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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 4th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 21 March 2001, at 10 a.m.
Chairperson : Mr. DESPOUY (Argentina)
STATEMENT BY THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
STATEMENT BY THE STATE SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA
STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ISRAEL
STATEMENT BY THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF JAPAN
REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Mr. ORDZHONIKIDZE (Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation),...
3. The Russian Federation was a co-sponsor of the peace process in the Middle East but the process was now at a dead end. It was essential to resume negotiations and above all to lift the economic blockade of Palestinian territories, where the situation had deteriorated drastically. The Commission’s resolutions on the Middle East should serve as the starting point for reaching a sustainable political settlement.
STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ISRAEL
29. Mr. MELCHIOR (Israel) said that he had entered the world of politics two years previously, having left his position as Chief Rabbi in Norway in order to try to prove to Israeli society that there was no contradiction between religion and peace, or between religion and the fight for human rights and human dignity. In Israel, ethnic and cultural diversity was a source of strength rather than of division and strife. He saw his duties as a member of the Israeli Government as a chance to forge new relations between Jews and Arabs and to help strengthen links between representatives of the three great monotheistic religions. He emphasized the significant role that civil society and Israeli NGOs played in the field of human rights.
30. Drawing on the experience of its past, the State of Israel remained fully committed to safeguarding human rights. Accordingly, it had recently taken active steps to establish a national commission for human rights. The Israeli Supreme Court also played a central role in enhancing the rule of law and individual rights.
31. Israel deplored the developments that had taken place since the Commission’s previous session, in spite of the compromises it had proposed at the Camp David summit in July 2000, which had been applauded by the international community but rejected by the Palestinian Authority. Having responded with attacks against the Israeli civilian population, in breach of the Oslo Process, which was based on a commitment by both sides to solve disputes through negotiation and never to resort to violence, the Palestinian Authority had forced Israel to resort to military means. The Israeli Government was not indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinian population and wished to assure the Commission that peace talks would be resumed as soon as the Palestinians halted the violence. If the Palestinian Authority was attempting to turn the conflict into a religious conflict, then that was a dangerous strategy. Similarly, if it justified the conflict by rejecting the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, no compromise was possible. If, however, its aim was to obtain the freedom of the Palestinian people in their own State, that aim could have been achieved, and might still be achieved, through negotiation.
32. It was to be regretted that several items on the Commission’s agenda were directed against Israel, amongst them the point concerning the human rights situation in southern Lebanon and western Bekaa. The fact that, in implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978), Israel had withdrawn from that area had apparently gone unnoticed by the Commission. Israel urged members of the Commission to reconsider extremist resolutions that led nowhere, and instead to adopt a balanced approach conducive to a resumption of negotiations.
33. The Israeli Government attached high priority to initiatives against racism and discrimination. It considered that a determination to avoid extremism must be central to the concerns of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, scheduled for September 2001. In that regard, his Government also appealed to the international community to refrain from politicizing the conference and from turning it into a platform for the political exclusion of Israel.
34. In conclusion, he expressed the hope that good sense would prevail, thereby sparing Israeli and Palestinian parents from the misfortune of seeing their children killed or permanently maimed. That was what had happened recently to three of his own cousins, who had lost their legs in a terrorist attack on the bus that was taking them to school.
40. Ms. TAHIR-KHELI (United States of America) ...
44. The High Commissioner had visited Israel and the occupied territories in November 2000, and had published her report on 27 November. The United States of America was convinced that a solution to the problem of violence must come from Israelis and Palestinians alike, and that responsibility for the current state of affairs could not be laid at the door of just one of the parties. Her delegation believed that the High Commissioner could have made that point much more clearly in her report. On the other hand, the High Commissioner was absolutely right to say that negotiation was the only path to peace and stability. The leaders of both sides must show the will to go back to the negotiating table. They must want to achieve peace; a solution could not be imposed upon them.
45. Her country remained deeply committed to achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and on the principle of “land for peace”. The violence must end, and the Palestinians must be able to resume their normal economic activity. For their part, members of the Commission must do their utmost to encourage a return to peace in the region.
46. Her delegation saw the current session of the Commission and the forthcoming World Conference against Racism as opportunities to advance the cause of human freedom.
50. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) ...
52. The Saudi Arabian Government also wished to thank the High Commissioner for her report on her visit to the occupied Palestinian territories. The Commission should do its utmost to ensure that the proposals made by the High Commissioner following her mission to Palestine were followed up, and to secure an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian people.
58. Ms. AL-HAJJAJI (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) ...
59. Libya was mindful of the difficult circumstances in which the Special Rapporteurs had to work. In its appeal for the year 2001, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had also mentioned the shortfall in the human and financial resources at its disposal. However, those difficulties did not entirely account for the fact that the Special Rapporteurs mentioned in paragraph 6 (d) of the resolution adopted by the Commission at its fifth special session (resolution S-5/1) had not immediately carried out missions to the occupied Palestinian territories, as they had been asked to do. On 2 January 2001, the Permanent Mission of Israel in Geneva, in reply to the request of the Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance for a visa to visit the occupied territories, had stated that the Government of Israel did not intend to implement that resolution. Moreover, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had decided on his own initiative, and on not very convincing grounds, not to visit the occupied territories. On 20 February 2001 the Special Rapporteur on violence against women had asked the Ambassador of Palestine and the Ambassador of Israel for an interview to discuss matters arising from her mandate. She was still waiting for a reply. That Israel, the occupying power, was refusing to cooperate with the Commission would not surprise anyone, since it had always snubbed resolutions by international bodies. On the other hand, one could hardly fail to be concerned at the lack of urgency on the part of the special mechanisms and procedures set up by the Commission itself in visiting the occupied territories in accordance with the resolution in question.
70. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan), ...
71. The High Commissioner had welcomed the growing interest in protecting human rights in conflict situations. Unfortunately, the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in occupied Jammu and Kashmir stood in stark contrast to such optimism. In that respect, the OIC was disappointed that the consistent violations of the human rights of Muslim people were never taken up by the High Commissioner’s personal envoys to crisis regions. The OIC was also deeply concerned at the sinister campaign to portray Islam as a religion with lesser safeguards for women. Islamophobia was an unfortunate phenomenon and was becoming more widespread. For the members of the OIC, attacks on Islam and its values were a cause of concern which unfortunately was not reflected in the report of the High Commissioner on the work of the Commission’s fifty-sixth session.
72. The OIC welcomed the High Commissioner’s report on her visit to the occupied Palestinian territories (E/CN.4/2001/114) and deplored Israel’s refusal to allow the High Commissioner to make her visit as part of her mandate under Commission resolution S-5/1. From the report, it was clear that the human rights situation on Palestinian territory was extremely grave, that Intifada was a spontaneous and popular uprising, that the Israeli defence forces were committing grave breaches of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, and that Israeli settlers were living in closed areas protected by Israeli soldiers and using facilities denied to the Palestinian people. The report also showed that non-implementation by Israel of the relevant General Assembly resolutions, especially Security Council resolution 242 (1967) was the underlying cause of the present situation. To that must be added Israel’s obduracy in relation to the final status negotiations, its avoidance of responsibility concerning the right of return of refugees, its settlement policy, its attempts to alter the demographic composition and historical demarcation of the Holy City of Al-Quds al-Sharif, and the claims it was making about the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
73. The OIC considered the use of the term “violence” in the High Commissioner’s report misleading, because it tended to equate the aggressor with the victims. Accusing the Palestinians of using the language of hatred and inciting hatred was to forget the daily suffering of people who had had to face a brutal occupation for over 50 years. The Palestinians had no choice but to rely on their own strength and cohesion to uphold their fundamental rights. The OIC concurred with the High Commissioner’s recommendations to establish an international monitoring presence, to withdraw Israeli military forces from their forward positions, to have a lower Israeli military profile in the occupied territories, and to implement fully international humanitarian law and the standards enshrined in the international human rights instruments. The OIC appreciated the High Commissioner’s commitment to supporting the action taken by the Commission and its mechanisms in implementing resolution S-5/1. It would like to see a report on the implementation of the resolution.
74. Ms. ABOULNAGA (Observer for Egypt) said there had been unwarranted negligence by the human rights protection mechanisms in implementing the Commission’s resolutions on the Palestinian territories. However, she was grateful to the High Commissioner for the frankness of her report on her visit to the territories and for the clarity and wealth of the information provided. The report should form the basis for the work of the Commission on Human Rights, on which the effective protection of the rights of the Palestinians depended. As the occupying power, Israel must accept sole and entire responsibility for the current extremely worrying situation on the ground. Efforts to place the responsibility on the people under occupation and to distort the facts were not acceptable. The Israeli aggression was quite indefensible, whatever the attempts made by Israel to woo support. If the recommendations made by the High Commissioner in November 2000, on the day following her visit to the Palestinian territories, were urgent, the situation was even more urgent now. She was thinking especially of the recommendations concerning international protection for the Palestinians, compensation for the victims and the application of the Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
75. Egypt called on Israel to bring its occupation and aggression to an end, to cooperate fully with the Commission’s mechanisms and to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations and the resolutions arising from them. A peace not based on human rights would be no more than an illusion. Respect for those rights, and especially the rights of civilians in armed conflict, was crucial if a just and lasting settlement in the region was to be achieved.
Statements in exercise of the right of reply under agenda item 4
81. Mr. RAMBLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the rabbi, Michael Melchior, had summed up the whole of the Palestinian tragedy in one sentence when he had spoken of leaving Norway in order to settle in Israel. As for himself, he had been expelled from Jaffa where he was born, and did not have the right to return to the city of his birth.
82. Mr. Melchior had described Israel as a democratic country with a horror of racism. How could the Commission on Human Rights believe such a lie? Could a society based on murder and the dispossession of others be called democratic? Mr. Melchior’s remarks would lead one to believe that Israel respected human rights. Could the Commission possibly be deceived on that score, after having condemned Israel year after year for its exactions in the occupied Arab territories? A country which recognized the right of some to return to a territory, while denying it to the people who came from there, was a racist country.
83. Mr. IBRAHIM (Observer for Lebanon), replying to the representative of Israel, said that Israel had not implemented Security Council resolution 425 (1978) of 16 March 1978 until 23 May 2000, and in spite of its withdrawal, border violations by Israel were taking place every day.
84. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that some delegations had chosen to disregard the peace message addressed to them by Israel’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. He attributed complete responsibility to the Palestinians for the violence which had broken out in the territories. He took the view that the violence had been planned and coincided with Arafat’s rejection of the proposals made by Mr. Barak at Camp David. It was for the Palestinian authorities to make an immediate appeal for the violence to stop.
85. Some delegations had referred to the refugee question. Discussion of that issue was part of the ongoing negotiations. It had been on the agenda of the Camp David negotiations, and a compromise was on the point of being reached when the Palestinians had rejected all the proposals made to them. As for Lebanon, from which Israel had entirely withdrawn, it could only be advised to implement Security Council resolution 425 (1978) in full.
86. Mr. RAMBLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said it was surprising to hear that the Intifada had been planned long in advance. Everyone knew that the new Intifada had been caused by Sharon’s visit to the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that Israeli forces had opened fire on Palestinians protesting against the violation of an Islamic holy place. The Palestinians had the right to resist Israeli occupation; it was a right guaranteed by United Nations resolutions. Israel was seeking to occupy Palestine by force, but Palestinian resistance would never waver.
87. Mr. IBRAHIM (Observer for Lebanon) said his country had no time for Israel’s advice. On the other hand, bringing pressure to bear on Israel to implement United Nations resolutions was an absolute necessity. It was true that Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon, but it had left behind thousands of landmines which could not be located on any map.