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        General Assembly
25 May 2004

Original: French

Fifty-eighth session
Official Records

Third Committee

Summary record of the 53rd meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Thursday, 20 November 2003, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. Priputen (Vice-Chairman) ..................................................... (Slovakia)


Agenda item 117: Human rights questions (continued)


(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued)


In the absence of Mr. Belinga-Eboutou (Cameroon), Mr. Priputen (Slovakia), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.

The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.

Agenda item 117: Human rights questions (continued)


(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued) (A/58/219, A/58/448, A/58/127, A/58/427, A/58/379, A/58/334, A/58/218, A/58/338, A/58/534, A/58/325, A/58/393, A/58/421 A/58/427, A/58/534 and A/C.3/58/6)


13. Mr. Ziegler (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to food), ...


15. In accordance with resolution 57/226, the Special Rapporteur had carried out two main activities under his mandate: on the one hand, he had cooperated with the Intergovernmental Working Group to elaborate a set of voluntary guidelines on the right to food and, on the other hand, he had been on mission to the Occupied Palestinian territories. The dramatic situation of 3.8 million Palestinians, 61 per cent of whom suffered from chronic malnutrition, was developing into a real humanitarian disaster, essentially because of the policy implemented by Israel in the name of security (encircling villages, expropriating land and imposing curfews). The alarming statistics published by the World Bank showed that, if Israel persisted in constructing the "security fence" (term used by the Israeli Government to designate the wall), it would be extremely difficult for the future Palestinian State to ensure its population the right to food.


21. Mr. Luria (Israel) said he was seriously concerned over the content of the report, its politicized and biased style, and the Special Rapporteur's introduction. Israel was all the more offended since its sincere efforts to cooperate as much as possible with the Special Rapporteur, provide him with all the necessary information and enter into a constructive and serious dialogue with him had only culminated in the formulation of unfounded allegations against it.

22. The report was rife with political affirmations on matters unrelated to the Special Rapporteur's mandate, often prejudging issues which had to be settled through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

23. That thoroughly subjective report failed to refer to Palestinian responsibility in the ongoing human-rights violations and terrorist acts in as clear and unequivocal terms as those used in other passages. The Special Rapporteur had preferred to keep quiet about the active role of Palestinian leaders who, in declarations to the press, during local ceremonies, in summer camps and in mosques condoned homicidal terrorism and encouraged attacks against innocent Israeli civilians.

24. It was particularly regrettable that the report only referred fleetingly and for the sake of form to the havoc worked by terrorism among the Israelis, without providing details on the terrible daily attacks and their context. The report disregarded Israel's security dilemmas and its fight against homicidal Palestinian terrorism, one of Israel's most difficult combats. In a very simplistic description of the complex situation prevailing in the territories, it failed to mention the systematic violations carried out by Palestinians and prompting Israel's recourse to indispensable and defensive security measures. Time and again, the Special Rapporteur had described the crisis in the territories as "man-induced", thereby insinuating that Israel was responsible for it – although doubtlessly the "man-induced" element par excellence in that situation was homicidal terrorism, funded, encouraged, and organized by the organizations that encouraged it.

25. Despite adverse conditions and terrorism's daily threat to Israel and its citizens, the Israeli authorities were resolved to persevere in their efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the territories. At the same time, the terrorists operated by hiding among the civilians, disregarding the life of civilians in pursuing their own objectives, taking advantage of the emblems of the United Nations and of humanitarian organizations and misusing religious sites, ambulances and their personnel in order to secretly bring in arms and terrorist killers, in flagrant violation of the standards and elementary principles of international law and humanity.

26. Instead of contributing to the resumption of peace negotiations, the report gave the Palestinians a clear signal that the United Nations was a body that could effectively help them evade the peace process. The report would greatly encourage those actively involved in the escalation of violence and terrorism; and trouble and disappoint profoundly those who still hoped for a peaceful negotiated settlement.

27. Mr. Roshdy (Egypt) welcomed the honesty and courage displayed by the Special Rapporteur in introducing the report. He pointed out that his mandate concerned the right to food and not security matters. The Special Rapporteur had addressed a very important issue, the situation of the Palestinian people who lived under Israeli occupation. The vast majority of Palestinians were experiencing a humanitarian disaster that would be compounded when Israel completed the construction of the blatantly illegal wall. The representative of Egypt therefore requested the Special Rapporteur to provide further details on the extent of that foreseeable catastrophe.


32. Mrs. Rasheed (Palestine) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his unremitting efforts to draw attention to the predicament of the Palestinians, victims of Israeli occupation, and the impact of that situation on their families, which could not even feed their children, more and more of whom were suffering from malnutrition on a long-term basis.

33. Concerning the Special Rapporteur's mission to the Occupied Territories from 3 to 13 July 2003, the Observer asked when the report on that visit would be available. She urged the delegations to read it in order to better understand the gravity of the situation created by the massive violation of the Palestinian populations' right to food and water.

34. She condemned the Israeli practice of shamelessly harassing through threats and intimidation United Nations staff carrying out their mandate. They had a duty to describe in detail all of the human-rights violations that the State of Israel continuously committed against the Palestinians. Any witness to the facts could not help referring to the terrible suffering endured by the Palestinian people.


37. Mr. de Laurentis (United States of America) ...


38. The representative believed that the Special Rapporteur provided formal recommendations on issues outside his mandate, and criticized him once more for using his official duties to further his own political views. The United States persisted in its deep reservations about the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the way in which he carried it out. Lastly, he protested about the fact that, contrary to usual United Nations practice, the report drawn up after the Special Rapporteur's mission to the Occupied Territories had been rendered public before being transmitted to the State criticized.

39. Mr. Ziegler (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to food), replying to the questions of the Italian delegation, said that it was very difficult to explain the causes of discrimination against women regarding access to the means of production, revenue or real estate property. Contrary to a view frequently entertained, that discrimination was not particular to the so-called Third World societies. In that connection, the Special Rapporteur cited the example of his own country, Switzerland, second wealthiest in the world, where the average salaries of women were 30 percent lower than those of men for equal work. The problem of discrimination was universal, although it appeared under particular variants in such countries as the Niger, where women were subject to customary law, the rules of a modern State (inherited from the colonial past), and Muslim law. The Special Rapporteur admitted that he could not provide a brief answer to the question asked, but pointed out that the Commission on Human Rights in resolution 2001/25 had encouraged him to integrate a gender-specific perspective in the activities under his mandate, and that was what he would try to do.

40. The Special Rapporteur took note of the Israeli delegation's multiple reproaches against him and denied that he was oblivious to the terrible and tragic violence in the Middle East: he was appalled by that situation, as any sane and sensitive human being would be. More than 800 Israelis and more than 2,700 Palestinians, men, women and children, had been killed since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, and the Special Rapporteur reiterated his view that each one of those deaths was intolerable, regardless of the victims' nationality, and unreservedly condemned that tragedy.

41. The Special Rapporteur stressed that his report on the right to food in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could not have been written without cooperation from the Israeli civil society and his colleagues at the Hebrew University, Betselem, the Centre for free information and the "Rabbis for Human Rights" organization. He thanked them for helping him extensively to understand the situation and to draw up his report.

42. The Special Rapporteur acknowledged that he had held very frank discussions with the Israeli Ministry of Defence, which had been particularly open and very precise in its argumentation. The frequent references to security issues in a report on the right to food in the occupied Palestinian territory were due to the fact that the statistics provided by the World Bank were not contested by the Israeli military authorities – in fact, one official had even stated to the Special Rapporteur that he regretted the situation. However, no argument based on security considerations could in any way justify the observable humanitarian disaster. Any free State in the world was certainly entitled to ensure the security of its citizens, but collective punishment was prohibited by international law. Furthermore, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited mass forcible transfers by the occupying power.

43. Concerning the last remark made by the representative of Israel, the Special Rapporteur said that he did not understand in what way his report would hinder future negotiations in view of the creation of a Palestinian State with international frontiers, as proposed in the relevant United Nations resolutions and the roadmap. On the contrary, respect for human rights by the Palestinians and the Israelis was a key to the success of the peace plan.

44. To the representative of Egypt, whom he thanked for his kind words, the Special Rapporteur specified that the wall (for the Palestinians) or security fence (for the Israelis), largely built on Palestinian territories, did not follow the green line. Two hundred thousand Palestinians had lost their land and water sources as a result of the 280 km of wall already constructed. If building continued eastward, as provided for in the plan shown to him by the Israeli Ministry of Defence, the entire Jordan Valley would be taken away from the Palestinians, and as a result any independent Palestinian State would not be viable. The position of the United Nations on the issue was that construction of that wall should cease immediately because it ran counter to the roadmap.


46. Thanking Tunisia for its kind words, the Special Rapporteur replied to the specific technical question by the Palestinian Observer that the report on Palestine had been, since 31 October 2003, posted as an official document on the web site of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Special Rapporteur on the right to food was the first of the special rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights whose visit Israel had accepted, and he thanked the Israeli Government for allowing him to circulate in the Occupied Territories and talk to the Water Commissioner and the military authorities, but pointed out that Israel's positive attitude could not have predetermined the report's conclusions – very close to the position of Israeli civil society, both religious and secular, that the right to food should be ensured in the Occupied Territories.


48. Referring to the comments of the United States representative, the Special Rapporteur underscored the profound differences of opinion between that country and the Special Rapporteur. The United States did not recognize social, economic and cultural rights, particularly the right to food, and believed that the market should be allowed to set the right price. When the market malfunctioned, international aid had to be provided on a charity basis. The Commission on Human Rights, which had given the Special Rapporteur his mandate, subscribed to a vision of the world diametrically opposed to that neo-liberal standpoint and wished to establish social, economic and cultural rights of a collective and individual character. That did not mean that the United States were not interested in the global problem of hunger: they were the main donor to the World Food Programme (WFP), which in 2002 had fed 92 million persons, and funded more than 25 percent of the ordinary budget of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Problems occurred no matter what axiomatic view was taken on the right to food. As an example, the Special Rapporteur referred to the North American transnational corporation Bechtel which, when Bolivia privatized water, charged at Cochabampa rates that population groups with a modest income could not afford, setting off a revolt. Concerning the remark that the report on the Special Rapporteur's mission to the Palestinian territories had been published before being transmitted to the Israeli Government, the Special Rapporteur pointed out that on the Internet the report was followed, on the same web site, by Israel's reasoned and detailed reply. The Special Rapporteur was not responsible for the early publication: on 12 September 2003, he had delivered the report to the Office of the High Commissioner for transmission to the Palestinian and Israeli missions, according to the regulations. At the same time, his collaborators had sent directly to the Israeli, Palestinian and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) copies of the report to enable them to formulate any factual objections. One of those NGOs had published the report. Concluding, the Special Rapporteur thanked the United States representative for his persistent mistrust, which spurred him to work with even greater energy on promoting the right to food.


The meeting rose at 4.40 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.

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