extraordinary meeting this week on the occupied Palestinian territories, providing another chance for Israel’s critics to discuss a Gaza war crimes report.

"The holding of the special session is at the request of Palestine," the United Nations said in a statement circulated on Tuesday in Geneva, where the 47-member body is based.

The Human Rights Council did not vote during its last three-week session, ending Oct. 2, on a resolution condemning Israel’s failure to cooperate with the Gaza inquiry, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.

The report, issued in September, concluded that both the Israeli armed forces and Hamas militants committed war crimes in the December-January war. But it was more critical of Israel.

Action on the Human Rights Council resolution was postponed until March after pressure from Washington, which is trying to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. [ID:nL2147555]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has come under sharp criticism at home for agreeing to the delay. [ID:nL7622436]

In New York, the U.N. Security Council has brought forward a scheduled meeting on the Middle East after Libya demanded it urgently debate the Goldstone report. [ID:nN07494350] That debate will take place on Wednesday, the day before the Human Rights session which is expected to stretch into Friday.

Developing states have often voted as a bloc at the Human Rights Council to criticise Israel. Critics say this is a tactic to divert attention from abuses elsewhere in the world. (Editing by Dominic Evans)

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