Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories – Human Rights Commissioner presents report to Human Rights Council, interactive dialogue – Press release (excerpts)


Press release

Human Rights Council

Information Service

United Nations Office at Geneva



Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner on her Report

23 June 2006

Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, today presented her report to the Human Rights Council, stressing that poverty continued to be the most serious, invidious and widespread human rights violation to be confronted. She said it was poverty and underdevelopment – both in cause and effect – that exacerbated abuse, neglect and discrimination, denying millions the enjoyment of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, and ultimately their right to development.

Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2006/10), the High Commissioner outlines a number of activities undertaken since the sixty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights. In particular, the report focuses on steps taken by the Office of the High Commissioner in response to the Plan of Action released in May 2005. As such, and in line with the strategic vision for future operations, the report highlights activities aimed at strengthening country engagement, forging linkages between human rights and development, fostering partnerships with civil society and within the United Nations system, strengthening the Office’s thematic expertise as well as the efforts dedicated to further empowering rights-holders.

High Commissioner’s Presentation of Her Report

LOUISE ARBOUR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reiterated that poverty continued to be the most serious, invidious and widespread human rights violation to be confronted. For it was poverty and underdevelopment – both in cause and effect – that exacerbated abuse, neglect and discrimination, denying millions the enjoyment of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, and ultimately their right to development. Next to poverty, discrimination constituted another widespread source of disempowerment and of denial of rights, freedom and dignity. The proliferation of acts and expressions contributing to the exacerbation of cultural and religious tensions was producing new cleavages within and between communities, and had recently led to unprecedented levels of violence and destruction, on the ashes of which trust and tolerance now had to be rebuilt. The use of harmful stereotypes and the perpetuation of myths that had demonized, ridiculed or insulted deep-rooted religious feelings and a profound sense of identity, had to be denounced as vigorously as the right to champion unpopular ideas had to be asserted and protected. Of particular concern in recent years had been the increasing challenge to the absolute prohibition on torture that had emerged in the context of counter-terrorism activities. In the face of that reality, the obligation of non-refoulement, which required that no individual be returned to a country where the real risk of torture and ill-treatment was present, could not be seen as a mere legal nicety. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which had entered into force yesterday, was the clearest repudiation of the attempts to erode the protection conferred by the Convention against Torture.

Ms. Arbour said that the willingness of Governments to include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in their efforts to promote and protect human rights should be viewed as the most positive indicator of a Government’s serious commitment to the realization of rights. Equally important was the access granted to special procedures mandate holders. In contrast, closed door policies had to be a source of grave concern. In that context, Ms. Arbour regretted that her Office had been unable to complete a comprehensive assessment of the facts related to the killings of possibly several hundred persons in May 2005 by Uzbek military and security forces in the town of Andijan. Lack of access was also a grave concern with respect to the serious human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In addition, situations of armed conflict, of national emergency, of humanitarian crisis and of occupation raised – inherently – acute human rights concerns. Widespread breaches of human rights standards in Iraq, the marked worsening of the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, the developments since the beginning of 2006 in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the violence in the Sudan and in Somalia, were all cause for such concern.

Interactive Dialogue

WOLFGANG PETRICH (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, …

… The European Union agreed with the High Commissioner’s assessment of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, and supported substantial immediate assistance to the Palestinian people to alleviate the situation there. Finally, the European Union warmly welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. In that regard, the Union wondered what mechanism should the OHCHR provide in establishing national implementation and monitoring mechanisms.

SARALA M. FERNANDO (Sri Lanka) …  The situation in Palestine should be addressed on a priority basis by the Council, and Sri Lanka supported the view expressed by the group of developing countries that it should be the prime issue addressed at this first session. …

NICHOLAS THORNE (United Kingdom) … The situation in Palestine and other occupied territories was also of concern. The United Kingdom called on States to strengthen their cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner.

BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) said that Syria had listened carefully to the statement of the High Commissioner, however it had not heard anything about the most important problem: the killing of people – the problem of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories. The humanitarian issues that the High Commissioner had referred to in her intervention were new ones, whereas the disastrous situation in the Middle East had been going on for decades, and yet she had not referred to at all. For example, the situation in the occupied Golan, where Syrians’ rights were being violated, had not been mentioned at all. Palestine had become a place to train people to become monsters. Twenty-eight civilians had been massacred by the invading forces, who had come from the planet Mars – the new name for the Israeli occupier.

MOHAMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine) expressed concern that the paragraphs of the report concerning Palestine did not mention Israel as an occupying power. In order for Israel to respect the human rights of the people whose lands it was occupying, the international community should continue its pressure. Israel was flagrantly committing human rights violations against the people whose territories were still occupied. The occupying power should totally evacuate the territories it occupied and return to the borders before 1967.

MUSA BURAYZAT (Jordan) said the High Commissioner was to be thanked for her report, which was very balanced. A number of important issues had been referred to, relating to all areas of relevance to human rights, in particular with regards to the victims of human rights violations, and human rights defenders. Jordan was in a strong position to combat poverty, and agreed with the High Commissioner on the consequences of occupation, as that in the Middle East provided huge grounds for human rights violations. A military solution to this conflict could not be found – it had to be a humane solution, as it was a serious cause for concern. Responsibility for violations of human dignity could be found everywhere, and the High Commissioner should continue her efforts to help to find a solution to the situation in the occupied territories.

LOUISE ARBOUR, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that, given time constraints, they would have an opportunity in the course of the Council’s work next week to review with a more detailed view the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). She would be brief here. First, she was very encouraged by the feedback that she had received regarding her concern about extreme poverty, and poverty alleviation in general. She counted on concrete engagements to address that issue. Secondly, she had heard many calls for transparency. It was her wish and hope that delegations would recognize the efforts that had been taken to afford as much transparency as possible with regard to the work of the Council, and she hoped that more frequent meetings and further dialogue would make it clear that her Office was working transparently. She also welcomed the continuing contributions of the donor community, old and new donors, and to make them without specific earmarking, which would greatly help the work of OHCHR.

The High Commissioner reiterated her call for openness on the part of States, which would all now be asked to participate through the universal periodic review system. While she felt that capacity-building had an impact on the ability to enjoy human rights, she did not believe that capacity had anything to do with access, openness, transparency and engagement, and she hoped that they could count that the broadest and widest access would be allowed. In conclusion, Ms. Arbour believed OHCHR should exercise leadership in research and advocacy in human rights protection, and she hoped the Council would be a forum in which they could do that, as well as an important forum for human rights lawmaking.

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For use of information media; not an official record



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