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        Economic and Social Council
23 May 1998

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-fourth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 18 March 1998, at 10 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. SELEBI (South Africa)




The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m .


52. Mr. AYUB KHAN (Pakistan) …


55. The right to self­determination was the foundation of the system of nation States and suppression of that right was the wellspring of most conflicts. Among those denied that right were the people of Palestine, where peace could be achieved only if that people was able to exercise its right to self­determination and statehood through the implementation, in the letter and in the spirit, of the resolutions of the Security Council and the Oslo Accords.


QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 4) (continued) (E/CN.4/1998/4 and Corr. 1, 7, 8, 17­20, 112, 116, 124, 125, 128, 133, 134 and 136)

63. Ms. GLOVER (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the Central and Eastern European countries associated therewith ­ and the associated country of Cyprus, said that the Union had been deeply concerned by the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process over the past year. It strongly supported the United States efforts to reinject momentum into the negotiations and would continue to use all its political, economic and moral weight to ensure progress. The peace process could not be allowed to stagnate. The best way forward was a lasting settlement based on the Oslo Accords and the principle of land for peace.

64. All parties should honour their commitments under existing agreements, since trust, cooperation and security were required to strengthen the atmosphere of mutual confidence. In that context, the Union had been disturbed to learn of the shooting at an Israeli checkpoint outside Hebron on 10 March which had resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians and the wounding of others. It welcomed the decision by the Israeli Government to set up a full inquiry into the incident.

65.65. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority had committed themselves to respecting human rights. The use of torture and other serious human rights violations was totally unacceptable. Yet incidents of imprisonment without trial, torture and cruel treatment of detainees by Israel continued to occur. Indeed, the Government and the judiciary had taken the unprecedented step of formally sanctioning the use of “physical pressure” against Palestinian detainees. The Union urged the Israeli authorities to end immediately interrogation practices that were in breach of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

66. It was also concerned about other human rights violations by Israel in the occupied Arab territories, such as detention without trial, demolition of houses belonging to the families of terrorist suspects and the discriminatory application of laws to Israelis and Palestinians, including the draft law limiting compensation to Palestinians who were the victims of illegal Israeli actions during the intifada. The Union also called on Israel to allow ICRC access to Khiam prison in southern Lebanon. Full cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, notably the Special Rapporteur, was important if the human rights situation in the area was to be improved.

67. The Union was deeply concerned about reports of human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority. Amnesty International documented human rights violations committed by numerous Palestinian security services in the areas under its jurisdiction, ranging from arbitrary political arrest and prolonged detention without charge or trial to the use of torture and unlawful killings, the failure to investigate violations adequately and the arrest of journalists and human rights defenders. The Union urged the Authority to put an end to all such unacceptable practices.

68. The Union was gravely concerned about the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the territories occupied in 1967. Such settlements were both illegal under international law and damaging to the peace process. Both sides must avoid counter­productive actions. Israel should match its stated commitment to the peace process with concrete action to fulfil its obligations and refrain from any act likely to create mistrust about its intentions, such as the expropriation of land, demolition of houses, expulsion of local residents and construction of bypass roads. There should be an immediate and full cessation of all settlement activity in the occupied territories.

69. The Union was concerned at restrictions on the travel freedom of citizens of European Union states who were classified as Palestinian residents. Such people had to obtain exit permits to leave, though they might not be resident at all or even of Palestinian origin. European Union citizens classified as Palestinian residents and admitted on their European Union passports were not necessarily allowed to leave or to travel internally on them. Such discriminatory practices by Israel against European Union passport holders must stop.

70. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were also facing problems as a result of discriminatory measures adopted by the Israeli Government and judiciary. They risked losing their Jerusalem identity cards if they were dual citizens or if, despite meeting previous residence requirements, they had lived or worked for extended periods outside the city. Such blatant attempts to change the demographic composition of Jerusalem were contrary to international law and to the spirit of the peace process; they must cease immediately

71. The Israeli Government's need for security was well understood, but it could be maintained without imposing closures on the occupied territories. The stagnation of the peace process and restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian goods and people had had a negative effect on the Palestinian economy. The Union was investing very large sums of money in support of the peace process through assistance for Palestinian social and economic development, which was a prerequisite for political stability. It was engaged with Israel in a dialogue aimed at finding practical ways of boosting the Palestinian economy and minimizing the negative effect of the restrictions imposed by Israel. It had been encouraged by the Government's positive attitude and hoped to see results on the ground.

72. The Union would continue to monitor human rights violations by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It would make representations on issues as they arose and would seek to maintain a regular dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. It remained committed to the aim of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The appointment of a Special Envoy was evidence of the Union's strong interest in the peace process and its desire to play a role commensurate with the scale of its interests and economic support. The Union was also providing finance, expertise and equipment to help the Palestinians develop their counter­terrorism capability. Respect for human rights, including the rule of law, remained central to the Union's approach. The Union therefore reiterated its commitment to assisting the parties on the difficult road towards the attainment of peace in the region.

The meeting rose at 12.50 p.m.

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