|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
345th Meeting (AM)
Adopting Draft Report, Palestinian Rights Committee Says Progress on Palestinian
Status at United Nations Will Add ‘New Dynamic’ to Stalled Peace Process
Palestine’s Observer Outlines Process Leading to Proposed General Assembly
Resolution on Enhancing Status; Committee Also Briefed by Russell Tribunal Jurors
Progress on Palestinian status at the United Nations would generate a “new dynamic in the peace process” and help safeguard the two-State solution, stressed the Palestinian Rights Committee this morning as it adopted its latest report and heard a briefing on plans to present a resolution to the General Assembly on the matter in the coming months.
By its draft annual report (document A/C.183/2012/CRP.2), the Committee — formally known as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People - made several conclusions and recommendations for action. It expressed concern that, one year after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had submitted the application for full membership in the United Nations, momentum towards the two-State solution - which envisions Israel living peacefully beside a new State of Palestine – “appears to have dissipated”, while other crises competed for international attention.
“The international community needs to maintain its focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, uphold its legal obligations in this regard and present bold initiatives to break the current deadlock,” the Committee says through its report, cautioning against delays that might not merely impede the two-State solution but “usher in a one-State solution with unpredictable consequences. Moreover, with Israel’s continued settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Committee called on the international community to take “serious and concrete action which would compel Israel to stop its illegal settlement activities and genuinely commit to ending its 45-year occupation.”
Further by the report, which was introduced by Rapporteur Christopher Grima ( Malta), the Committee expressed its deep concern about the ongoing violence and gross violations of human rights law and reiterated its condemnation of all, including rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, air strikes on populated areas and settler violence. It called on the Security Council and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to act urgently to guarantee the protection of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The seven-part draft report also expressed the Committee’s support for global campaigns to challenge Israeli impunity and promote the concept of Israeli accountability for its actions towards the Palestinian people, and contained specific chapters on such issues as events in the Occupied Palestinian Territory over the past year, actions taken by the Committee and relevant activities carried out by the Department of Public Information (DPI).
Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, briefed the Committee, describing, in particular, President Abbas’ 27 September address to the General Assembly indicating that a consultation process was under way with both political groups and individual countries, with the view towards enhancing the status of the State of Palestine to a “non-member observer State”.
Arab countries had set up a special ministerial committee for that purpose, comprised of, among others, the Secretary-General of the Arab League and the foreign ministers of Palestine and other countries. The goal, he stressed, was to come to a common understanding on the elements to be contained in a draft resolution that would be put before the Assembly. The consultative exercise would last for approximately one month, he said, after which the resolution itself would be drafted and then put to a vote.
He went on to say that his delegation was in the process of sending letters to the Security Council, the Secretary-General and President of the General Assembly on the latest escalation by Israel against the Palestinian people, particularly in the Gaza Strip. He noted that among other provocations, some 20 Palestinians – mostly women and children - had recently been injured or killed there as a result of strikes by Israel. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had produced an “atlas” containing “vivid” descriptions of such provocations, including settler violence, confiscation of land, checkpoints and others, he said.
On 15 October, he continued, there would be an open debate in the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian Question, in which he urged members of the Committee to participate. He also added that, next month, the fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council would be engaging in consultations with all concerned parties ahead of the presentation of its report in Geneva.
As the floor was opened for comments on the Permanent Observer’s remarks, the representative of Egypt said that the Arab Group encouraged Palestine to take all measures it felt necessary so that it could achieve “the status that suits it” as a Member or non-Member of the United Nations.
Also during the meeting, Committee Chair Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal), described developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since the Committee’s last meeting on 13 August. He said that on 22 August, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, had briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question. Meanwhile, at the end of its summit in Teheran on 31 August, the Non-Aligned Movement had issued statements concerning the Palestinian cause, affirming their lawful right to an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as refugees’ right to return.
Among other developments during the period under review, he said that, on 17 September, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, had briefed the Security Council. That official, noting that yet another deadline set by the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process for reaching a settlement would lapse by year’s end, had expressed the Secretary-General’s hope that the Quartet partners, in consultation with the parties, would look beyond prescriptive timelines to chart a “new, credible political way ahead” in the coming months.
Continuing, Mr. Diallo said that on 24 September, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council had held a debate on the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, during which the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights had highlighted the need to more earnestly pursue accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that were documented by the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission.
Also briefing the Committee today were the members of the Jury on the outcome of the fourth session of the independent Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which was held on 6 and 7 October in New York. Speaking in that capacity were John Dugard, Professor of International Law at Leiden University in Amsterdam and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; Stéphane Hessel, Honorary French Ambassador and renowned philosopher; and Michael Mansfield of the United Kingdom, Queen’s Council, and a prominent English lawyer.
Speaking first, Mr. Mansfield said that one of the main issues considered by the Tribunal was the role of the United Nations, in particular in upholding the rule of law. The Tribunal had reached agreement and drafted an “executive summary” in that regard, he said, which would be finalized and made available within a month’s time.
Briefly summarizing that document – which focused on such specific items as “United States complicity in Israel’s violations of international law” and “the United Nation’s responsibility for the failure to prevent Israel’s violations of international law” – he said that the conclusions found that the Organization must “take all collective measures” to achieve the goals of international peace and security, respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination, and the promotion of human rights for all. The United Nations was, like a State, bound to fulfil its international obligations in good faith. It could not simply “denounce and condemn” Israel’s violations, he stressed; indeed, by its failure to act more strongly, the Organization was itself violating international law.
Mr. Hessel said the Jury’s concern in recent days had been to adhere to the truth of facts and the law. The difficulties encountered by the United Nations stemmed from the fact that, to date, it had been an intergovernmental one, despite the fact that its Charter began with the words “we the peoples”. In fact, the only access of peoples to the United Nations was through their Governments. But enough pressure had not been exerted to compel those Governments to “rise to the challenge” of what was expected of them, as described in the Charter and other international texts.
The world did not “stand immobilized”, he stressed, pointing out that significant movements were under way in many countries around the world, including those that had managed to rid themselves of their tyrants. Those cases reminded the international community that the suffering of the Palestinian people should be taken into account “with more vigour” and with a more profound desire for results.
Mr. Dugard, adding a few comments on the findings of the Jury, underscored the failure of the United Nations to implement the findings of the International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 2004. That opinion had emphasized the illegality of the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and found that the building of settlements there was contrary to international law. “We find it very strange that the United Nations has not paid more attention to this advisory opinion”, he said. The summary expressed the Tribunal’s view that the Quartet should be monitored more closely by the General Assembly, he said; in addition, it found that the conduct of Quartet members was sometimes contrary to the responsibility entrusted to it. There was concern that the General Assembly had not “raised its voice” in that regard, he said.
Mr. Mansour, taking the floor again, echoed the sentiments expressed by the three members of the Russell Tribunal Jury, and added that the Quartet was nearing the “moment of expiration”. It was losing its effectiveness and the justification for the continuation of its presence, he said. He agreed that the United Nations and its Members were not taking the appropriate steps to bring Israel into compliance with international law. In that vein, Palestine wished to send a strong message to Israel that if it did not comply, Palestine would be forced to take the case to the International Criminal Court.
The representatives of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba also expressed support for the findings of the draft executive summary, while the representative of Turkey stressed that its conclusions must be debated in the General Assembly. A representative of the civil society group United States Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation — herself an expert witness at the Russell Tribunal — also made a statement.
In other business, the Chair announced that the General Assembly would take up the Question of Palestine on 29 November – the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People — and that the Committee would reconvene at a date and venue to be announced.
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