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28 March 2000

Commission on Human Rights
56th session
Geneva, 28 March 2000


Report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

The more the international community makes progress in adopting human rights and humanitarian laws, the wider the gap between the accepted code of civilized conduct and the actual behaviour of society seems to become.

This is undoubtedly due to the endemic inconsistency existing between human propositions and their implementation. But this gap - however frustrating - must not shake our hope that it is possible, after all, to make this a more livable and acceptable world.

That is why, overcoming my personal disinclination for any role that implies some kind of inquisition, I accepted this appointment, for which I reiterate my thanks and my commitment to the Chair and to the Commission.

The very short time available, if not a justification, is the reason for the late submission of this year's report and for its shortcomings.

However incomplete, I hope that the report is self-explanatory and therefore I will limit myself to very few remarks.

While the very nature of human rights is such that a mere reduction in the level of violations cannot satisfy us, however, any improvement should be welcomed, if anything as a trend to be encouraged and monitored.

Unfortunately, no such trend is emerging as yet in the mandated area, in the sense that, while in certain areas of human rights there appears to be a statistical improvement, in others there is evidence of the opposite.

Therefore, also considering the indivisibility of human rights and the fact that in the mandated area we are confronted with a situation that has been going on for more than 30 years, the overall human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be considered as an encouraging one.

The present situation is all the more disturbing since it is perceived by the large majority of the interlocutors I have met as a side effect of the very peace process.

Another aspect I would like to underline is that of the multiplier effect of numerous violations that affect adversely not only individuals (the direct victims), but also the very fabric of society, with far- reaching consequences, since their combined impact is greater than their mere arithmetic sum.

I would like also to draw the Commission's attention to the particularly severe effect that a number of violations have on the more vulnerable segments of society. A fact that, especially in the case of the very young, can have long lasting, sometimes permanent consequences.

In conclusion, while it would be in any case unrealistic to pretend to provide a complete picture after such a short, although intense immersion in a reality as complex as that of the occupied territories, the task of analyzing it is made particularly difficult by the lack of dialogue with the occupying power.

The Commission is well acquainted with the arguments advanced by Israel for not accepting to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, outlined in the 1999 report of my predecessor (document E/CN.4/1999/24). In synthesis: a claimed lack of balance in the mandate and its open-endedness. I regret to inform the Commission that this position has remained the same during the period under review.

While it is in order to recall that the present mandate was conceived to address the violations related to the occupation, it has to be noted that a new situation and dynamic has developed in the mandated area. It will be, of course, for the Commission to decide if the mandate, as it stands, still serves the Commission's purposes and if the other existing tools at its disposal are adequate and sufficient to handle other aspects of human rights in the mandated area.

As the new deadline established within the framework of the resumed Oslo process approaches, everyone is holding their breath and hoping that, at long last, an acceptable solution will be found to the conflict (and assorted suffering) that has afflicted the Middle East for so long. Everyone in a position to do so should also try and contribute to such an achievement.

For its part, the Commission, while doing all in its power to facilitate, in a constructive and positive spirit, the process under way, has the daunting task to inspire a solution that would not be achieved to the detriment of human rights. If this were to be the case, not only justice would be violated, but it is to be feared that the peace thus achieved would carry in itself the seeds of its own undoing.

With these remarks, Mr. Chairman, I have the honour to submit to you document E/CN.4/2000/25.

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