In his first trip outside Colombia since leaving office, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe traveled Tuesday to New York to assume his new role as vice chairman of the United Nations (U.N.) inquiry into an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Former Vice President Francisco Santos confirmed that Uribe had left the country. The Colombian constitution requires that former presidents seek permission from the Senate to travel outside Colombia for one year after they leave office. Uribe’s request was passed by the Senate Saturday night with 99 votes for and one against.
Over 150 human rights 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 place on 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 [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 protest the appointment, 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.
Israel and Turkey have accepted Ban’s inquiry team, and the four-person panel starts work on Tuesday August 10.