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Human Rights Council
20 September 2007
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES
Human Rights Council
MORNING 20 September 2007
The Human Rights Council this morning took up the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.
Presenting his oral report on Council resolutions S-1/1 and S-3/1, Doru Romulus Costea, President of the Council, said with regards to the latter, in which the Council decided to urgently dispatch a High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to travel to Beit Hanoun, he had received a letter from the Head of the Mission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, informing the President that he and Professor Chinkin had found it impossible, due to prior commitments, to find the time required to travel to Beit Hanoun before the current session of the Council. Further, on two occasions they had attempted to fulfil this mandate, with no result. They felt it was important for the Council to remain seized of the issue, and the members of the Mission encouraged the Council at the session to consider the various recommendations made in their report to the Council at its fifth session. The President reiterated his call that the Mission should be able to fulfil its mandate.
Presenting the oral report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said with regard to S-1/1, Special Rapporteur John Dugard's report outlined the reasons for which the resolution could not be implemented. Concerning Resolution S-3/1 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had moved to ensure that the Fact-Finding Mission would have all necessary financial and logistical support required to fulfil its mandate, including travel to Berit Hanoun. As noted by the President, Archbishop Tutu wrote to the President of the Council informing him that, owing to prior commitments, it had been impossible for him and Professor Chinkin to find the time required to travel to Berit Hanoun before the next session of the Council. For this reason S-3/1 had not been fully implemented.
In the context of the general debate, delegations regretted the loss of innocent lives from both Palestinian and Israeli sides. Several delegations expressed their concern over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories. The parties should urgently resume peace process negotiations on all tracks on the basis of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, in order to comprehensively resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should abide by international human rights norms, and should respect the relevant Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions. Speakers said it was imperative that the Council took an unequivocal stand on violations of international humanitarian law: failure to do so would affect its credibility, and erode the confidence of the international community in the body.
Speaking this morning as concerned countries were the representatives of Israel, Palestine and Syria.
Also speaking were Pakistan for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Cuba for the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt for the African Group, Portugal for the European Union, Iraq for the Arab Group, South Africa, Egypt (in a national capacity), Malaysia, Canada, Bangladesh, France, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Japan, China, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait, Algeria, Arab League, Venezuela, and United States.
Representatives of Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, speaking on behalf of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples and International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples, International Commission of Jurists, World Union for Progressive Judaism, United Nations Watch, Human Rights Watch, European Centre for Law and Justice, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Amnesty International, Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru", on behalf of World Peace Council, Union of Arab Jurists, and B'nai B'rith International, speaking on behalf of Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations also took the floor.
The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m., when it will conclude the general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, after which it will hold a discussion on the integration of the gender perspective in the work of the United Nations.
Introduction of Oral Reports on Human Rights Situation in Palestine
and Other Occupied Arab Territories
DORU ROMULUS COSTEA,
President of the Human Rights Council
, in his oral report on Council resolutions S-1/1 and S-3/1, said with regards to the latter, in which the Council decided to urgently dispatch a High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to travel to Beit Hanoun, he had received a letter from the Head of the Mission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, informing the President that he and Professor Chinkin found it impossible, due to prior commitments, to find the time required to travel to Beit Hanoun before the current session of the Council. Further, on two occasions they had attempted to fulfil this mandate, with no result. They felt it was important for the Council to remain seized of the issue, and the members of the Mission encouraged the Council at the session to consider the various recommendations made in their report to the Council at its fifth session. The President reiterated his call that the Mission should be able to fulfil its mandate.
United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
, presented the High Commissioner's oral update on the steps that the High Commissioner and her Office had taken to help implement the Resolutions S-1/1 and S-3/1. With regard to S-1/1, she referred to Special Rapporteur John Dugard's report in which he outlined the reasons for which the resolution could not be implemented.
Concerning Resolution S-3/1, Ms. Kang said the High Commissioner immediately reactivated the Secretariat supporting the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission. OHCHR moved to ensure that the Fact-Finding Mission would have all necessary financial and logistical support required to fulfil its mandate, including travel to Beit Hanoun.
Ms. Kang said that as noted by the President, Archbishop Tutu wrote to the President of the Council informing him that, owing to prior commitments, it had been impossible for him and Professor Chinkin to find the time required to travel to Beit Hanoun before the next session of the Council. For this reason S-3/1 had not been fully implemented.
Statements by Concerned Countries
ITZHAK LEVANON (
), speaking as a concerned country, said the inclusion of Item 7 (Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories) was a violation of the principles of impartiality and objectivity of the Council as mandated by the General Assembly. Those who advocated objectivity had advocated Israel's exclusion from the principle. Blatant disregard had been shown for the most basic tenets on which the Council was established. It showed there had been no improvement over the old Commission. Item 7 should not have been introduced into the institution-building package of the Council. When the Council adhered to principles enshrined in its constitutive documents, Israel would be prepared for constructive dialogue.
The new Council had an incurable obsession with Israel. Professor Dugard had said the issue was dealt with and the mission obsolete, but the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab States insisted on further derailing the Council's work with a resolution that contradicted the Special Rapporteur's own conclusions. Sponsors of the resolution persisted with their unending odyssey of bashing a single UN Member State and insisted on investigating incidents which had already been investigated while disregarding realities on the ground, such as violations of human rights in Gaza by Palestinians.
MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (
), speaking as a concerned country, said the establishment of the Human Rights Council marked a new development in institution building within the sphere of human rights. As all involved and concerned had emphasised that this new institutional structure was intended as an improvement on the Commission, hopes were raised among all countries, particularly developing ones, that this new structure would help restore confidence in the value, if not the supremacy of international law. As the issue of human rights had since come to prominence, the unbalanced approach to that issue risked rendering this new institution into a fiefdom of power struggles and political manipulation.
A decision against a targeted developing country set in motion volcanic competitive efforts to implement it; while in contrast, adopted resolutions on Palestine attracted mere lip service and apologetic expressions, and were destined to oblivion. The ongoing exemption of Israel from adherence to international law raised a question central to the fundamentals of international legal institutions: whether the interests of dominant centres of power superseded international legality. Israel, the occupying power, which acted as though it was the victim, persisted in its military raids, causing death and injuries among civilians as well as destruction of property, homes, cultivated farms and trees, and vital infrastructure.
FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (
) speaking as a concerned country, said after the discussion of the human rights situation in the world, the human rights situation in the Occupied Arab Territories was a very special one as most of the international human rights treaties were being broken in the region. Syrian prisoners, accused of occupying their own land, were being subjected to torture in Israeli prisons, without being given a trial. Some were even being used as human shields to protect Israeli soldiers. The occupation had focused on crimes of obliteration of the Arab identity. The occupiers were even changing the names of places and were judaising the region. Freedom to practice religion was not guaranteed. The cultural heritage in the occupied regions was being destroyed by Israel. The Council should give serious thought to the resolutions and not leave them as dead letter. It would add much to the credibility of the Council.
General Debate on Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
MASOOD KHAN (
), speaking on behalf of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC
), said the OIC remained concerned over deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories. The Secretary General had stated that Israel's declaration that the Gaza Strip should be declared an "hostile territory" was contrary to Israel's obligation towards the civilian population. The OIC called on Israel to reconsider the decision.
Violations extended from extrajudicial and targeted assassinations, house demolitions, movement restrictions, arbitrary detention of parliamentarians, torture and other human rights abuses. Occupation had stifled economic activity and impoverished the Palestinian people. There was broad acknowledgement of the deteriorating situation in the Golan and other occupied territories. The OIC called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to take a lead role in ensuring implementation of the Council's resolutions, and for implementation of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission's recommendations on Beit Hanoun, and those of Professor John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons should be released immediately.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (
), speaking on behalf of the
, said the Non-Aligned Movement condemned the prolonged Israeli military occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories since 1967, and expressed grave concern over the distressing developments in the recent period. For four decades, Israel had been violating international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law. Moreover, it had carried out deliberate and unlawful policies and practices aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and nature of the lands under occupation, as well as annexed territories de facto, particularly through the implementation of its illegal colonial settlement policy, and, since 2003, through the illegal construction of a Wall in the West Bank.
The acts of Israel, the occupying power, went beyond the use of force against the lives of the Palestinian people. The Non-Aligned Movement regretted the loss of innocent lives from both Palestinian and Israeli peoples. At the same time, it called upon the parties to urgently resume peace process negotiations on all tracks on the basis of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, in order to comprehensively resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. The Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed its strong commitment to continue supporting the Palestinian people to bring an end to Israel's occupation, and consistently reasserted its commitment to a just and peaceful solution of the conflict and to the right of the Palestinian people to exercise self-determination and sovereignty in their independent state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
SAMEH SHOUKRY (
), speaking on behalf of the
, reaffirmed the African Group's support for the Palestinian people. It condemned the continuation of flagrant and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians by Israel. The African Group was seriously worried about the deterioration of living conditions of the Palestinian people and about the political imprisonment and arbitrary detention of Palestinians. This situation had been aggravated yesterday by the decision that Israel would consider Gaza as "hostile territory". The African Group welcomed the Secretary-General's rapid and firm reaction against this announcement. Israel had failed to implement the Human Rights Council's resolutions and the African Group urged the Human Rights Council to continue to work towards the implementation of these resolutions.
FRANCISCO XAVIER ESTEVES (
, speaking on behalf of the
, said the European Union expected Israel and the Palestinian Authority to abide by international human rights norms. The European Union did not believe the Palestine situation should have been singled out during the Human Rights Council's first year, but had nonetheless expressed its concern. It condemned the firing of rockets into Israeli territory, and while recognizing Israel's right to self defence, called on Israel to exercise restraint. The European Union called on Israel to investigate human rights violations and to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms. It condemned extrajudicial killings on both sides, the continued settlement activity, and the barrier. Israel must facilitate transport of humanitarian aid, remove checkpoints in the West Bank and facilitate economic sustainability and normalization of social life.
The European Union condemned terrorism, and called on the Palestinian parties to condemn violence and bring terrorists to justice. It opposed division of the Palestinian territories and called for reconciliation and national unity behind a programme of peace. The European Union was firmly committed to the Road Map and its two State solution, side by side in peace and security.
BAHA H. AL-SHIBIB (
), speaking on behalf of the
, said Israel, the occupying power, had not implemented the two resolutions of the Council, which was why the Council had adopted a follow-up resolution, calling for the implementation of the two resolutions. And yet, there had been no follow-up. To date, Israel had not respected the resolutions, and had blocked the work of the High-level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun, where a massacre had been carried out by the Israel occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.
The resolutions of the Council should be respected and fully applied, and should be implemented away from politicisation, in a spirit of justice and peace, in order to reduce the suffering of mankind. Israel was not respecting human rights, and all wise men should call upon Israel to implement the resolutions and respect international human rights law. Hatred was growing, and would explode against those who had committed these outrages. A just solution to the problem should be sought, on the basis of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination. The fires of extremism should not be encouraged, as was the case by the occupying forces in Palestine.
BLAISE GODET (
) said that Switzerland continued to be deeply alarmed by the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories. Checkpoints and other obstacles against freedom of movement were impacting the rights of the Palestinians. A great part of the restrictions were favouring the inhabitants of settlements and thus were not legitimate. The settlements were established in violation of the Geneva Convention but their expansion was continuing every day. The continued construction of the barrier was a source of major concern. The increased blocking of access to humanitarian organizations was also of concern. Normal access to goods and supplies should be provided to the Palestinians in order for them to enjoy their rights in trade, health and education. Of concern was also the violence between factions that was still going on inside the Palestinian territories; this violence was also causing violations of human rights. Switzerland condemned the launching of rockets inside Israel territory. Of concern was also the news that Israel would carry out reprisals in Gaza, like cutting electricity.
GLAUDINE MTSHALI (
) said it was regrettable that S-1/1 and S-3/1 had not been implemented, and South Africa reiterated its concern at Israel's failure to abide by them. The Special Rapporteur had said that the occupation was "the only instance of a developing country denied its right of self determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated state", and that the West had apparently failed to take steps to end the situation, thus calling into question the West's commitment to human rights. The international community could not let the status quo go on. The Palestinian people should have their right to self-determination respected. The Road Map should be restarted and implemented with no preconditions.
SAMEH SHOUKRY (
) said this was a very important issue - not just the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the role of the international community in protecting these, but it also related to the credibility of the Council. In its special session, the Council had adopted a resolution deciding to send a Fact-Finding Mission to the Palestinian territories. Since then, one year later, in another special session, the Council adopted a resolution to have a Fact-Finding Mission sent to Beit Hanoun, following the massacre there. All of this was related to Israeli practices, which flew in the face of international law, as well as accepted international customs. These resolutions had met the same fate as other United Nations resolutions - namely Israel had decided to defy them, undermining the credibility of the United Nations.
The Council was at a turning point today - its commitment to human rights was being tested. It should prove that it was a serious body when it came to introducing changes, and that the goal was not just to hurl reproaches and accusations back and forth. The Council and other United Nations mechanisms were suffering from several administrative obstacles, which had prevented the sending of the Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun. Where was the conscience of the international community and where was its commitment to human rights? The voices of Member States of the Council were calling out day and night to put an end to human rights violations and extrajudicial extremes, which were daily crimes committed against the Palestinian people.
IDHAM MUSA MOKTAR (
) said that the persistent grave situation in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, should continue to be given serious attention and scrutiny by the Human Rights Council if it wanted to live up to its mandate and credibility. The persistent restrictions of movement and limitations of access of the Palestinians to their holy sites, even during the holy month of Ramadan, were clear violations of their rights and freedoms. The latest hostile declaration against the Gaza strip would only further exacerbate the hardship and suffering of the Palestinian civilians. It was the collective responsibility of the Council to effectively address and improve the human rights situation of the Palestinians. The least it could do would be to ensure the implementation of its own decisions, failing which the credibility of the Council and its decisions would be called into question.
MARIUS GRINIUS (
) said the singling out of one human rights situation under item 7 (Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories) in the institution building agenda was against the principle of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. Canada had not agreed to including this item in the institution-building package. Canada believed the Middle East should be addressed through Item 4, "Human Rights Situations that Require the Council's Attention".
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (
) said it was regrettable that Archbishop Tutu and his team could not undertake their Mission to the occupied territories. The Mission should be fulfilled. The Human Rights Council should address situations of gross violations of human rights without selectivity and with a creative basis. It was imperative that it took an unequivocal stand on violations of international humanitarian law, in particular the situation perpetrated by Israel. Failure to do so would affect its credibility, and erode the confidence of the international community in the body.
The Separation Wall had deprived the Palestinian people of their property and access to employment. The Separation Wall and confiscation of property were contrary to the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. The situation was desperate and the declaration of Gaza as "hostile territory" would entail collective punishment of the Palestinian people. All illegal actions by Israel should be condemned, and it should be called upon to respect international law.
CHRISTOPHE GUILHOU (
) said that the current item under consideration was against the principle of non-selectivity. France was committed to the defence of human rights everywhere in the world. Populations under occupation were living under very difficult conditions. It was not possible to leave the inhabitants of Gaza in their hell. The Human Rights Council should show them that there was another way than suffering and attacks. Israel's consideration of the Gaza strip as "hostile territory" was not going in the direction of the betterment of conditions. France condemned the continuation of firing of rockets from the occupied territories on Israel and everything that was jeopardizing the political process. Palestinian armed groups should also respect human rights.
VALERY LOSHCHININ (
) said the Russian Federation had consistently called for a resumption of negotiations and a just solution providing for an end to Israel's occupation and a sovereign Palestinian state. Palestinian attacks were followed by Israeli retaliation leading to many casualties. The main objective should be to stop actions likely to provoke an outbreak of violence. The aim of isolating terrorists could not be achieved by a blockade that damaged the civilian population or by declarations on "hostile territory". It was important also to stop chaos breaking out among Palestinian groups. Cooperation and goodwill was needed in terms of implementing UN decisions. Israel's position on the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission was alarming, causing an unacceptable precedent and harming the Council's activities. Selectivity was, however, against the spirit of open and constructive dialogue.
ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (
) said the Council had decided to put a standing item on the agenda on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and this was a clear indication of the need to deal with this disastrous daily situation. Occupation itself, as a concept and practice, was a violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, as it deprived individuals of their choices. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with regards to the Palestinian people and the decision of the Israeli authorities to impede services in Gaza, along with other elements such as the construction of the Separation Wall, were cruel and inhuman practices.
The Council could not be limited to discussions - it had to ensure that its decisions and resolutions were implemented on the ground. Neither of its resolutions had been implemented. The suffering of the Palestinian people would not stop as long as there continued to be such violations of human rights, and thus the Council had a responsibility to stop the suffering and ensure the enjoyment by the Palestinians of their legitimate rights.
MOUSSA BOCAR LY (
) said that follow-up of the Council's decisions was a measure of credibility and effectiveness of the new body. Thus, by adding the current item on its agenda, the Council was taking a constructive and prospective approach. It should be perceived as a plus, in regard to the old Commission. The Council should spare no efforts to respect the implementations of the resolutions and encourage the dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Senegal, as a Chairman of the UN Committee for the Free Exercise of the Rights of the Palestine People, would continue to strive continuously for a long lasting peace.
ICHIRO FUJISAKI (
) said the Palestine problem had been going on too long with too much suffering. To promote human rights in Palestine a key condition was prosperity and economic viability, facilitation of the transport of goods, and contact with neighbouring Gulf States. Japan promoted an initiative "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity". It was hoped that Archbishop Tutu's visit would take place soon.
LI BAODONG (
) said the long-standing conflict between Palestine and Israel had brought great misery to the people of the two countries, more so Palestinians. China welcomed the recent summit meetings between the leaders, and supported the finding of a permanent solution to the conflict. However, the situation had recently entered again the vicious cycle of attacks and retaliations. The issue was not one of just peace and war - repeated cycles of violence would only increase hatred and religious intolerance and exacerbate intolerance and terrorism. Seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict would not only protect the inhabitants of two countries from terror and threat, but would increase world peace and stability. The mutual attacks should stop, and the conflict must be resolved through political negotiations.
The Human Rights Council should be fully supportive of a solution to the Palestinian conflict, and play a more positive role so the two nations concerned could achieve common existence and development, along with the other countries of the region. This was the mission of the Council, but also of the international community, including the people of Palestine and Israel.
ABDUL-LATIF AL-DOHAIBI (
) said that Yemen was deeply concerned by the deterioration of the human rights situation in the region, despite the many mechanisms implemented internationally. It was as if the region was on another planet, while mechanisms were successful in other parts of the world. The persistent human rights violations against Palestinians made it necessary for the Council to make every effort to put an end to this situation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council should double their efforts until the end of the occupation.
OBAID SALEM AL ZABI (
United Arab Emirates
) said after one year the Council now faced a credibility issue over the Occupied Arab Territories. Decisions had been taken regarding some related matters such as Beit Hanoun, but up to now access had been prevented and violations of victims' rights in the Occupied Territories, from detention of Palestinian officials to the compensation issue for Jenin victims, had not been resolved. Mechanisms were needed to ensure the Council's decisions and resolutions were followed. Closure, searches and isolation of populations in Jerusalem impeded worship and these were unacceptable.
ALIREZA MOYERI (
) said the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continued to be grave and worsening, with a general climate of impunity. The Human Rights Council, since its inception, had convened three special sessions to discuss the atrocities committed by the Israeli regime against the people of Palestine. Regrettably, despite all international efforts, the adopted resolutions of the Council had remained unanswered, and the Israeli regime had continued to perpetuate massive abuses of human rights.
It was to be noted that while the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had further deteriorated, and the suffering of the Palestinian people was on the rise, those responsible for these crimes and violations continued to ignore the decisions of the international community with absolute impunity. The international community and the Council in particular should take all necessary measures to put an end to the continuation of occupation, aggression and violation of human rights by the Israeli regime against the innocent people in Palestine and the other Occupied Palestinian Territories as soon as possible.
NAJEEB AL-BADER (
) said that by approving this item, the Council was showing its concern about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The human rights situation in the region was greatly alarming. Immediate protection must be provided to the inhabitants of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Israel had obstructed access by the fact-finding missions. The human rights situation of the Occupied Arab Territories called for an immediate reaction.
IDRISS JAZAÏRY (
) said Algeria would have liked to see a reference to some alternatives that might be available in the absence of Archbishop Tutu's mission. Failure to implement S-1/1 and S-3/1 and the continued violations daily perpetrated against the Palestinians flouted the Council's authority. Threats to withdraw humanitarian services were worrying. Algeria would have liked to see more understanding of the daily suffering of victims so that aggressor and victim would not be placed on the same footing. Greater respect for the most basic of all human rights – the right to life - was needed.
SAAD ALFARARGI (
) said the true situation considering this conflict and its substance had to do with the Israeli occupation and the denial of the rights of the Palestinians. Israel was trying to deny the situation, blaming it on a lack of Palestinian infrastructure, but Israel itself had destroyed this infrastructure, thus denying the creation of a viable State. Israel wanted the Palestinians to give up their right to return, but this lay at the very heart of the Arab peace initiative. Israel wanted normal relations with Arab States, whilst remaining selective and not offering anything on the multilateral level.
There was a need for a comprehensive solution. Israel did not recognise the borders that had been consecrated by international law. The Council was called upon to implement its resolutions and others regarding the Golan Heights and other areas under consideration.
GABRIEL SALAZAR (
) said that Venezuela offered solidarity with the Palestine people and deplored the deprivation of the human rights of Palestinians. Dialogue and cooperation for a long lasting peace were the only way to go. The declaration of Gaza as "hostile territory" was seen with horror. The cutting off of services would represent a violation of humanitarian laws. Non-implementation of resolutions of the Council was challenging its authority. Venezuela believed that the Human Rights Council should give unambiguous signals. It was thought that it would be vital for the Council to continue dealing with this matter until peace was reached.
MICHAEL S. KLECHESKI (
) said bilateral dialogue between the parties was central to achieving meaningful progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States supported the ongoing talks between the two leaders. The international community should also provide political support to both sides and financial support to the Palestinian Authority. Addressing the conflict required a balanced and forward-looking approach aiming not to cast aspersions but to encourage reconciliation. It required the forces of moderation in a region where extremism had done such harm. Arab nations should also play a part in promoting negotiations, stop incitement to hatred and end the fiction that Israel did not exist. The Human Rights Council had an opportunity to show its potential and, more than criticize Israel, to promote human rights for all in the region.
RUQUIA AL-MADI, of
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
, speaking on behalf of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples and International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples, said the Human Rights Council should pay note to the already dire humanitarian and economic situation which had steadily deteriorated in the occupied Gaza Strip since the hermetic closure of the territory in June 2007. The Special Rapporteur should visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories to personally assess the scope and nature of forced displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and report findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council. All actors should refrain from allowing politics to jeopardise the fundamental rights of Palestinians, especially the internally displaced.
LUKAS MACHON, of
International Commission of Jurists
, expressed the International Commission of Jurists' deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel could not relinquish its obligation under international human rights and humanitarian law, including in Gaza. The siege imposed on Gaza had had a devastating impact on the humanitarian situation. The announcement of Gaza as "hostile territory" added further concern over an escalation of the situation in Gaza. The international community and Israel should take urgent measures to enable freedom of movement to the furthest extent possible. Attacks on civilians were clear violations of international law. Both sides of the conflict were continuing to violate this fundamental principle. Hamas and Fatah should respect basic principles of the rule of law and human rights.
DAVID LITTMAN, of
World Union for Progressive Judaism
, said the main problem the Council should recognize was the occupation of Gaza by Hamas. The Council should condemn rocket attacks fired from Gaza. He cited the Hamas Charter and the Muslim Brotherhood Charter and their calls for Jihad against Israel. Appeasement was, in Churchill's phrase "the staircase which leads to a dark gulf" and the Council, through the only country-specific item on its agenda, was again on the descent towards appeasement.
HILLEL NEUER, of
United Nations Watch
, said the chief promise of reform of the former Commission into the now Council was to end the bias and double standards that paralysed and ultimately destroyed the old Commission - the chief example of which was the agenda item on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Palestinian Territories. Today, this promise was breached. This was not the promised clean slate. Now this item and the large package under which it was adopted moved to the General Assembly for its consideration. Member States should respect the call of the Secretary-General, of the High Commissioner, and of principle, and restore a promised clean slate by voting to remove this item.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of
Human Rights Watch
, said Israeli attacks did not respect civilians. Israel had not investigated if its forces violated human rights. The Council's attention to these violations was important. The Council should strive to have an impact on the day-to-day life of those who were suffering. The Council was urged to address the fact that Palestinians also fired rockets on Israeli civilians. Reprisal against civilians was illegal. Israel should cooperate in the Beit Hanoun investigation and prosecute those who were responsible.
GREGOR PUPPINCK, of
European Centre for Law and Justice
, said the Christian minority in the Occupied Territory shared the fate of the Palestinian people and was itself denied religious freedoms. Christian schools open to Muslims students had been partially destroyed by militants. There were reports of forced conversions. There had been a mass exodus of Christians from the territories as a result of discrimination and attack. The loss was a severe one for the Palestinian people and the region. Their fundamental rights should be upheld and subject to special attention by the Human Rights Council.
FAHIME DORRI, of
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence
, said Gaza was in effect under siege, because the international community did not recognise its Government, whereas the emergency Government of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank was recognised as the official Palestinian Government. With this situation, conditions for the people of Gaza were getting worse, because international aid did not reach them. A key development that had taken place recently was the Israeli High Court ruling in favour of Palestinians with regards to the separation barrier. While this was a great victory and hope for the Palestinians, all should ensure that this victory did not become just a one-off, and the Palestinian people's hopes were not shattered, and the United Nations, the Council and the international community should continue to apply pressure on the Israeli Government to observe all United Nations resolutions.
KRISZTINA HUSZTI-ORBAN, of
, said that this year had seen an unprecedented level of inter-factional violence between rival Palestinian security forces and armed militias affiliated to Fatah and Hamas. The population of Gaza had been left with no formal law enforcement. Hamas had tortured detainees with impunity and had curtailed freedom of expression and association. In the West Bank hundreds of Hamas supporters had been arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Palestinian Authority. The blockade imposed by Israel in the Gaza strip had trapped the inhabitants with harsh social and economic consequences. The firing of rockets into Israel had continued to pose a serious risk. As the situation continued to deteriorate it was imperative that the Human Rights Council ensure a fair hearing for all the victims and accountability for all the perpetrators.
LAZARO PARY, of
Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru"
, on behalf of World Peace Council, said Israel, with backing from the United States, had become the Middle East's most dangerous terrorist State. The genocide and extermination of Palestinians victimized for the crime of defending their lands and lives were crimes against humanity under international law. Palestinians were continually subject to Israeli incursions in Gaza, arbitrary detention was frequent, the blockade was strengthening and the international community should not tolerate extermination of unarmed civilians merely for the crime of trying to defend their lands and live in peace and dignity. There would be no peace or justice in the Middle East while Israel continued systematically to deny the right to self- determination.
ELIAS KHOURI, of
Union of Arab Jurists
, said for more than 40 years, Israeli authorities had been violating human rights and international humanitarian law, and the list of these violations was very long. International resolutions had condemned these, but the violations had continued and taken new forms, depriving the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination and their right to live. Israel was working to limit the freedom of movement. These were practices which were accompanied by other crimes, such as the camps, which were scenes for genocide. The international community was not able to take measures to halt these practices, which was why they had worsened. The occupation gave rise to violence and hatred, and the solution lay in putting an end to the occupation.
KLAUS NETTER, of
B'nai B'rith International
, speaking on behalf of Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations,said that the decision to take the question of Palestine as the only country-specific item on the Council's agenda on a permanent basis severely endangered its credibility and this despite the repeated pledges of non-selectivity from numerous Ambassadors. The Council's agenda had no permanent place for the other urgent human rights violations. This obsession could not solely be explained by the obsession of some Member States with Israel, but perhaps by the desire to distract attention and time from true violations in their own midst.
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