UN sets up ‘independent’ group to review UNRWA

Guterres said the group will “assess” whether UNWRA is doing “everything within its power to ensure neutrality…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has established an “independent” Review Group to look into how UNRWA (UN Relief Workers Agency for the Palestinian areas) workers took part in the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7.

Guterres said the group will “assess” whether UNWRA is doing “everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made.”

The review will be led by Catherine Colonna, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, who will work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The Review Group will begin its work on February 14, 2024 and is expected to submit an interim report to the Secretary-General late March 2024, with a final report expected to be completed by late April 2024. The final report will be made public.

The Review Group will determine what, if any, “mechanisms and procedures” that UNWRA has in place to “ensure neutrality,” if they have been implemented and assess the “adequacy” of those mechanisms and procedures and whether they are fit for purpose, including in relation to the management of risks and taking into account the particular operational, political and security context in which the Agency works.

It will also make recommendations for the” improvement and strengthening, if necessary,” of the mechanisms and procedures that are currently in place or for the creation of new and alternative mechanisms and procedures that “would be better fit for purpose.”

Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees was notified that its Israeli bank account was blocked over unusual activity as an expert explained to the Tazpit Press Service that “every war is ultimately reflected in the banks.”

Bank Leumi, one of Israel’s largest and oldest banking institutions, alerted UNRWA to suspicious financial transfers, but the UN agency did not provide satisfactory explanations, prompting bank officials to freeze the account, the Israel Hayom daily reported on Sunday.

In particular, the bank said it was unable to trace the source or final destination of several money transfers, and is concerned money is being used to fund terrorism, the report said.

Officials from Bank Leumi and UNRWA did not respond to the Tazpit Press Service’s requests to comment.

Israel demands that UNRWA be stripped of its authority in Gaza amid revelations that members of the agency’s staff participated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. The US and 14 other countries have suspended funding for the agency.

Israel provided intelligence incriminating 12 staffers of their participation, including using UNRWA vehicles and facilities as 1,200 Israelis were massacred. The New York Times received leaked information incriminating 12 UNRWA employees of participating in the attack and even using agency vehicles.

The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

We Had the Information ‘For Years’: “The basic idea says that when there is a war beyond weapons, there is the economic weapon, and every war is ultimately reflected in the banks,” Dr. Alex Coman told TPS. Coman is a senior financial analyst and a professor at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.

Banks monitor transactions as part of their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing efforts. These measures are in place to detect and prevent the illicit flow of funds. Banks that don’t comply can be cut off from the SWIFT network, which enables banks and other financial institutions worldwide to send and receive standardized, secure messages, such as payment orders, fund transfer instructions, and other financial information, Coman explained.

“This mechanism worked very well when the accounts of many Russian oligarchs abroad were blocked” after Russia invaded Ukraine, he noted. (ANI/TPS)

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