|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
23rd Meeting (AM)
Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Tells Fourth Committee
It Can Confirm Several ‘Disturbing Trends’, Despite Lack of Cooperation
Despite Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, that body had confirmed a “number of disturbing trends”, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it began its annual consideration of the item.
Palitha Kohona, Chair of the Special Committee, outlined several of those offences, including the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, the routine demolition of homes in the West Bank, the continued construction of the wall, settler violence and the dispossession of Palestinians from their agricultural land. The Committee’s report also detailed the role of multinational corporations that profited from settlement construction and natural resource exploitation.
The cessation of such human rights violations could only be brought about by the dissolution of the occupation of the territories held by Israel since 1967, he said, warning that should negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine falter and the unsatisfactory conditions continue, “simmering popular discontent could result in another round of serious violence”.
Highlighting the nature of some of those abuses, the representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the occupying Power continued to use “excessive force”, which, over the years had killed and injured Palestinian civilians and resulted in an estimated 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held in 22 detention centres and prisons in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Those detainees, including children and elected officials, were often subjected to torture and solitary confinement, and denied family visits, access to education and medical care.
Furthermore, he said, Israel’s illegal settlement under the full protection of its military forces proceeded apace, undermining the contiguity of the West Bank and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Such illegal behaviour and refusal to commit to the internationally endorsed parameters for the two-State solution once again confirmed that Israel’s expansionist policies totally contradicted its claimed commitment to peace. “The international community must act to prevent a total collapse of these prospects of peace after so many years of efforts and support for a peaceful solution,” he urged.
The representative of Malaysia and Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee said that Israeli authorities had devised “very restrictive measures” to keep the presence of Palestinians and other Arabs under control. Human rights violations in East Jerusalem by the Israelis represented a desire to make all of Jerusalem their capital and “bring in Jews to replace the Arabs”, which would transform the Arabs’ democratic and demographic rights.
Echoing the sentiments of other delegations today in support of the two-State solution, he added that Israel could not “hope to build a peaceful and prosperous nation without coming to terms with the situation of the Palestinians”. The Special Committee was as relevant today as it had been in 1968, he said, stressing “we cannot take a selective approach by criticizing human rights violations only in some countries but not in others”.
Also weighing in was the representative of Syria, who said that Israeli aggression towards Palestinians and demands for further concessions from them continued, despite the international community’s overwhelming support for the Palestinian people. He called on Israel to end its racial discrimination and suppression in the occupied Syrian Golan and hand over maps to international organizations and Syrian citizens that identified the locations of landmines, which prohibited Syrians from accessing their natural resources.
The representative of the European Union Delegation said all parties must refrain from actions that could undermine the talks. In Gaza, the European Union recognized Israel’s legitimate security concerns, but insisted on the immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, goods and persons. The European Union was also concerned about Israel’s extensive recourse to administrative detention.
Also speaking in the debate were representatives of Senegal, Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
An observer for the State of Palestine also spoke. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine participated in an interactive discussion.
Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced the reports.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 November, to continue its consideration of the work of the Special Committee.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to consider the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/68/379), and a report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Special Committee (document A/68/355).
Also before the Fourth Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on the Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/68/313); Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/68/513); the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/68/378); and Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/68/502).
PALITHA KOHONA, Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that, in the past year, the Government of Israel had not cooperated with the Committee, having failed to respond to its requests for meetings or allow access to the occupied territories.
Thus, he said, the Committee, relying on information obtained from several sources, including United Nations officials and the victims and witnesses of Israeli violations, had confirmed several disturbing trends. Among those was the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners — there had been two deaths, one from torture and one from medical mistreatment of cancer; the routine demolition of homes in the West Bank; the continued construction of the wall; the dispossession of Palestinians from their agricultural land; settler violence, and the support of the Israeli Supreme Court for settlement expansion. The report also details the role of multinational corporations that profit from settlement construction.
In Gaza, Israel’s sea, air and land blockade entered its seventh year, further aggravating the Palestinians’ dire humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions. Israel still maintained substantial control of exports from Gaza and enforced an arbitrarily restrictive fishing zone. Regarding the occupied Syrian Golan, exploitation by Israeli and multinational companies of natural resources, including water, wind, gas and oil, persisted. Other serious concerns also remained, especially the presence of mines and restrictions imposed by Israelis on family visitations.
The Special Committee, he said, called on Israel to uphold its obligations, first among them, conducting prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the cases of injuries and deaths of Palestinian prisoners, including the mistreatment of child detainees. Second, it must cease the issuance of demolition orders in East Jerusalem and the provision of building permits for new Israeli housing. Third, Israel should, based on the International Court of Justice, immediately cease the division of communities and the “dispassion” of Palestinian agricultural lands through the ongoing construction of the wall and the network of roads and highways connecting illegal settlements. Fourth, Israel should end the Gaza blockade and submit to the international community’s transparent investigation of the business activities to exploit and profit from settlement construction in the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Committee, he said, called on Israel to end discriminatory water distribution practices there and to desist from issuing drilling licences to companies for oil and gas exploration. Finally, Israel must intensity its efforts to remove all mines from the occupied Syrian Golan and ensure that all mined areas were clearly marked and fenced.
The cessation of human rights violations of Palestinians and other Arabs could only be brought about by the dissolution of the occupation of territories held by Israel since 1967, he said, adding that, should the negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine falter and the unsatisfactory conditions in the occupied territories continue, “simmering popular discontent could result in another round of serious violence”.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced the five reports submitted under agenda item 52. He said that the report on the Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/68/355) outlined activities undertaken by the Special Committee and the United Nations Secretariat, in support of the Special Committee’s work. The report on the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (document A/68/313) summarized the responses received in request for information about any steps taken concerning the implementation of the resolution. Responses were received from Syria and Cuba.
He said that the report on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/68/513) was based on monitoring and other information-gathering activities carried out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and on information provided by other United Nations entities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also included information from non-governmental organizations and media sources, and focused on the ways in which the Government of Israel had played a leading role in the creation and expansion of settlements through controlling the land and granting benefits and incentives to settlers.
The report on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/68/502), he explained, was similarly based primarily on monitoring and other information-gathering activities carried out by OHCHR field presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and covered various issues, among them, Israeli policies and practices that were fragmenting the Territory, and actions by the Israeli security forces leading to the death and injuries of civilians.
The final report, on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/68/378), was a compilation of the responses received from Member States to a request for information on any steps taken concerning the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/122. In addition to the Permanent Mission of Syria, replies were received from the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Cuba and Burkina Faso.
Following the introduction of reports, RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that the Special Committee’s report, along with those of other United Nations bodies and agencies, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, portrayed a critical human rights situation. The Committee’s examinations were based on the Organization’s Charter and other important international conventions. Even a basic review revealed massive breaches, many of which amounted to war crimes by Israel on the people under its 46-year occupation. He deplored Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee and echoed its call for the General Assembly to consider Israel’s persistent refusal to respect its obligations as a Member State. What recommendations, he asked, could be made to the General Assembly regarding accountability to bring Israel into compliance with international law?
Responding, Mr. KOHONA said that the recommendations in the report itself called on Israel to immediately comply with the numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. There was also a recommendation to Member States to examine the practices of businesses in their own countries, which benefited from economic activities based in Israel.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Israeli violations continued to affect every human right of the Palestinian people. The Special Committee’s conclusion was that the occupation itself was a human rights violation. The welfare of the civilian population under occupation could not be set aside in the drive for peace, and the international community must be firm in demanding respect from Israel for its obligations. It was regrettable that “even as peace negotiations had resumed, pessimism was overtaking hope”. Every passing day made it clear that Israel was determined to maintain its control over Palestinian land. To achieve that, the occupying Power had relied primarily on its settlement activities in addition to other unlawful practices aimed at “isolation, separation and subjugation” of the Palestinian people.
She said that a review of any random day during the past year would show the systematic violation of the Palestinian people’s right to education, health care, livelihoods, and freedom of movement and worship. Daily, there were military raids in the West Bank, where even children younger than 12 years were detained by the army, often in the middle of the night. Palestinians partaking in peaceful protests were subjected to the use of force. In the November 2012 attacks on Gaza, homes, health clinics and UNRWA facilities had been destroyed. The network of Israeli-only bypass roads and the confiscation of vast land areas continued as Israel flagrantly pushed ahead with its plan to colonize Palestinian lands, in the middle of the peace process.
The provocative declarations made this past week by Israeli officials to construct thousands more settlement units was further confirmation of Israel’s refusal to cease its settlement activities, she went on. The international fact- finding mission to examine the implications of the settlement campaign had noted that Israel was violating international law. In direct connection with that illegal campaign, Israeli authorities were forcibly displacing hundreds of Bedouin families, which pointed to the “magnitude” of that campaign. Security often was the pretext for such demolitions and displacement.
More than 5,000 Palestinians remained in Israeli prisons and detention centres, including 137 administrative detainees held without charge, and 180 children and 12 women. The report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued earlier this year on the plight of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, had found that the ill-treatment of child prisoners “appeared to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized”. Further, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza had deepened, with livelihoods and sustainable economic activity remaining impossible.
Israel’s violations of international law were persisting even at this time of the international community’s concerted push for peace under the leadership of the United States, the diplomatic Quartet, the Arab League and other concerned States. The State of Palestine reiterated its demand that Israel cease completely all its illegal policies and practices. A complete cessation of Israeli violations was imperative for stemming the suffering endured by the people living under the occupation, and for fostering an environment conducive for making peace.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned the ongoing “brutal Israeli military campaign”, by which the occupying Power had continued to commit grave human rights and reported war crimes. That included the use of excessive force, which, over the years, had killed and injured Palestinian civilians and destroyed vast swaths of property, as well as infrastructure and agricultural lands. In addition, an estimated 5,000 Palestinian prisoners were held in 22 detention centres and prisons in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Movement also strongly denounced the Israeli officials’ ongoing “systematic and abusive detention and interrogation” of children and numerous elected officials, who remained under inhumane conditions and were subjected to all form of ill-treatment, including Israeli use of torture; the denial of family visits, access to education and adequate medical care; and the use of administrative detention, as well as solitary confinement.
Furthermore, Israel’s “illegal settlement under the full protection of its military forces” proceeded apace across the West Bank, facilitated by a combination of other illegal measures, including land confiscations, enclosure of Palestinian communities, and myriad access restrictions imposed by checkpoints. Those activities undermined the contiguity of the West Bank and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. During the November 2012 offense, 168 Palestinians, including 33 children and 13 women, had been killed. Such punitive measures by Israel were grave breaches of human rights law, by which Israel was bound and with which it must scrupulously comply.
Finally, the Movement expressed its deep concern at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process and stressed the “current, dangerous impasse is the result of impunity and intransigence”, by Israel, the occupying Power. Such persistent illegal behaviour and refusal to commit to the internationally endorsed parameters for the two-State solution confirmed once again that Israel’s expansionist policies totally contradicted its Government’s claimed commitment to the peace process. “The international community must act to prevent a total collapse of these prospects of peace after so many years of efforts and support for a peaceful solution,” he said.
ROBERTO STORACI, European Union Delegation, underscored his delegation’s commitment to the success of ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict could be resolved through a comprehensive peace settlement, based on Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. He urged all parties to refrain from actions that could undermine the talks, deploring plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and condemning in the strongest terms provocations against Palestinian civilians. Israel must bring the perpetrators to justice.
In Gaza, he said, the European Union renewed its condemnation in the strongest terms of violence targeting civilians. He recognized Israel’s legitimate security concerns, while at the same time, called for the immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, goods and persons. He also voiced concern about Israel’s extensive recourse to administrative detention without charge, restrictions on movement for Palestinians, and the high number of Palestinian children detained.
FODE SECK (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that having participated in drafting the report as a member of the Special Committee, Senegal hoped to see its recommendations adopted by the General Assembly and effectively implemented by all stakeholders. The Special Committee had distinguished itself in the discharge of the mandate entrusted to it by the international community. But despite its international legitimacy, the Committee’s actions continued to be impeded by Israel’s non-cooperation. Multiple and repeated violations of human rights, such as the construction of settlements and demolition of Palestinian properties, were affecting the fundamental rights of the Palestinians. Like people throughout the world, the Palestinian people had the right to live in dignity. Senegal urged the Israel Defense Forces to show the greatest restraint when dealing with civilians, adding that the Palestinian population should fully enjoy freedom of movement, which was blocked by numerous checkpoints, the blockade and separation wall, and other physical barriers.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia), Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee, regretted that its work was impeded by Israel’s refusal to cooperate, which only confirmed the “suspicion that Israel continued to enact its violations despite its reports”. Especially of concern was the Committee’s inability to have visited Gaza, where 80 per cent of the population now depended on international and United Nations aid. Israeli authorities, he said, had devised very restrictive measures to keep the presence of Palestinians and other Arabs under control. Furthermore, human rights violations in East Jerusalem by the Israelis represented their desire to make all of Jerusalem its capital and “bring in Jews to replace the Arabs”, which would transform the Arabs’ democratic and demographic rights. Echoing the statements of other countries in favour of a two-State solution, he said Israel could not “hope to build a peaceful and prosperous nation without coming to terms with the situation of the Palestinians”. The Special Committee was as relevant today as it had been in 1968, he said, stressing “we cannot take a selective approach by criticizing human rights violations only in some countries but not in others”.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that this was the seventh decade of the brutal Israeli occupation as well as the seventh decade of waiting by the Palestinian people for the establishment of a free and independent State and a return to their homeland. Despite the injustice and torture and Israeli aggression, and despite the overwhelming support of the international community for the Palestinians, some Powers still demanded further concessions from the Palestinians — as if all the sacrifices made so far were not painful enough. How many decades must elapse until some Powers acknowledged the inevitability of ending the occupation? How many innocent Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese victims must die before some Powers realized that that tragedy must cease? How many separation walls would be built and how many holy places must be violated?
He said that some countries that claimed to uphold international law shed hypocritical tears about human rights violations when they found it convenient to do so. Syrian citizens languished under Israeli occupation while Israel persisted in its racial discrimination and suppression in the occupied Syrian Golan where a feverish settlement drive was under way. Further, Israel refused to hand over maps identifying the locations of landmines to international organizations and Syrian citizens, prohibiting them from accessing their natural resources.
SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN ( Pakistan) said that despite “tentative” steps towards resolving final status issues, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was “bleak”, with the condition of Palestinian detainees a serious concern. The death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody — and Israel’s refusal to allow a neutral investigation — hinted at foul play. Further, illegal settlement activity could render a two-State solution unviable, as new construction had accompanied each announcement of Palestinian prisoner release. Noting that hostilities in November 2012 had led to 168 deaths — the overwhelming majority of whom were Palestinian civilians — he questioned whether final settlement was conceivable in such circumstances. Nonetheless, adherence to the nine-month deadline was critical. Pakistan supported a sovereign, independent Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that “the bestial terrorist attacks”, ill-treatment of prisoners, killing of civilians and blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel were infringing upon the territorial integrity of a sovereign State. Israel’s human rights violations were becoming more undisguised along with the backing and support of some countries, in particular, the United States. The settlement of Middle East issues, including the Palestinian question, was a high-priority task and should be done in compliance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.
* *** *For information media • not an official record