29 October 2015
Respecting Human Rights Was ‘Bedrock’ of Development, Experts Tell Third Committee
as Speakers Call to End Impunity over Violations Cited in Country Reports
Seventieth Session, 33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)
Renewed efforts and collective engagement by the international community were needed to ensure accountability for grave violations and to open space for cooperation with States to find remedies, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it held interactive dialogues with experts on the human rights situations in Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 alongside findings presented on education and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Likewise, Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said there was a critical need for accountability for violations suffered by the people of Gaza. Despite 2014 Commission of Inquiry findings ascertaining credible allegations of war crimes on both sides, meaningful accountability was still a distant hope.
During the day-long meeting, special rapporteurs said the accountability track must be pursued with resolve and coherence with a view to ease the general state of suffering of the populations. One concern commonly expressed by the special rapporteurs was the lack of cooperation by concerned Governments, which had challenged the fulfilment of their mandates. Engaging with mandate holders would demonstrate those Governments’ commitment to improve the human rights situation of their populations, some said.
Speakers and experts alike underlined the importance of the international community’s continued engagement with those countries to open space for cooperation, while keeping in mind that respect for human rights was the bedrock of successful development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued today discussions under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights. For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4139.
MAKARIM WIBISONO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said the human rights and humanitarian situation had been worsening. The Palestinian death toll had been rising almost every day. Excessive use of force by Israeli security forces was a serious concern. Violent individual crimes against Israeli citizens were inexcusable, but measures adopted by Israel had to be in line with international human rights and humanitarian law. When relative calm was restored, it was a matter of utmost importance not to forget the underlying issues of the conflict.
Noting a lack of formal responses from Israel to his requests to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Mr. WIBISONO said his report to the Committee was based on meetings he had in Amman with civil society organizations, United Nations representatives, Palestinian officials and Palestinians living under occupation. Reflected in the report were the continuing effects of West Bank settlement expansion and human rights deprivations stemming from inadequate water supplies, untreated sewage, obstacles to access health care, restrictions on the freedom of movement and settler violence. The detention and treatment of Palestinian children was very concerning and it was striking how every aspect of life for Palestinians had been impacted.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, Mr. WIBISONO said there was a critical need for accountability for violations suffered by the people there. Despite 2014 Commission of Inquiry findings ascertaining credible allegations of war crimes on both sides, meaningful accountability was still a distant hope. Reconstruction efforts had been slow to reach the people in Gaza and the Israeli blockade — which collectively punished Palestinians, contrary to international law — had to be lifted.
Continuing, he said he had sought from day one to establish relations with Israel and Palestine, especially through their representatives in Geneva, but the lack of access could not be accepted indefinitely. It was the general consensus, as attested by countless United Nations resolutions, that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was untenable and it was necessary to insist on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Peace began with respect for human rights, to which all peoples and persons were equally entitled.
The representative of the State of Palestine welcomed the report and presentation, reiterating support for the mandate. A long list of the occupying Power’s violations of international, humanitarian and human rights laws against the Palestinian people and their land had been detailed in the report. He asked the Special Rapporteur to brief the Committee on the urgent water crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Israel “without a doubt” had been using water as a weapon against the population.
With regard to accountability, he asked how the international community could address the culture of impunity vis-à-vis the Israeli occupying forces and their armed settlers. His delegation shared the frustration of the Special Rapporteur. As a Member State, Israel had an obligation to cooperate with the United Nations, he continued. Every avenue, including the Human Rights Council and the Secretary-General, should be explored with a view to achieving Israel’s cooperation.
During the interactive discussion, several delegates raised concerns about the current situation in Gaza resulting from the existence and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Some delegates regretted the impact of settlements on the territorial continuity of occupied Palestinian land. To that end, substantive peace talks between Israel and Palestine must be urgently resumed, delegates stressed, expressing their support for the establishment of a Palestinian State that was sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous. The representative of Brazil said the lack of concrete steps towards the end of occupation would only lead to a vicious cycle of human rights violations and violence.
Israel’s representative regretted to say that the representatives of the State of Palestine had continued to call for the destruction of his country. Israel was committed to the goal of two-State solution, regardless of what the current situation. The Palestinian leaders’ speeches at international organizations, unfortunately, did not help to achieve a solution. He also said many countries had objected to the country-specific mandates except to the one on Israel.
Delegates then raised questions and concerns about the implementation of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, ending illegal Israeli occupation and settlement and the role of the Human Rights Council. They also asked about the long-term effects of the lack of access to basic services on children and the human rights situation in the Palestinian territory. Additional queries were made on the issue of violence against women and children, the increase of radicalism in the region and the disproportionate use of force. The representative of Pakistan asked why the Special Rapporteur had not been granted access to the territory if Israel was not hiding anything.
Mr. WIBISONO underscored the importance of water for human life. Water infrastructure destroyed during the July 2014 crisis in Gaza had not yet been fully repaired and, therefore, people had had to buy bottled water. In the West Bank, there was an imbalance of allocation of water between settlers and Palestinians. That had created a serious problem. Sewage was also a concern. The mayor of Wadi Fukin had told the Special Rapporteur how sewage had been flowing into what used to be a fertile growing area for fruits and vegetables. Now nobody wanted to buy produce from that village, he said.
Turning to other queries, he said that without education, a generation would be lost. Providing access to schooling was the responsibility of the occupying Power, which was expected to pay attention to the shortage of classrooms and facilities. In Gaza, there was a need to rebuild schools. With nowhere to go, children with no schools would become seeds for extremists. For its part, the international community had several instruments at its disposal, including international humanitarian and human rights law. However, such laws were not reflected in reality. Violence would stop if respect for international law could be mobilized, he said.
Addressing the statement made by the representative of Israel, Mr. WIBISONO said advance copies of reports were always sent to countries concerned in order to ensure the accuracy of their contents. He was open to any input to correct inaccuracies, but no response from Israel had been received. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was to improve the human rights situation, he said, and not to oppose Israel, which was encouraged to engage with the mandate.
Participating in the dialogue were representatives South Africa, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Venezuela, Norway, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Oman, Morocco and the Maldives, as well as the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
For information media. Not an official record.
Download Document Files: GASHC4146f.pdf
Document Type: French text, Press Release, Video, Webcast
Document Sources: Department of Public Information (DPI), General Assembly, General Assembly Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT
Subject: Access and movement, Armed conflict, Children, Closures/Curfews/Blockades, Education and culture, Environmental issues, Gaza Strip, Health, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Living conditions, Occupation, Palestine question, Settlements, Statehood-related, Water, Women
Publication Date: 29/10/2015