Summary record of the 36th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 5 November 2002, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: ……………………………………… Mr. Wenaweser (Liechtenstein)
Agenda item 108: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued)
Agenda item 109: Human rights questions
(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued )
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued)
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
Agenda item 108: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued ) (A/C.3/57/L.35)
Draft resolution A/C.3/57/L.35: The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
13. Mr. Roshdy (Egypt), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the sponsors, announced that the delegations of Afghanistan, Chile, Ecuador, Liberia, Mali, Namibia, Norway, Somalia, Suriname and Ukraine wished to add their names to the list of sponsors. The draft resolution reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and an independent State and recognized the need for negotiations to achieve peace in the Middle East. He hoped that the adoption of the draft resolution would be an indication of the international community’s will to ensure that Israel met its international commitments and ended its illegal occupation and would pave the way for all the peoples of the region to live in peace within secure frontiers.
Agenda item 109: Human rights questions
(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued ) (A/57/134, 138, 140, 182, 205 and Add.1, 274, 275, 277, 283, 311 and Add.1, 323, 356, 357, 369, 371, 384, 385, 394, 446 and 484)
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued ) (A/57/230, 284, 290 and Corr.1, 292, 309, 325, 326, 345, 349, 366 and Add.1 and 433; A/C.3/57/5)
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (continued) (A/57/36, 446)
37. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), introducing his report contained in document A/57/366 and Add.1, said that the report was based on two visits to the occupied Palestinian territory in 2002 and would focus on the following issues: security and human rights, the humanitarian crisis, settlements and self-determination and the treatment of children. He accepted that Israel had very real and legitimate security concerns. Waves of suicide bombers had inflicted deep wounds on Israeli society, and the Government had both a right and an obligation to protect its people from further attacks. It should also be stressed that suicide bombings violated the right to life and the most basic principle of international humanitarian law — the duty to distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants. Israel could not therefore be faulted for demanding that the Palestinian Authority should take all necessary steps to prevent suicide bombings and to punish those responsible.
38. At the same time, it must be asked whether the measures resorted to by Israel in response always served a security need. They were often so disproportionate that they seemed in part 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. It appeared to him that human rights had been sacrificed to security, which in turn produced a greater threat to Israeli security: the hopelessness which lead inexorably to suicide bombings and other acts of violence against Israelis.
39. The humanitarian crisis caused by military operations in the West Bank and Gaza had damaged the social, political and economic fabric of Palestinian society, possibly beyond repair. Curfews and denial of access by villagers to the cities had resulted in unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and illness. Poverty rates, based on consumption of $2 or less a day, had reached 84 per cent in Gaza and 57 per cent in the West Bank. Humanitarian assistance was needed on a massive scale, but at the same time some in the international donor community felt that providing aid relieved Israel of the burden of providing such assistance itself and in that way might be seen as contributing to the funding of the occupation. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Israel itself was obliged to ensure that the Palestinian people had food and medical supplies, to maintain medical services and to facilitate the operation of educational institutions.
40. That settlements constituted a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention was fully recognized by the international community, but their impact on the prospects for Palestinian self-determination and human rights was not sufficiently recognized. They foreclosed the possibility of a Palestinian State as they destroyed the territorial integrity of Palestine. The determination of Israel to maintain and expand its settlements was increasingly seen as a threat to a two-State solution, which held disastrous implications for Israel.
41. The security threat to Israel was generally portrayed as the reason for the closures and checkpoints that had created the humanitarian crisis, but the role of settlements should not be overlooked. Settlements were linked to each other and to Israel by settlers-only roads, and Palestinian roads that crossed them were sealed off, often compelling villagers to make lengthy detours to reach markets, shops, employment, schools and hospitals. The freedom of movement and the right of Palestinians to a decent livelihood were therefore sacrificed to the security and comfort of the settler community. Israel had declared that it had limited its settlement expansion to “natural growth”, but their population had grown by 5.6 per cent annually, and they were expanding physically by means of outposts that extended their territory.
42. Children had suffered greatly as a result of military incursions into Palestinian territory, curfews and closures, as detailed in paragraph 10 of A/57/366/Add.1. In his report to the Human Rights Commission, he had called on Israel to conduct a full investigation into the treatment of Palestinian children in detention, which, at the least, was alleged to constitute inhumane and degrading treatment, and, at most, torture. There had been no response to that call. 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 future disaster.
43. Mr. Tamir (Israel) said that his delegation was dismayed at the annual ritual of vilification of the State of Israel in the form of the report just presented. The report was inherently biased, rife with observations of a political nature and entirely counterproductive. It would not serve to advance human rights, or to alleviate the situation of the Palestinian people. It amounted to an endorsement of Palestinian intransigence and the shortsighted political decision to forego dialogue and negotiation in favour of a campaign of violence and terrorism.
44. The report gave the impression that measures taken by Israel to protect civilian lives were more serious violations of international law than the atrocities of the terrorists. By far the most irresponsible aspect of the report was its repeated attempts to justify acts of terror. It asserted that the violation of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza had produced acts of terrorism in Israel, yet Palestinian terrorism against Jews even predated the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
45. The Special Rapporteur’s prescriptions to remedy the situation were no less troubling. Israel was facing attacks from groups dedicated to its total destruction, yet his advice was that promotion and protection of human rights was the most effective method of combating terrorism. Every humanitarian gesture was rejected and abused by terrorists bent on the destruction of any peace process and the murder of innocent civilians. The use of ambulances to transport terrorists and weapons and arms smuggling during the lifting of closures should be condemned in the most severe terms, yet nothing was said.
46. Many in the international community were calling for an end to violence and classifying suicide bombing as a crime against humanity and a war crime, and were placing a high degree of political responsibility for the atrocities on the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, but the Special Rapporteur had once again chosen to demonstrate the irrelevance of his mandate by refusing to acknowledge Palestinian complicity and responsibility. The report as presented did not advance human rights in the territories, nor did it serve the cause of peace. The only thing that had been strengthened had been the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s legitimacy and their determination to claim more innocent lives.
47. Ms. Jepsen (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what might be done to improve access for humanitarian assistance and development programmes to the occupied Palestinian territories. With regard to the settlement policy, she wondered what the human rights consequences would be of the new security fence being constructed. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur had been formulated in 1993, but it might be time to reformulate it to reflect current reality on the ground. The European Union would also like to hear more about new Israeli anti-terrorism measures, such as the withdrawal of citizenship of Arab Israelis.
48. Ms. Barghouti (Observer for Palestine) said that her delegation was grateful for the report, which gave a full accounting of the situation in the occupied territories and the sufferings of the Palestinian people. It also appreciated the visits that the Special Rapporteur had made to Palestine, which had enabled him to reflect the facts of the situation on the ground. When the occupation ended, the violence and suffering would also end.
49. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the report reflected the catastrophic human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, and the Israeli occupation was the main reason for it.
50. Ms. Khalil (Egypt) said that the report reflected the deteriorating situation of the Palestinian people. The sacrifice of human rights to security only led to a greater threat.
51. Mr. Yagob (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that his delegation agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the balance between the security needs of Israel and the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people had been lost. Israeli settlements clearly violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, and were virtually military outposts. The Security Council must take action to end the occupation.
52. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), in reply to Denmark, said that he had not conducted a thorough study of the question, but that to his knowledge, Israel did allow humanitarian assistance to reach the Palestinian people, although it was subjected to security clearance. He had seen the security fence being built between Palestinian territory and Israel, and he did not believe that it was the solution to the problem; negotiation and dialogue would be more useful. It was not likely that the fence would follow the green line, and the result would be a further annexation of Palestinian territory. It was also not clear what would happen to settlements lying within the wall.
53. As for the questions regarding his mandate and some of the criticisms from Israel, in 1993, when the mandate of the Special Rapporteur had been established, the focus had been placed on the Palestinian Authority, but as the Israeli military occupation had intensified, the Authority had less control over events in the territories. Thus, in the current context the emphasis was being placed on violations by the occupying Power. He hoped that the Israeli Government would not resort to the withdrawal of citizenship of Arab Israelis. From his personal experience of such practices in South Africa under apartheid, he believed that such measures should be condemned.
54. In response to the representative of Israel, he said that there was a real need for dialogue between Israel and the international community on terrorism and the human rights violations resulting from the occupation. The Government saw itself as under threat and thus entitled to take all necessary measures to counter that threat. The other side saw the occupation as the source of all evil in the region. In his opinion, it was not possible to take the view that the occupation had nothing to do with the cause of terrorism, as despair for the future made Palestinian young people believe that they had no other choice. He was aware that he would not persuade the Israeli delegation of that view immediately, but he urged them to reflect on what would motivate young people to commit such destructive acts.
The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.
Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.
Document Type: Summary record
Document Sources: Commission on Human Rights, General Assembly, General Assembly Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT
Subject: Agenda Item, Children, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Humanitarian relief, Occupation, Security issues, Self-determination, Settlements
Publication Date: 05/11/2002