Mideast situationPalestine question – HR High Commissioner Mideast visit – Press release

Expresses Deep Concern over Deteriorating Situation

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said today every effort should be made to explore the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Speaking in Geneva following the presentation of a report on her recent visit to the region, Mrs. Robinson said she was deeply concerned about the serious deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories and Israel and at the terrible cost it has taken in terms of human lives.

"It is vital that both parties renew efforts to halt the current dangerous escalation", said the High Commissioner. "The only path to lasting peace and stability is through peaceful negotiation, which calls for courage and responsibility on the part of the leadership of both sides".

Mrs. Robinson, who visited the occupied territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan between 8 and 16 November, said she had heard urgent pleas for international protection at each of her meetings in the occupied territories. She pointed out that the most persistent allegation brought to her attention was that Israeli security forces have engaged in excessive force, disproportionate to the threat faced by their soldiers. In her report, submitted today to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly, Mrs. Robinson recommends that the security forces of both sides should act in full conformity with the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. "Whenever force is used, the principle of proportionality has to be applied, and all necessary measures have to be taken to avoid loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian property", she writes.

Among the other recommendations in the report, the High Commissioner urges that:

the construction of new settlements should cease and that those located in the midst of heavily populated Palestinian areas should be removed; all cases of use of lethal force on both sides should be investigated and subjected to the processes of justice in order to avoid impunity; all holy sites and their access by all faiths should be respected, and the Israeli authorities should facilitate access and ensure freedom of movement of international and national staff of UN agencies to those in need of assistance.

In her conclusions, the High Commissioner also recalls that the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly reaffirmed the de jure applicability to the occupied Palestinian Territories of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War. She said it would be appropriate for the High Contracting Parties to assume their responsibility under the Convention.

As for the future of the region, Mrs Robinson said a peaceful and stable coexistence could only be achieved on the basis of a framework conforming to the requirements of international human rights and humanitarian law. However, she added, "perhaps the strongest and most troubling impression I took away from the visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was that of two peoples, linked by history and geography but currently separated by a wide and growing gap in their perception of each other. The recent violence has resulted in a hardening of positions, with little

willingness on either side to understand or accept the narrative of the other. I stand ready to facilitate dialogue between the human rights bodies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations, and other civil society representatives in order to enhance mutual understanding".

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