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At UN, Egypt Is Accused of Breaking Law by Closing Rafah Crossing, as UN Envoy Serry Defends, is Puzzled

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 7 -- With the UN and Western members of its Security Council now looking for solutions about Gaza in the country to the south, the question has arisen whether  Egypt is violating international law in blocking entry to those seeking to flee the bombing. Wednesday at the UN,  Inner City Press asked Human Rights Watch expert Sarah Leah Whitson to elaborate on her cursory statement that Egypt is complicit in war crimes for keeping closed its Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip.

    Ms. Whitson responded that Egypt is legally required to open the crossing, but has refused to do so "unless representatives of Fatah" man the crossing. She called this "injecting a political formula onto a humanitarian situation" and legal responsibility.  Video here, from 46:20.

  The UN's main envoy to the region, Robert Serry, views things decidedly differently. Inner City Press asked Serry to respond to HRW' statement that Egypt is violating the law by blocking those who flee at the Rafah crossing. "I'm a bit puzzled by the charge," Serry said, noting somewhat irrelevantly that the Egyptian Red Cross has been "active with medicines" in the Gaza Strip, and that some patients have been allowed out through Rafah. But what about those who are fleeing the bombing of their homes? Serry said, tellingly, "I really don't want to comment further." Video here, from Minute 41:18.

UN envoy Serry, puzzled by international humanitary law, with John Holmes

  While Serry is not alone in this solicitous approach to Egypt, even the UN's refugee chief Antonio Gutteres has said that international law requires the opening of Rafah. Earlier on Wednesday, UN humanitarian coordinator John Holmes said the Gaza conflict is unique because its victims "have nowhere to flee to." Inner City Press asked if he meant by this the blockage of the borders, including by Egypt. Holmes nodded. Video here, from Minute 50:07.

   So why would the UN's humanitarian and refugee chieftains say the border must be opened, while top political envoy Robert Serry disagrees and says he's puzzled? What is the UN's position? For now we note: Politics kills.

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

 Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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