THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ, CAMBODIA, PALESTINIAN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

5 November 2002
GA/SHC/3715

THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ, CAMBODIA, PALESTINIAN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

05/11/2002
Press Release
GA/SHC/3715


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

36th Meeting (PM)


THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ,


CAMBODIA, PALESTINIAN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES


The situations of human rights in Iraq, Cambodia and in the Palestinian territories were highlighted and debated this afternoon, as the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued hearing reports from Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights and a Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, introduced his report by welcoming the recent decree of the Revolutionary Command Council signed by President Saddam Hussein on 20 October, granting a general amnesty for all prisoners, including political prisoners with certain exceptions.  One had only to set foot in Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad to apprehend the elation of both inmates and their families for even one day’s release from their appalling detention conditions. 


However, on 24 October, he had received information suggesting that journalists had been ordered by the Government to leave Iraq because of their reporting prison protests.  He had urged the Government to allow them to stay in the country.  Concerning the humanitarian consequences of the international embargo against Iraq, he reiterated that more funds must be allocated to key sectors like health and nutrition. 


Iraq must fully comply with all Security Council resolutions to bring the embargo to an end, he said.  That was the only way to alleviate the plight of the Iraqi people.  This included allowing inspectors to investigate the issue of weapons of mass destruction. 


The representative of Iraq responded to Mr. Mavrommatis saying that Iraq was dealing positively with all United Nations human rights mechanisms; had received the visit of the Special Rappoteur; and had provided him with assistance.  However, he stressed that the Special Rapporteur had not given enough importance to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.  More than 1.7 million Iraqis had died as a result of the sanctions.  He advised the Special Rapporteur to use a legal and humanitarian approach vis-à-vis the British and American aggression and their violation of Iraqi peoples’ right to life, security, health, food and development.


John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said he accepted that Israel had legitimate security concerns with waves of suicide-bombers inflicting deep wounds on Israeli society.  Israel had both the right and obligation to protect its


people from further attacks.  At the same time, did the measures resorted to by Israel –- particularly curfew and closures –- always serve a security need?  Or were they so disproportionate that one wondered whether or not they were designed to punish, humiliate and subjugate the Palestinian people?


The humanitarian crisis caused by Operation Defensive Shield last March and April, Operation Determined Path in June, and subsequent military operations in the West Bank and Gaza were well known.  Lives had been lost, livelihoods destroyed and the social, political and economic fabric of Palestinian society had been damaged –- possibly beyond repair.  He said that 22 per cent of children under the age of five suffered from acute or chronic malnutrition, as well as mental health problems.  Surely the time had come for concerted action on the part of the international community to take steps to protect children in the region.  Failure to do so was a recipe for disaster in the future. 


The representative of Israel expressed dismay at the Committee’s annual ritual of vilification of Israel in the form of the report just presented.  He recalled that just yesterday the United Nations High Commissioner had told the Committee that there was never an excuse or occasion to condone terrorism.  The report seemed to suggest quite the opposite and seemed to support or promote Palestinian intransigence.  The report was replete with attempts to justify Palestinian acts of terror.  In doing so, it was giving license for the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians. 


The Observer of Palestine warmly welcomed the report by Mr. Dugard and expressed the delegation’s deep appreciation.  The report gave a comprehensive and full account of the situation of the people in the Palestinian occupied territories as a result of the continued Israeli occupation.  The Observer would not get into specifics at this time but would make a full statement during the general debate on this item.  She said, however, that because of the Rapporteur’s first-hand visits, he had been able to get a true picture of the situation on the ground.  Those visits had reiterated that the fact remained that if there were no occupation, there would be peace in the region.  


After its deafening silence during the Khmer Rouge era and a period of indifference thereafter, the international community had become strongly involved in Cambodia, said Peter Leuprecht, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, as he introduced his report.  To accompany this country on its way from an atrocious past to a brighter future -- from murderous violence to peace and harmony -- must be the main objective of the international community.  It was his firm and strong hope that the Secretary-General would be given a mandate to resume negotiations with the Cambodian Government on the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal. 


He stressed that Cambodia actually provided a telling example of the factual indivisibility of human rights.  Whatever human rights issue he had addressed, he had been confronted with fundamental crosscutting problems and challenges such as poverty, violence, corruption and lawlessness.  The first local elections were held in Cambodia last February, and the general elections were scheduled for

27 July 2003.  He said donors must continue and intensify their aid to Cambodia and make sure that their aid really benefited the people, particularly


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the poorest among them.  The Government must also understand that aid was a partnership and that donors expected, and were entitled, to see results. 


Responding to the Special Representative, the representative of Cambodia said his country was moving towards enhancing a democratic society with an improved record of respect for human rights.  In spite of encouraging signs, much remained to be done.  Poverty alleviation, food security and housing, and meeting the basic needs of vulnerable groups remained the top priorities.  He was disappointed that a draft resolution on Cambodia was being presented this year since several paragraphs were outdated and contained provisions which were no longer true. 


As the Committee began its work this afternoon, the representatives of Iceland, Mexico, Canada, United States, Venezuela (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) and Egypt, respectively, introduced draft resolution on torture or other degrading treatment, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, implementation and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. 


Also participating in the interactive dialogue this afternoon were representatives of the following countries:  Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Libya, Kuwait, Canada, Cuba, Switzerland, Syria, Egypt, Japan, the United States, and Viet Nam. 


The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its dialogue with human rights experts.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its dialogue with human rights experts.  It is expected to hear presentations from and hold dialogues with Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq; John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories; and Peter Leuprecht, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia. 


Facilitating the discussion, the following reports will be before the Committee. 


There is a note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Iraq (document A/57/325) which contains the interim report prepared by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Iraq.  Covering the period 21 February to 4 July 2002, the report takes into account various comments submitted in writing and orally by the Government of Iraq, including the response to previous recommendations and suggestions by the Special Rapporteur, as well as other communications. 


The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that a dialogue has been initiated with the Government of Iraq and urges the Government to provide detailed replies to outstanding requests for information and to reply to all letters concerning individual cases.  The Government is also urged to provide all additional information requested regarding the right to life and the death penalty.  The Special Rapporteur urges the Government to abolish the special courts, and ensure that the rule of law is respected everywhere and at all times in Iraq, in accordance with Iraq’s freely undertaken obligations under international human rights instruments.


There is also a note by the Secretary-General on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (document A/57/366) which contains the report of John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  The report concludes that the occupied Palestinian territory is a testing ground for human rights and humanitarian law.  The great advances in these two bodies of law are undermined by a situation in which human rights and humanitarian law are denied and disregarded with no meaningful response from the international community.  The rule of law is one casualty of the conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory, but the main casualties are the people of Palestine and Israel. 


There is an addendum to the report (document A/57/366/Add.1) which relates the visit of the Special Rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel from 25 to 30 August 2002.  The addendum provides information on security and human rights; curfews, closures and their consequences; detentions; collective punishment; children; settlements; and the paradox of humanitarian assistance.  


Finally, there is a note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Cambodia (document A/57/230) which contains the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia.  The Special Representative has conducted six official missions to Cambodia since his appointment in August 2000.  The report builds upon his previous reports, and it notes that many of the problems highlighted in the reports of this and previous Special Representatives continue to afflict Cambodian society. 


The report discusses major developments and human rights issues of concern with regard to judicial reform, mob killings, the Khmer Rouge tribunal, election violence and intimidation, Montagnard asylum seekers from Viet Nam, housing, land and the right to education.  The Special Representative offers recommendations on the above mentioned issues; however the overall message is that improvement of the overall situation requires a global strategy and strong political will. 


The interests of the people must come first and their suffering must be alleviated.  Furthermore, donors must make sure that the aid they grant really benefits the people and, in the first place, the poorest among them.  The Government must understand that aid is a partnership and that donors expect, and are entitled to see results. 


The Committee will also hear the introduction of several draft resolutions on items related to human rights instruments, the follow-up to the Durban Conference on Racism, and self-determination.


Before delegations will be a draft text on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/C.3/57/L.34), which would have the Assembly call upon all States resolutely to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia, and call upon those that have not yet done so to consider including in their legislation racism and xenophobic motivation as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing.  States would also be called upon to review and revise, where necessary, their immigration laws and policies and practices so that they were free of racial discrimination.


On the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the text would have the Assembly urge States that have not yet done so to accede to or ratify the International Convention as a matter of urgency, with a view to universal ratification by the year 2005. 


Concerning the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the text would have the Assembly call upon States to formulate and implement without delay at the national, regional and international levels policies and plans of action to combat racism and would decide to proclaim 2004 the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. 


Concerning the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, and Coordination of activities, the text would have the Assembly call upon Member States, United Nations bodies and relevant intergovernmental agencies, to contribute fully to the effective implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade.  As for the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, the draft would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the necessary human and financial resources to carry out his mandate efficiently. 


Also being introduced is a draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/57/L.35) which would have the Assembly reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine and urge all States and the specialized agencies and organisations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination. 


A draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/57/L.36) would have the Assembly urge governments to take effective measures to provide redress and to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including their gender-based manifestations.  States would be called by the Assembly to take appropriate effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and prohibit the production, trade, export and use of equipment that is specifically designed to inflict torture. 


The text would also have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to ensure, within the overall budgetary framework of the United Nations, the provision of adequate staff and facilities for the bodies and mechanisms involved in combating torture and assisting victims of torture, commensurate with the strong support expressed by Member States for combating torture and assisting victims of torture.  


Also before the Committee is a draft resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (A/C.3/57/L.37) which would have the Assembly call upon Member States that have not yet ratified the Convention to consider urgently signing and ratifying or acceding to it.  The text would also have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to make all necessary provisions for the timely establishment of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as soon as the Convention enters into force.


Under the terms of a draft resolution on the effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights (document A/C.3/57/L.38), the Assembly would call upon the Office of the High Commissioner to enhance awareness of the availability of technical assistance for States parties and urge States parties to make every effort to meet their reporting obligations.  The text would also have the Assembly urge each State party, whose report had been examined by a human rights treaty body, to translate, publish and make available in its territory the full text of the concluding observations and comments of the treaty body on its report and to provide adequate follow-up to those observation.


Introduction of Drafts


The Committee began its work this afternoon by hearing the introduction of five draft resolutions.


The representative of Iceland introduced a draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/57/L.36).


Next, the representative of Mexico introduced a draft resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (A/C.3/57/L.37).


The draft text on the effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights (document A/C.3/57/L.38), was introduced by the representative of Canada, who added a small technical correction.


The representative of the United States then introduced an amendment to a draft resolution on the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/C.3/57/L.30), which had been introduced last Friday.  (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3711 of 1 November).


That amendment would replace paragraph 1 of article 25 of the draft optional protocol with the following:


“All expenses for the implementation of the present protocol shall be borne exclusively by States parties.  The States parties alone shall be responsible for reimbursement to the United Nations for any expenses incurred by the United Nations pursuant to paragraph 2 of the article [on the request for the Secretary-General to provide necessary staff and facilities for the effective performance and functions of the Sub-Committee created under the protocol], including use of its staff and facilities.”


The representative of the United States said his country unequivocally condemned the despicable practice of torture and had fought to eliminate it around the world.  At the same time the United States was deeply disappointed by the flawed process that had placed the draft optional protocol on the Committee’s agenda today.  While the Assembly had agreed that new human rights treaties should attract broad international cooperation, the votes at the Human Rights Commission this year showed that there was substantial disagreement on rather than support for that protocol.


The United States opposed the optional protocol on both substantive and financial grounds.  The investigative mechanism it created could not carry out ad hoc or targeted visits of any kind, and permitted only a minimal follow-up visit, therefore raising questions about its overall effectiveness.  The United States could not accept the proposed financing scheme of mandatory assessments on all Member States.


The United States wholeheartedly agreed with those who argued that the protection of human rights should not be dictated by finances.  Because it abhorred the practice of torture, the United States sought the strongest means to end that terrible practice.  The draft optional protocol did not accomplish that. Indeed, the United States believed that instrument represented a potential diversion of resources from the work of more results-oriented bodies, including the Committee on Torture itself.


The representative of Japan said his delegation supported the United States' amendment and believed it was not an attempt to curb developing countries from ratifying or acceding to the optional protocol.  Japan's concerns centred on lack of due process during the negotiation process.  With that in mind, it was therefore unfair to assess the operational specificities of the draft protocol to all Member States.


The representative of Denmark said the European Union could not support the draft amendment.  That delegation would not participate in attempts to set a price on the fight against torture.  All human rights treaty bodies were funded through the United Nations regular budget, and the optional protocol to the torture convention should likewise be supported.


Following that, the representative of Venezuela introduced a draft text on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/C.3/57/L.34), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.


The representative of Egypt then introduced the final draft before the Committee today on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/57/L.35) which he said was a text calling for peace.  He hoped the draft resolution would send the message to the international community that it was time for peace to reign over the land of Palestine.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Iraq


ANDREAS MAVROMMATIS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, introduced his third interim report and welcomed the recent decree of the Revolutionary Command Council signed by President Saddam Hussein on 20 October, granting a general amnesty for all prisoners, including political prisoners with certain exceptions.  One had only to set foot in Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad to apprehend the elation of both inmates and their families for even one day’s release from their appalling detention conditions. 


From the outset, he had requested the Government to give him full details of the number of inmates released and of those who did not have the benefit of amnesty.  The main reason for having requested this information was reference in the media about demonstrators seeking information on their relatives, as well as past information about involuntary disappearances, extra-judicial executions and detentions without trials.  On 24 October, information had been received that a number of journalists had been ordered by the Government to leave Iraq because of their reporting prison protests.  He urged the Government of Iraq to allow them to stay in the country. 


Referring to the unintended humanitarian consequences of the international embargo against Iraq, he said it appeared that in most sectors, there had been certain improvements.  He reiterated that more funds must be allocated to such key sectors as health and nutrition, ensuring that the period between the placing of orders and delivery was abridged.  Furthermore, he urged all concerned to considerably reduce the number of applications on hold.  The Government of Iraq must fully comply with all Security Council resolutions as the only way to alleviate the plight of the Iraqi people and bring the embargo to an end.  This included the question of the inspectors to investigate the issue of weapons of mass destruction. 


His visit to Iraq last February had paved the way for future cooperation.  As indicated in his interim report to the General Assembly, he had limited himself to briefly considering mainly the following issues:  the list of crimes that currently carried the death penalty; the list of executions carried out in Iraq during 2000 and 2001; the prison conditions and reform; the decree allowing the changing of ethnicity to an Arab one, thus incorporating the possibility of discrimination; “Arabization”; and the decree dealing with the naming of mainly Christian children.  Although he had received a number of explanations while in Iraq, he felt that several of these questions still required much more thorough consideration.  While recognizing that a more confident dialogue had been initiated with the Iraqi authorities, much remained to be done. 


During his visit, he had received allegations about religious persecution in Iraq as well as information and allegations on extra-judicial killings, torture, and secret detention places.  He emphasized that, to his regret, no progress had been registered in the last few months on the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners of war and persons unaccounted for.  This was the time for the Government of Iraq to act decisively on the issue of the missing and to resolve this humanitarian problem. 


Before concluding, he urged the Iraqi Government to provide him with all additional information requested in relation to the death penalty; to implement a moratorium on executions; to put an end to actions and policies which directly or indirectly affected or encouraged religious intolerance; to abolish the special courts; and ensure that all legislation, decrees and practices were consistent with Iraq’s freely undertaken obligations under international human rights instruments. 


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Iraq


Following the presentation of the Special Rapporteur, there was an interactive dialogue segment, where the representative of Iraq stressed that Iraq had been dealing positively with all United Nations human rights mechanisms, which was why Iraq had received the visit of the Special Rappoteur and provided him with assistance.  Currently, the dates of the next visit were being decided.  The positive relationship between Iraq and the Special Rapporteur implied the genuine interest of Iraq in human rights. 


Concerning the report, he said that the Special Rapporteur had made weak descriptions of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq when more than 1.7 million Iraqis had died as a result of the sanctions.  He requested the Special Rapporteur to study the sanctions, particularly the statement made by former United States Secretary of State Madelaine Albright when she suggested that the death of

800,000 Iraqi children was acceptable. 


Iraq was revising its laws to foster the foundations of fundamental freedoms, and he regretted that these developments had not found their place in the report.  The Government of Iraq, while appreciating the establishing of international norms for the good of society, regretted that States constantly violated these norms and exercised selectivity and double standards.  The Special Rapporteur must approach the crisis in Iraq from a legal and humanitarian position vis-à-vis the British and American aggression and their violation of Iraqi peoples’ right to life, security, health, food and development. 


The representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Union, asked what the objective of the second mission to Iraq would be and whether there been any explanation from the Government of Iraq as to the lack of information provided.  Finally, he asked what the justification was for the existence of special courts.


The representative of Libya said the humanitarian crisis had been insufficiently covered as well as the use of depleted uranium.  He was surprised about comments on discrimination on religious grounds since during Iraq’s history, it had been tolerant of religious minorities.  Regrettably, the Special Rapporteur stated that enough information had not been received and that some of the information had been in Arabic.  He stressed that Arabic was a United Nations language.


The representative of Kuwait stressed that the situation of human rights in Iraq was still deteriorating, and there had been no progress concerning Kuwaiti prisoners.  In Kuwait, there had been positive expectations from the visit in the hope that Kuwaiti prisoners would be on the agenda.  Kuwait had also hoped that the Iraqi Government’s general amnesty would have included the Kuwaiti prisoners.  As usual the results had been disappointing.  He added that it was a source of concern that Iraq refused to cooperate with international resolutions to do with Kuwaiti prisoners of war.


The representative of Canada asked about the range and types of visits intended by the Special Rapporteur and how he saw the dialogue with the Government progressing.  What would be the impact of conflict on the humanitarian situation? he asked. 


The representative of Cuba said asked for elaboration on the effects of the sanctions on the situation of human rights in Iraq.


The representative of Switzerland asked with regard to the general amnesty, whether the Special Rapporteur intended to ensure that the people who were freed were still free today?


ANDREAS MAVROMMATIS, Special Rapporteur, responding to the questions, said the report was to be read along with his report already presented to the Commission.  In doing his job, he had consistently had in mind his mandate.  Although issues such as the humanitarian effects of sanctions were not in his mandate, he had tried to keep a broad spectrum in order to avoid examining things in a vacuum.  He had looked into depleted uranium and was still looking into it; however there were still conflicting reports. 


Concerning the general amnesty, he said he had asked for full information concerning the people released and the people not released.  He never said anything about Arabic, even though it was true, that unfortunately he could not speak Arabic, and sometimes some of the documents had not reached him in time.  Continuing the cooperation and progress with the Government of Iraq was very important to the Special Rapporteur. 


His second visit would be the main visit and would cover the whole spectrum of human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural rights.  There were guidelines as to how the investigation would be formed, and he did not envisage any difficulty in achieving Iraqi cooperation. 


Concerning the special courts, he stressed that they were not only not useful, but their very existence raised suspicion.  The Government of Iraq was urged to abolish them.  He would continue looking into issues of religious intolerance when he received more information, and he offered his assistance to overcome some of the practical difficulties regarding the Kuwaiti prisoners of war.


The political and humanitarian dimensions of a conflict with Iraq would be considered before deciding the dates of the visit.  He stressed that everyone hoped that this matter would be resolved without a nose-bleeding; however, it was for Iraq to comply with Security Council resolution.  The Iraqi people had suffered considerably, and he did not want to see them suffer any more.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Territories


JOHN DUGRAD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said he had visited the occupied territories twice in 2002:  in February and late August.  His report to the Committee would address only security and human rights, the humanitarian crisis, settlements and self-determination, and the treatment of children.  At the outset, he accepted that Israel had very real and legitimate security concerns.  Waves of suicide bombers had inflicted very deep wounds on Israeli society.  Israel had both the right and the obligation to protect its people from further attacks.  He also stressed that suicide bombings violated the rights to life, one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law.  Israel could not therefore be faulted for requesting the Palestinian Authority to take all steps to prevent such actions and to punish those responsible.


At the same time, it was necessary to ask whether the measures resorted to by Israel -- particularly curfews and closures -- always served a security need.  Often Israel's measures appeared so disproportionate, so remote from the interests of security, that one was led to wonder whether or not they were designed to punish, humiliate and subjugate the Palestinian people.  Israel's legitimate security needs must be balanced against the legitimate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.  To Mr. Dugard, there appeared to be no such balance.  Human rights had been sacrificed to security.  And that in turn had led to a greater threat to Israeli security -- the hopelessness and despair which led inexorably to suicide bombings and other acts of violence against Israelis.


The humanitarian crisis caused by Operation Defensive Shield last March and April, and Operation Determined Path in June, and the subsequent military operations in the West Bank and Gaza were well known.  Lives had been lost; livelihoods destroyed; and the social, political and economic fabric of Palestinian society had been damaged -- possibly beyond repair.  Over 50 per cent of the population in the territories was unemployed, and some 1.8 million Palestinians received food aid.  He said that 22 percent of children under the age of five suffered from acute or chronic malnutrition.  Mental health problems had also increased among many children.  Health care had suffered drastically , and as could be expected, the situation in the refugee camps was particularly bleak.


The gravity of the situation was indisputable, as was the need for humanitarian assistance on a massive scale.  If that was not forthcoming, the Palestinian people would suffer irreparable harm.  He would endorse and add his own voice to those that had called for humanitarian assistance from the international community.  At the same time, it must be made clear that by providing such assistance the international community relieved Israel of its burden of providing assistance in kind, and its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Such assistance might even be seen as contributing to the funding of the occupation in a way.


He said settlements constituted a serious violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the tenets of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He added that the settlements and their bypass roads and buffer systems had fragmented both land and people and had negatively affected the prospects for self-determination of Palestinians living in those areas.  They also foreclosed the possibility of a Palestinian State, as they destroyed Palestinian territorial integrity.  The determination of Israel to maintain and to expand such settlements was increasingly seen as a serious threat to a two-State solution to the conflict.  Overall, the basic freedoms of the Palestinian people to movement and to a decent living were sacrificed in the interest of security and the comfort of an alien settler community.  The anger and humiliation that that situation had engendered in Palestinians was impossible to assess.


Children had suffered greatly as a result of the military incursions into Palestinian territories.  Many had been killed, and some 350 were reportedly being held in detention.  Over 2,000 had been rendered homeless; over 200,000 children

-- and some 9,000 teachers -- were unable to reach their classrooms; and over

500 schools had been shuttered due to Israeli military closures or curfews.  In his report to the Commission on Human Rights last March, he had called on Israel to conduct a full investigation into the treatment of Palestinian children in detention -- treatment which had been alleged to involve degrading or inhumane punishment or torture.  Amnesty international had recently made a wider call for an investigation into the treatment of both Israeli and Palestinian children.  Surely the time had come for concerted action on the part of the international community to take steps to protect children in the region.  Failure to do so was a recipe for disaster in the future.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur


Opening the dialogue was the representative of Israel, who said his delegation welcomed paragraph two of Mr. Dugard's statement.  Sadly, however, it was very regretful that it had not been included in the report itself.  He expressed dismay at the Committee's annual ritual of vilification of the State of Israel in the form of the report just presented.  He recalled that just yesterday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had told the Committee that there was never an excuse or occasion to condone terrorism.


The report before the Committee seemed to suggest quite the opposite.  It was biased and would not serve the cause of human rights.  Instead, it seemed to support or promote Palestinian intransigence.  The report was replete with attempts to justify Palestinian acts of terror rather than to address the decision of the Palestinian Authority to turn away from legitimate attempts at negotiation and dialogue.  In so doing, the report was giving license for the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians.


Even more troubling than the Special Rapporteur's distorted descriptions of the situation were the prescriptions he offered to remedy it.  That prescription would have an adverse effect on the situation on the ground.  In a period when all were calling for an end to violence, and the classification of suicide bombings as a crime against humanity, the Special Rapporteur had chosen to highlight the irrelevance of his mandate by refusing to address either issue resolutely or truthfully.  Sadly, neither his factual distortions nor his political editorializing would promote the notion that only dialogue and negotiation would bring and end to the conflict.  The report did not advance the cause of human rights or the cause of peace.  It would only enforce the Palestinian will to reject Israeli legitimacy and to claim more innocent Israeli lives.


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that her delegation was facing increasing difficulties in providing humanitarian assistance in the occupied territories and had repeatedly called on Israel to address that situation.  What was the Special Rapporteur's assessment of that situation, as well as other Israeli anti-terrorist measures?


The Observer of Palestine warmly welcomed the report and expressed her delegation's deep appreciation for the work of the Special Rapporteur.  The report gave a comprehensive and full account of the situation of the people in the Palestinian occupied territories as a result of the continued Israeli occupation.  She would not get into specifics at this time but would make a full statement during the general debate on this item.  She said, however, that because of the Rapporteur's first-hand visits, he had been able to get a true picture of the situation on the ground.  Those visits had reiterated that the fact remained that if there were no occupation, there would be peace in the region.


The representative of Syria said most of the paragraphs in the report did indeed reflect the situation as it existed today -- a catastrophic and continuous violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people.  The only reason that situation existed was because of the continued Israeli occupation.


The representative of Egypt affirmed the Special Rapporteur's assessment that sacrificing Palestinian human rights to security concerns would only lead to more violence.


The representative of Libya agreed that there was no balance between Palestinian humanitarian concerns and the Israeli's security concerns.  He added that the settlements were illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Responding, Mr. DUGARD said it had been his impression that the Israeli authorities did allow humanitarian assistance to reach the parties concerned, although problems tended to arise as such goods were inspected for security reasons.  As for the erection of security fences, he said he would rather refer to it as a "wall", since it made the old Berlin Wall look small by comparison.  He did not believe that building a wall was a substitute for negotiation and dialogue between the two sides.


As for restructuring his mandate, he said the situation in the territories had changed drastically over the years with much less control being exercised by the Palestinian Authority and much more being exercised by the Israeli side.  He believed that in the present context, the emphasis should be on violations of humanitarian law committed by the occupying power.  On the proposed withdrawal of citizenship of Arab-Israeli's, he recalled the similarities of such initiatives to activities undertaken by the apartheid regime in South Africa some 20 years ago, and hoped Israel would not resort to such tactics.


To Israel, he said it was difficult to deal with accusations the delegation had made.  He drew Israel’s attention to the fact that paragraph two of his statement would appear in the addendum to his report.  He said there was a real need for dialogue between Israel and the international community on the subject of terrorism and human rights violations flowing from the occupation.  Clearly, the Committee was not the appropriate body.  There was perhaps a smaller forum that could handle the task.  This was a situation where the Israeli Government saw itself under threat and subsequently resorted to specific measures to protect itself.  On the other side, the Palestinian side, there was the hopelessness and despair that drove people to resort to violence.


For himself, having witnessed violation of human rights and deplorable humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories, he could not take the view that the overall difficulties were unrelated to occupation.  Why would a young boy or girl strap explosives and blow him or herself up?  Was it because of hatred of Israel or over despair for their future.  He appealed to the Israeli delegate, "with tears in his eyes" to ask himself why young Palestinian children would commit such acts.  He reiterated his hope for an open dialogue within the United Nations on the matter.


Statement by Special Representative for Cambodia


PETER LEUPRECHT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, introduced his report and said after its deafening silence during the Khmer Rouge era and a period of indifference thereafter, the international community had become and remained strongly involved in Cambodia.  To accompany this country on its way from an atrocious past to a brighter future, from murderous violence to peace and harmony, must be the main objective of the international community.  To progress on this road, Cambodia would have to come to terms with its past.  It was his firm and strong hope that the Secretary-General would be given a mandate to resume negotiations with the Cambodian Government on the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal. 


He stressed that Cambodia actually provided a telling example of the factual indivisibility of human rights.  Whatever human rights issue one addressed, one was confronted with fundamental cross-cutting problems and challenges such as poverty, violence, corruption and lawlessness.  Without judicial reform it would be difficult or even impossible to put an end to impunity.  The law must be enforced for all, whether rich or poor, whether powerful or weak.  Overall progress in the area of judicial reform had been slow, in spite of some positive developments such as the creation of a school for training judges and prosecutors.  He added that landlessness, land grabbing and involuntary relocation heavily affected Cambodia’s poor, contributing to a further widening of the wealth gap. 


Trafficking in human beings was flourishing in a context of poor law enforcement and corruption -- a problem by no means limited to Cambodia.  In South-East Asia, every year more than 200,000 women and children were “trafficked”.  Never in his life would he forget the sad faces of six-, seven- or eight-year-old girls who had fallen victim to human trafficking and sexual exploitation who had found refuge through a non-governmental organization refuge.  He stressed that education was an essential key to Cambodia’s future and that equal access must be ensured for all children and young people. 


The first local elections had been held in Cambodia last February and the general elections were scheduled for 27 July 2003.  State institutions and those representing them, including law enforcement officials, must show proper neutrality, he said.  Equal access to the media, including radio and television, must be ensured for all political parties.  In conclusion, he said donors must continue and intensify their aid to Cambodia and make sure that their aid really benefited the people, particularly the poorest among them.  The Government must, in return, understand that aid was a partnership and that donors expected to -- and were entitled –- to see results. 


Dialogue with Special Representative for Cambodia


Following the Special Representative’s presentation, the Committee held its last interactive dialogue of the day. 


The representative of Cambodia said Cambodia was rapidly moving forward towards enhancing a democratic society with an improved record of respect for human rights, human dignity and freedom.  A success was the first-ever local election of 3 February, which signified a political milestone in Cambodia for the democratization process at the grass-roots level.  In spite of these encouraging signs, much remained to be done.  Poverty alleviation, the provision of food security and housing, and meeting the basic needs of vulnerable groups remained the top priority for Cambodia at this juncture. 


He addressed specific parts of the report and informed the Committee on improvements in the field of judicial reform, mob killing incidents, the Khmer Roughe Tribunal, election violence and intimidation, housing, land and the right to education. 


The representative of Cambodia was disappointed that a draft resolution was being presented this year again since several paragraphs were not only outdated but contained provisions which were no longer true.  He regretted that in many cases, the comments of some co-sponsors of the resolutions lacked fair appreciation or judgement of the positive achievements of Cambodia. 


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked about the problems of the judiciary in Cambodia and whether there had been any major reforms since his last visit.  What did he think should be the priority for donors and the Government to secure change?  She also wondered what he thought must be done to make a United Nations tribunal in Cambodia a reality.  How did he see the position of the Montagnard asylum seekers in Cambodia?


The representative of Japan was pleased to continue to work closely with the Special Representative in Cambodia.  The overall human rights situation was moving in the right direction.  She asked whether the international community could help Cambodia in upcoming general elections.  She added that the past of the Khmer Rouge must be addressed, and the international community had a responsibility to deal with this issue.


PETER LEUPRECHT, Special Representative, responded to comments and said he had dealt with issues such as poverty, particularly with economic, social and cultural rights, since he believed in the links between human rights and poverty.  He stressed that the number of mob killings had considerably decreased.  Technically speaking, the elections had been properly conducted.  However no equal access had been given to political parties to radio and television.  This situation must change.


Concerning the judiciary, he said the solution of this question was essential for Cambodia’s future development.  He hoped there would be progress, and at the last meeting of donors benchmarks had been agreed upon.  Unfortunately, they had not been met to date.  Better coordination among donors could not do any harm. 


On the topic of a Khmer Rouge Tribunal, he said that it was his profound belief that the people of Cambodia wanted to know the truth and justice to be

done.  He hoped this would be a credible process.  The involvement of the United Nations would help make it a credible process. 


Concerning the Montagnard asylum seekers, unfortunately there had been little improvement.  It seemed that quite a number of people were hiding in the forest and could no longer reach the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camps.  There also seemed to have been threats to people who had in the past helped the Montagnards. 


He added that in relation to the election, the international community could do a lot, not just during the election, but before the election.  The independence of the election commission was essential, but it was extremely difficult to have anything independent in Cambodia.  He was committed to Cambodia, and since he had accepted his mandate, his attachment and sympathy for the country was steadily growing.  All he wanted to do was to help. 


The representative of the United States said he appreciated the excellent report of the Special Representative.  Future work would most likely focus on the five areas covered in his statement, perhaps focusing on the judiciary.  The United States supported the establishment of a Khmer Rouge Tribunal.


The representative of Viet Nam clarified the position of Viet Nam on the Montagnard asylum seekers.  He wanted to make it clear that they were not refugees but people who had illegally crossed the border.  International cooperation was needed to repatriate these people to their country of origin.  They crossed the border for reasons related to the underdevelopment of this area and because they were deceived by false expectation by certain external factors.  Viet Nam’s policy was not to prosecute these people, but to repatriate them in accordance with their safety and human dignity.  The policy was to assist them in reintegrating into their community. 


PETER LEUPRECHT, Special Representative, thanked speakers for their support and said he would pursue further the five points mentioned today, however, he was also very interested in economic, social and cultural rights.  Concerning the Montagnard issue, he said that in the present state of affairs, they were deprived of the possibility of having their status determined.  He recalled that the fundamental principle of the refugee convention was that of non-refoulement and added that repatriation must be voluntary repatriation. 


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For information media. Not an official record.