UN Raises Baron Der Issue with Israeli Government

U.N. Special Rapporteur Makes Formal Intervention; Calls on Israel’s U.N. Ambassador to Clarify Israeli Actions BRUSSELS–The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief–A. Amor–has made an official intervention to Israel in response to its recent seizure of Baron Der–an Armenian Church estate on the outskirts of Bethlehem that holds great religious significance to Armenia’s around the world–reported the European Armenian Federation (ANC-Europe).

"Amor has addressed a formal communication to Israel–asking its authorities to provide information regarding the Israeli Army’s occupation of this sacred Armenian Church property. In the petition–the Special Rapporteur called upon Israel to abide by relevant international laws," explained Hilda Tchoboian–Chairperson of the European Armenian Federation. Amor took this action based upon information provided by the Covcas Center for Conflict Resolution. The Center had–in the immediate aftermath of the seizure–launched an emergency campaign to inform the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and to urge the United Nations to act to "prevent irrevocable damage by this attack against the rights of the Armenian community."

For over a year–the Israeli army has occupied the Armenian religious property of Baron Der. In recent weeks–the Israeli government escalated its violations of the Armenian Church and community by announcing its intention to build a security wall through the middle of the property that would effectively divide the property into two useless plots. The good-faith efforts of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to reach a negotiated settlement with the Israeli authorities have not been reciprocated.

"We are pleased to note that the Special Rapporteur was sensitive to the request of the Covcas Center. Amor is an independent expert whose opinion is free of the political considerations on either side of this potentially explosive situation," continued Tchoboian. Amor has been Special Rapporteur since 1995–Vice-President of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations–and President of the International Academy of Constitutional Law. He is also member of the UNESCO Committee on the Inter-Religious dialogue.

"Nevertheless–we remain worried by the possible consequences of the confiscation of the property of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem," added Tchoboian. "This violation constitutes a very troubling attack on the Armenian thousand-year-old presence in the Holy Land," she underlined. In his intervention–the Special Rapporteur noted his interest in traveling to Israel within the framework of the exercise of his mandate.

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