HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS URGES COMMISSION TO URGENTLY SEND A MISSION TO THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Continues Debate on the Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson this afternoon called on the Commission on Human Rights to dispatch immediately a visiting mission that would travel to the occupied Palestinian territories and return expeditiously to the Commission with its findings and recommendations.
Mrs. Robinson said that efforts of the international community had not brought an end to the hostilities and Palestinians continued to be subjected to a wide range of human rights violations related to the ongoing occupation. Israel also continued to suffer from the deliberate and planned killings of civilians. The last days had brought a frightening increase in the loss of life.
The High Commissioner also repeated that international observers on the ground could be a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and could also promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
Following Mrs. Robinson's address, a proposal was made by the Malaysian delegation to hold a special meeting devoted to the present situation of the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. The Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador Krzysztof Jakubowski of Poland, said that the Bureau of the Commission would meet tomorrow morning at 8 p.m. to discuss the High Commissioner's suggestions and this proposal.
Delegations from Malaysia, Algeria, Pakistan, the United States, Cuba, Canada, China, Sudan, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt (on behalf of the League of Arab States), Iraq and Australia took the floor to comment on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Also this afternoon, as it continued with its debate on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, the Commission heard statements by numerous non-governmental organizations that expressed concerns over the situation in the area. Many said that Israeli forces in the occupied territories had been violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by attacking civilians. Other speakers condemned the Palestinian suicide bombings that had killed many Israelis.
The following non-governmental organizations delivered statements: the American Association of Jurists; the Arab Lawyers Union; the International Fellowship of Reconciliation; the World Jewish Congress; the American Jewish Committee; Defence of Children International; Nord-Sud XXI; Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos; the World Muslim Congress; the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; the International Commission of Jurists; the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples; the World Federation of Democratic Youth; the International Save the Children Alliance; Caritas Internationalis-International Confederation of Catholic Charities; the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches; the Habitat International Coalition; and Medecins du Monde (International).
Israel, Syria and Palestine exercised their right to reply.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 3 April, to hear statements from visiting dignitaries before holding a closed meeting to deal with communications concerning alleged violations of human rights, under its item 9 (b): procedure established in accordance with Economic, and Social Council resolutions 1503 (XLVII) and 2000/3.
JAIRO SANCHEZ, of the American Association of Jurists, said the Government of Israel was waging a massive, bloody assault against Palestinians on the pretext of eliminating terrorist enclaves; the situation was complicated by a continuing wave of terrorist assaults. Still, Israeli soldiers were carrying out attacks against civilians using tanks and helicopters; Palestinians ordered to leave their homes often refused, and in that case were fired upon. Houses were destroyed; areas were closed down; the Palestinian leadership was blockaded; missiles had been used against the offices of Yasser Arafat, which had been destroyed. It was clear that as long as it had the support of the United States, Israel would continue to avoid negotiations and to wage war against the Palestinians.
It was sad that Israelis, many of them victims of the Holocaust, would use such repression and violence against other people. The Palestinians had an inalienable right to independence; their intifada was justified under the circumstances. Israel should withdraw its military forces from all territories occupied since 1967.
FAROUK ABU EISSA, of the Arab Lawyers Union, said that the Israeli occupying forces had demonstrated total disregard for the plight and rights of the Palestinian people through air, sea and land bombardment of the civilian population, political assassinations, extra judicial killings, random destruction of homes and offices, mass arbitrary arrests and raids on refugee camps and installations resulting in the death and injury of thousands of innocent civilians. The Palestinian people were a people under foreign occupation fighting a legitimate struggle for their self-determination. The Arab Lawyers Union also stood fast against any proposed United States military strike against the Iraqi people as such a unilateral strike had no moral or international legal basis to justify it.
JONATHAN SISSON, of International Fellowship of Reconciliation, drew attention to the policy of house demolitions and population expulsion that was being carried out by the Israeli Government against the Palestinian community in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The house demolitions in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza and the expulsion of the Palestinian residents of South Hebron were specific examples of that policy. On 10 January 2002, the Israeli defence forces had carried out a massive demolition operation in the Rafah refugee camps in Gaza. Overnight, at least 58 homes were demolished, as a result of which some 520 people, of whom 300 were children, were made homeless in the dead of winter. On numerous occasions, the Israeli policy of housing demolition had been coupled with the expulsion of the local Palestinian population as was the case in South Hebron. House demolitions and population expulsions were instruments of repression in Israel's long-term policy of occupation, which had assumed the dimension of low-intensity warfare.
MASSIMO PIERI, of the World Jewish Congress, said there was no item on the agenda regarding the violations or gross violations of humanitarian law committed with the complicity of the Palestinian Authority by repeated terrorist actions deliberately directed against Israeli civilians. The term "occupied territories" was a misnomer, as Israel had taken them under control following the 1967 conflict in self-defence, as defined by article 51 of the UN Charter, following violation of the armistice lines of 1941. East Jerusalem could not be included under the category of "occupied Palestinian territories" for several reasons, including lack of any treaty or instrument of international law that supported the contention that East Jerusalem was Palestinian territory. Withdrawal from territories under Israeli control would take place when the two principles established by Security Council resolution 242 were observed.
The right to self-determination did not include the right to destroy the rights of others. The atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists during the Easter recess should open the eyes of the Commission, which should condemn such conduct. The Commission furthermore should maintain an impartial, fair position with regard to the Middle East. The World Jewish Congress supported the project entitled "Diversity and Peace" in relation to the Middle East conflict.
ANDREW M. SRULEVITCH, of the American Jewish Committee, said that it was concerned about the abuse of the Commission for political attacks against the State of Israel. Israel should be scrutinized as actions of any government were scrutinized. But Israel should be examined under agenda item 9, like every other State. As serious as the situation was in the Middle East, no justification existed for the current discriminatory treatment. The West Bank and the Gaza were not the only territories which were disputed and the subject of accusations of occupation. Tibet, the Western Sahara and Nagorno-Karabakh were just a few examples of current territorial disputes in which one side had been accused of occupation. In these conflicts and others, there had been civilian victims on both sides and allegations of human rights violations. However, none of the parties of these conflicts had a separate agenda item at the Commission. The Commission paid 30 times more attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict than to other conflicts in the world, to the detriment of other pressing situations. If the Commission was concerned about the most sacred of human rights – the right to life – then item 8 might instead be devoted to the pandemic of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
HANAN ELMASU, of the Defence for Children International, said that the Israeli occupation was an all-encompassing system that consistently, repeatedly and intentionally deprived Palestinian children of their rights. The range of those violations was vast and their occurrence well documented. Since September 2000, over 230 children had been killed, 7,000 wounded, 700 arrested and tens of thousands of others traumatized by the ongoing military attacks against their homes and communities. At least 17 children had been killed as a result of Israel's policy of extrajudicial killing of Palestinian activists. Many of those violations constituted war crimes as they were grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was impossible to say that children were not being targeted when the Israel army was repeatedly attacking civilian areas, particularly when children constituted 53 per cent of the population. Israeli authorities had acknowledged that children as young as 13 years old had been detained. Was the State of Israel's security threatened by a sixth grader? For what purposes were those children blindfolded, handcuffed, detained, and, in many instances, tortured?
MANUELA CLAVIJO, of North-South XXI, also speaking on behalf of the Inter-African Union on Human Rights, said Israel had been an occupying power right from the beginning and had been using military means to prevent the Palestinian people from achieving their objective of self-determination. Offenses had reached the point of bombing towns with helicopters and firing missiles at civilians. These were war crimes; Israel had signed the relevant international convention as a requirement for admission to the United Nations, but it ignored the significance of its own signature. The Palestinian intifada was legitimate as a measure of self-defence. Kamikaze operations, the weapons of the poor, were the cries of a desperate population. Israel, with support from the West, continued to establish illegal settlements, to repress the Palestinians, to destroy schools, and to commit other human rights violations.
The Commission must call for the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, for the dismantling of the settlements, for compensation to be paid by Israel for offenses committed, and for the trial of Ariel Sharon for war crimes against humanity, among other things.
MIGUEL ANGEL SANCHEZ, of the Federation de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, said that 53 years had elapsed since Israel was created. Half a century on, Israel was violating UN resolutions and jeopardizing peace and stability in the entire Middle East region. During the past 17 months, Israel had stepped up its repression of the Palestinian people, destroying Palestinian infrastructure and confining the Palestinian people to concentration camps. The international community had demonstrated the lack of effectiveness in seeking a viable solution to the Middle East conflict. It was incomprehensible that the international community was so benevolent to Israel. The time had come for the international community to assume its responsibility and help the Palestinians achieve their freedom and independence. The international community should take strong measures against Israel and force it to implement UN resolutions, in particular Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.
M. AHMAD, of the World Muslim Congress, said that it was difficult, if not impossible, to describe the depth of the tragedy of the suffering of Palestinians. The violations of Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories and their consequent effect on the economic and psychological health of the Palestinian nation were too well known to need recounting. Since the 1967 war, when it seized Palestinian and Arab territories, Israel had been following a deliberate policy of deprivation and dehumanisation towards Palestinians. Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land were illegal and in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Each Israeli settlement on Palestinian land deprived the native Arabs of their water and other resources, which were diverted for the use of the settlers. A recent survey by an NGO called Peace Now had revealed that 34 new Israeli settlements had been built in the West Bank under Ariel Sharon; and 7,000 Israeli settlers controlled 20 per cent of Gaza and 42 per cent of its coast line.
JABR WISHAH, of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of LAW and the Palestinian Society for Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, said they welcomed the Secretary-General's statement on the illegality of Israel's 35-year colonial military occupation and the Special Rapporteur's conclusion that the occupation was responsible for most of the violations of humanitarian law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. The methods now being used were disproportionate and indiscriminate, and effectively and systematically punished the Palestinian civilian population. This intensification was marked by an increasing perpetration of war crimes. There was an urgent need for international intervention; it was the only way to reduce violence and advance hope for peace.
The Commission must reaffirm the illegality of the occupation; provide immediate independent international protection for Palestinian civilians; facilitate a follow-up mission by the human rights inquiry commission; ensure that all peace negotiations were based on human rights and humanitarian law; call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure Israel's respect for the Convention; and call on States to donate to international agencies providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.
ANTOINE MADELIN, of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said that to date, the Israeli military had demolished at least 520 Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip and 116 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Since 28 September 2000, 802 Palestinians were reported to have been executed. Medical and humanitarian aid agencies were being prevented from delivering medical care and humanitarian assistance. The closure policy imposed by the Israeli occupation forces had left the Palestinian economy largely bankrupt. Palestinians had been denied or delayed access to work, schools, universities, families and friends, and to clinics and hospitals, even in emergency cases. Approximately 3,000 Palestinians from the territories were currently being detained in jails inside Israel, in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The escalation in grave breaches and other violations of the Convention in the last year served only to highlight the urgent need for international protection for Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
IAN SEIDERMAN, of the International Commission of Jurists, said that the horrific developments in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories were the direct result of impunity for blatant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Attacks directed at Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups were clearly war crimes under customary international law, whatever the circumstances. Israel had the right to protect itself from such attacks but any security measures should be consistent with Israel's legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. War crimes could not be halted through the perpetration of other war crimes. The deliberate use of collective punishment by Israel violated article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a fundamental principle of the rule of law. Statements by Prime Minister Sharon to "hit" Palestinians until it was "very painful" and "to cause them
heavy casualties" had found concrete expression in bombing raids against densely populated civilian areas in the West Bank and Gaza, resulting in significant and heavy loss of innocent life.
JEAN-PIERRE LAGNAUX, of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, said civilian missions made it possible to monitor the situation of the Palestinian people despite Israeli restrictions on journalists. Settlements continued to be established; they were created quickly; bulldozers arrived on short notice, settlers arrived and lived briefly in mobile homes, and the perimeter was protected by soldiers. The settlements were tied together by good roads, while Palestinian settlements were increasingly isolated, causing serious problems for health, education, and commerce. The implantation and extension of settlements was based on the routing of peasants and the destruction of their crops. The original Israel had been established by massacres that had caused Palestinians to flee; now settlements were built by the persecution of helpless people by a powerful army.
To ensure the triumph of law and human rights, the truth of facts had to be respected. The Commission must adopt a resolution prohibiting further recruitment of settlers; supporting establishment of a fully independent Palestinian State, including East Jerusalem; demanding that the United States end its massive support, including military aid, to Israel; and demanding a vast financial reconstruction programme for Palestine, with emphasis on education and sanitation.
JAVIER LABRADA ROSABAL, of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, said that the international community had witnessed a massacre of the Palestinian people by Israel over the past 17 months. To date, more than 1,100 Palestinians had been assassinated, 290 of whom were children, and thousands had been wounded. Many buildings of the Palestinian Authority had been destroyed including schools, hospitals and houses. It was ironic and hypocritical that at a time when a war against terrorism had been declared, nothing or very little was being done against the Israeli Government, which was conducting state terrorism against a people fighting for their right to self-determination. It was inconceivable that Israel was receiving millions of dollars from the United States in economic and financial aid which was being used to commit a genocide of the Palestinian people. Israel was called upon, inter alia, to withdraw from the occupied territories, recognize the right of return of all refugees, implement UN resolutions 242, 338 and 194, and free all Palestinians detained in prisons in Israel. The United Nations was also called upon to send an international protection force to protect the Palestinians from aggressions by the Israeli army.
AHMED MOTALA, of the International Save the Children Alliance, said that his organization was extremely concerned about the impact on children, both Palestinian and Israeli, of the increased violence and conflict in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. The Alliance condemned violence that targeted children, whether by suicide bombers or by members of the Israeli security forces. The killing and maiming of children could not be justified. The recent increase in the violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel had had a dramatic and negative impact on the lives of children. It had restricted the movement of Palestinian children; increased their pessimism about their ability to shape their own future; affected their ability to obtain education that was relevant and of reasonable quality; and undermined their development. It was the worsening of the human rights situation of children in Palestine that the Alliance brought to the urgent attention of the Commission. The Alliance urged the Commission, among other things, to request its Special Rapporteur on education to visit the Palestinian territories to investigate the impact of the violence and closures on the right to education on Palestinian children.
ALFONS NOLL, of Caritas Internationalis- International Confederation of Catholic Charities, said a velvet genocide was underway; Palestinians had seen the horrific effects of the work of suicide bombers and other militants on the people and cities of Israel, and some had narrowly escaped injury from such bombings; meanwhile Israeli authorities carried out a wide range of violations of Palestinians' basic human rights, including the demolition of houses, the uprooting of trees, attacks with missiles, helicopters, bombers and tanks, indiscriminate shootings at checkpoints, and harassment and obstruction of ambulances. The international community perhaps was seeing with one eye — half the story, half the picture. There were resolutions but no implementation.
There should be international observers dispatched to Palestine; there should be a freeze on settlements on confiscated Palestinian land; there should be an agreement on Jerusalem negotiated between Palestine and Israel in accordance with UN resolutions; there should be a just solution to the refugee problem; and there should be greater involvement by the international community — since it had played a role in creating this problem, it should shoulder responsibility for resolving the decades-old crisis.
ALEXANDROS KARIDES, of the World Council of Churches, said that it was with deep concern that the Council noted the unprecedented escalation of violence and continued grave breaches of the Geneva Convention by Israel, in the form of wilful killing and causing of great suffering and serious injury, torture and inhuman punishments, including the bombing and shelling of civilian neighbourhoods, the extensive destruction of agricultural land and homes and the appropriation of property. Moreover, the severe restrictions on the freedom of movement had had a devastating socio-economic effect on the Palestinian population. Even more distressing was the emergence of new patterns of abuses such as the Israeli military reoccupation of Palestinian cities, incursions into refugee camps, mass arbitrary detentions of civilians under degrading circumstances and the deadly attacks on medical and rescue staff. The attacks on Israeli unarmed civilians were deplorable. The victims of violence on both sides were paying a high price for the policy of occupation and dispossession. The occupation and the impunity enjoyed by Israel were the underlying and fundamental causes of the present violence and the main threats to peace and security.
JOSEPH SCHECHLA, of the Habitat International Coalition, recalled that on 5 March 2002 and before the Israeli Parliament, the Prime Minister had explained his strategy in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying that the aim was to increase the losses on the other side; and that only after they had been battered would Israel be able to conduct talks. That statement had come to characterize the general policy of the Israeli occupation forces as was especially evident at the beginning of March when occupied Palestine had experienced a dramatic upsurge of destruction, bloodshed and trauma. Repeated sieges and closure of villages, towns, and cities constituted a form of collective punishment and a violation of international law. The loss of income to the territories since September 2000 had been estimated at between 2.5 and 3.2 billion dollars. Those closures and undisciplined military action by Israel had impaired economic life and freedom of movement, preventing basic foodstuffs, medicines and even ambulances from moving in and out of municipalities. Dozens of sick or injured Palestinians, as well as pregnant mothers and their newborns, had died in ambulances held up at various checkpoints.
GRACIELA ROBERT, of Medecins du Monde, said the organization had had to partially evacuate its teams from Gaza last week because of renewed violence; they had resumed work this week. Medecins du Monde teams saw first hand the effects of the violence on children. One child had awakened from a failed operation to remove a shell from her skull; a tank had stopped outside her school and started shooting as children were going into class; a 12-year-old girl next to this one had died. The psychological trauma suffered by surviving children was intense. Another child had been seriously burned by a mine on his hands, arms, back and face; he now lived in constant fear and constantly relived his injury; it took his parents hours on foot to reach the hospital to visit him because of Israeli land closures.
Doctors found these things unbearable. The unacceptable injustice of this conflict could not continue. Medical personnel had been targeted by the Israeli army. And Israeli civilians also were suffering. Civilians on both sides must be protected; the parties to the conflict must not forget this.
MARY ROBINSON, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that two weeks ago, she had regretted that efforts of the international community had not brought an end to the hostilities and that Palestinians continued to be subjected to a wide range of human rights violations related to the ongoing occupation. Israel had also continued to suffer from the deliberate and planned killings of civilians. Early on 29 March, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) had occupied Ramallah. On 1 April, the IDF took control of Beit Jala, Qalqilya and Tulkarem. On 2 April the IDF invaded Bethlehem. Movement in all these areas was extremely dangerous due to the operation of IDF tanks and snipers. The last days had brought a frightening increase in the loss of life. Israeli authorities reported that in the midst of the Passover holiday, 22 people were killed and 140 injured in a suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya. Again on 31 March, 14 people were killed and over 40 injured in a bombing in Haifa. As of 5 p.m. on 1 April, 38 Palestinians had been killed and at least 60 persons had been injured. These were tragic examples of a spiral of violence and arbitrary deprivation of life that must be ended.
The High Commissioner said that movement in all the areas of military operations was extremely dangerous. Residents were unable to move about in the streets. The ICRC, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and other medical personnel, human rights defenders and journalists had all been restricted from carrying out their duties. Some of these personnel had been fired upon and others had been arrested. UNRWA was facing extreme difficulties in operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and responding to the current crisis. On the ground the IDF had often been refusing access to UNRWA staff. Ambulances had been reportedly stopped and prevented from providing assistance.
Mrs. Robinson said that water and electricity systems had been seriously damaged in Ramallah as a result of the recent military operations. Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah had also had their water and electricity cut after tank movements ruptured lines. According to the Foreign Press Association, since 30 March the IDF had been preventing journalists from entering Ramallah. On 29 March, the IDF took over a building used by Palestinian and foreign media in the city, forcing organizations to abandon the building. Several journalists were reported wounded. Offices of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including human rights NGOs, had also reportedly been raided.
Mrs. Robinson said that in her report to the Commission on her visit to the region in 2000, she had asked that the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence be explored. That proposal should now be implemented. International observers on the ground could be a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and could also promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
The High Commissioner said that these events were taking place at the very time when the Commission was in session. That must surely place an urgent duty on the Commission. In the past, she had had the occasion to call for international observers to be stationed in the occupied territories. The Commission should consider dispatching immediately a visiting mission that would travel to the area and return expeditiously to the Commission with its findings and recommendations. Surely the protection of human rights required such a step as a very minimum. She called the Commission to conscience and invited it to let conscience move in this situation taking place before their eyes.
NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said Palestine was grateful for the statement by the High Commissioner; she had gotten rid of any ambiguity that might have been in the minds of people at the Commission. It was clear that grave, serious violations were going on in the occupied Palestinian territories. In view of the proposals made by the High Commissioner, he proposed that tomorrow a special meeting be held to discuss the current situation in the occupied territories and the grave violations of human rights occurring there.
YAAKOV LEVY.(Israel) said that the High Commissioner should have also listened to the views of the other side. She should have spoken not only to her compatriots but also to Israelis. The suicide bombing attacks on restaurants and other terrorist attacks had been incited by the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat and his supporters. The compilation of the report should have included the Israeli side, particularly those who were not able to go out of their houses due to the terrorist acts of the Palestinians.
TOUFIK SALLOUM (the Syrian Arab Republic) said the High Commissioner's statement had been objective and courageous. Israel should spare everyone by withdrawing from the occupied territories or by accepting the Arab initiative drawn up by the Arab Summit a few days ago, which Ariel Sharon had not complied with. He was the biggest liar ever witnessed. Israel must face reality and admit that as an occupying power it was committing grave violations of human rights. Israel had a huge military arsenal that it was using to carry out collective punishment against the Palestinian people. He challenged Israel to declare it was withdrawing; if so, the Arabs, the Palestinians, would offer their hands. Now was the time for the occupation to end. Now. He challenged the Israeli representative to announce Israel was withdrawing. He would see how many Arab hands would reach out to embrace him.
MOHAD JOHAR AHMAD JAZRI (Malaysia) said that aggression against Palestinian people and operations by the Israeli Defence Forces should be investigated by the Commission. Malaysia was in favour of the proposal by the Observer for Palestine to hold a special debate on the situation in the occupied territories. In fact, Malaysia was officially proposing this special debate. Malaysia also supported the statement made by the High Commissioner for the Human Rights.
MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI. (Algeria) said the High Commissioner's report had been valuable and honest. The Palestinian people were dying before the Commission's eyes, and a regime was committing this atrocity outside the view of the media. It wanted to have a war without witnesses. The Commission could not remain silent. Algeria supported the proposal to have a special meeting on this subject, to have an international observer team sent to the region, and to have an international force sent there to protect the innocent. This proposal should be decided on by the Commission, not by the Bureau.
MUNIR AKRAM. (Pakistan) said that the Commission should take decisive action with regard to the situation in the occupied territories. Pakistan supported the proposal by the Ambassador of Palestine to hold a special debate to consider the situation in the occupied territories as well as the proposals put forward by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
KEVIN EDWARD MOLEY (the United States) said he wished he could say the High Commissioner's report was balanced and fair, but it was not. It did not take account of Israel's right to self-defence, as recognized by the United Nations. The United States had supported a recent Security Council resolution calling for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace; the terms of that resolution had been balanced; the United States had supported a more recent Security Council resolution referring to the current crisis that also took into account the concerns of both sides. These resolutions had been balanced. Those who wished peace should work for it fairly with good intentions, here and elsewhere.
ALFONSO MARTINEZ (Cuba) said that the Commission should not forget that the root of the problem was the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. The Commission should take practical steps to stop the continued spilling of blood in the occupied territories. It was vital that the Commission should convene a special session to show the world that it was not standing back merely watching the tragedy unfolding in the occupied territories.
MARIE GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) said a day and a half or two days of debate had just been spent on this topic, with more than 50 speakers participating. Canada did not see much benefit from another debate or a special session in terms of the resumption of the peace process. The Security Council was already seized of this situation. But the main point was to help the peace process and not to inflame the rhetoric even more, as had already occurred in this room. The matter in any case should be discussed first by the Bureau.
LIU XINSHENG.(China) said the Commission was duty bound to find solutions to human rights violations anywhere they happened, including the occupied Palestinian territories. The proposal to hold a special meeting to discuss the current situation was a good idea.
OMER M. A. SIDDIG. (Sudan) said that the report by the High Commissioner was a perfectly balanced report. Sudan was in favour of convening a special session to discuss the situation in the occupied territories. The Commission had the duty to consider the situation and see what measures could be taken to improve the lives of the Palestinians.
JOAQUIN PEREZ-VILLANUEVA Y TOVAR (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), said the EU believed the Commission should remain within the bounds of its remit, and though it seemed difficult, should control its emotions and stay within the objectives for which it was established. The Bureau, tomorrow, would have a chance to consider the proposals put forward.
MOHAMED TAWFIK.(Egypt), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, said that the High Commissioner had provided the Commission with valuable information on the situation. She had to be thanked for her efforts. He said the dramatic situation had continued and one did not know where it would end. The League would support the proposal to hold a special meeting to the situation of occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.
SAMIR AL-NIMA (Iraq) said the report by Mary Robinson had described the terrible events taking place in the occupied territories. These events required immediate steps by the international community. The proposals made by the High Commissioner were valid and the Commission should implement them. Iraq also supported the proposal by Malaysia to hold a special session on the situation. The report by the High Commissioner was objective and reflected the situation on the ground.
PETER HEYWARD (Australia) said this was a very serious situation and it was of great concern, but the primary relevant UN body, the Security Council, was already seized of this issue. Further discussion of the matter in the Commission would not further the cause of peace in the Middle East; meanwhile the Commission had a lot of other work to do, and had to do it in reduced time. Australia did not support the idea of a special session.
Rights of Reply
A Representative of Israel, speaking in right of reply, said that Syria had had difficulty addressing Israel by its name. In Camp David, Israel had proposed to end the conflict by negotiations. In 1995, 1996 and 2000, negotiations were on the verge of being concluded. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority had decided to take the route of violence and suicide attacks. Negotiations could resume when violence ended.
A Representative of Syria, speaking in right of reply, said the speaker before him as usual had distorted the facts. He had challenged him, on behalf of his rulers in Israel, to say that they were ready to withdraw. Of course, the Commission did not know the records of the meetings the Israeli representative had referred to. But what he had said was not accurate, was not right. But let the
Commission leave that to historians. Right now, in 2002, an Arab Summit had been held in Beirut in which an initiative had been put forward — full withdrawal to the lines before 1967 in return for peace and full, normal relations with all Arabs. But Sharon had rejected this plan. He challenged Israel to accept the proposal.
A Representative of Palestine, speaking in a right of reply in reference to the statement by the delegation of the United States, said that he had been surprised that the United States delegation did not want to congratulate the High Commissioner on her report. According to the United States delegation, the report was unbalanced; however, the High Commissioner had provided facts from the situation on the ground. Maybe the United States was upset that the High Commissioner's comments did not agree with the US policy. He asked if the policy of the United States was balanced?
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