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        Economic and Social Council
8 April 1998

Original: FRENCH


Fifty-fourth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 18 March 1998, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. SELEBI




The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.

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, 17, 18, 19, 20, 112, 116, 124, 125, 128, 133, 134 and 136)


20. Ms. SHI YANHUA (China) said that since 1991 the Middle East peace process had made some progress, as shown in particular by the establishment of the Palestinian authority, which had given renewed hope to millions of Palestinians. At present, however, the peace talks were in an impasse owing to the attitude of Israel, which had built Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and was refusing to withdraw its troops from the West Bank.

21. The Chinese Government, which had always supported the Palestinians in their struggle for the restoration of their legitimate rights, including the right to self­determination, firmly believed that all the countries and peoples of the region aspired to a just and comprehensive peace. It considered that the parties concerned should continue the peace talks on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and the principle of “land for peace”. Secondly, the parties should seriously implement all the agreements concluded and avoid any action that might be detrimental to the peace process. Thirdly, they should renounce all forms of terrorism and acts of violence so that the security of States and the right to lead a normal life could be guaranteed. Fourthly, they should strengthen economic cooperation between all the countries of the region. Fifthly, the international community must help the parties concerned to establish a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. China, for its part, would continue to cooperate in those efforts.

22. As clearly shown by the tragic situation in which the Palestinians had found themselves for the past 50 years, without a homeland the notion of human rights and fundamental freedoms was meaningless. The Commission must continue actively supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle for the restoration of their legitimate national rights pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations.

23. Mr. Joong Keun KIM (Republic of Korea) said that the human rights situation in the territories occupied by Israel remained disturbing and the peace process was under threat. It was absolutely imperative that Israelis and Palestinians, with the help of the international community, should put an end to the escalation of mistrust and violence by first of all applying the Oslo Accords and ensuring respect for human rights and the paramountcy of law. Secondly, emphasis must be laid on the economic development of Palestine and the effective utilization of its human resources. For its part the Republic of Korea had over the past four years contributed US$ 15 million to economic cooperation funds for reconstruction projects undertaken by the Palestinian people.

24. Finally, the key role that education could play in reviving trust and peace in the minds of the young must not be forgotten.

25. The Republic of Korea was ready to support any political initiative that duly reflected the relevant United Nations resolutions concerning the situation in the occupied territories, it being understood that the human rights of all citizens of the region, including the right to self­determination and the right to security of all countries in the Middle East, must be guaranteed so that the peace process could be brought to completion.

26. Mr. ZAFERA (Madagascar), referring to documents E/CN.4/1998/17 and E/CN.4/1998/19, expressed serious concern at the perpetuation by the occupying power, in the occupied Arab Territories including Palestine, of practices detrimental to freedom and human dignity and in conflict with the basic postulates of international law and with the principles of international humanitarian law. In spite of the declaration of principles concerning the interim arrangements for autonomy signed in Washington on 13 September 1993 by the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and of the subsequent agreements, in particular the Oslo Accords, violations of human rights were continuing in the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine, while Syrian Golan remained subject to the legislative and administrative measures and decisions imposed by the Israeli authorities. If the achievements of the peace process in the Middle East were to be safeguarded, violations of human rights in the region must cease and the international community must intensify its efforts to promote the effective implementation of the agreements concluded between the interested parties and the relaunching of the negotiations.

27. Madagascar also attached great importance to the referendum for the self­determination of the people of the Western Sahara which was to take place under the supervision of the United Nations, in collaboration with the Organization of African Unity. It supported the efforts exerted by the United Nations Secretary­General and encouraged direct contacts between the parties concerned to overcome the divergencies and smooth out all the difficulties so as to enable the identification process to be completed before 1 June 1998 and ensure that a free, orderly and impartial vote, unaffected by any military or administrative constraint, could be conducted.

28. Mr. AKAO (Japan) strongly urged all the parties involved in the Middle East peace process to spare no effort to overcome the difficulties preventing the resumption of negotiations. Japan would do everything it could to help strengthen the dialogue between the parties and create favourable conditions for direct negotiations. To that end, it had repeatedly called upon the Israeli Government to refrain from unilaterally taking measures that would jeopardize the atmosphere of trust essential to the success of the peace negotiations. It had also appealed to the Palestinian authorities to combat terrorism and cooperate with Israel in maintaining order.

29. Japan's economic assistance to the Palestinian people bore witness to its commitment to the peace process. A further aid programme, to the value of US$ 18.5 million, had been approved in February, bringing the total aid extended to the Palestinians by Japan over recent years up to over US$ 340 million. Also, in January 1996 the Japanese Government had sent to the region a 77­member team of observers in connection with the elections organized in Palestine. In addition, Japan was contributing to the peacekeeping missions in the region and, since February 1996, had been participating in the operations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan.

30. The goal of the peace process was not simply to bring hostilities to an end, but also to allow all the peoples of the region to enjoy a decent life. The only way to achieve that was to get the peace process moving forward and promote regional cooperation.

31. Mr. BENJELLOUN­TOUIMI (Morocco) observed with regret that the peace process in the Middle East was very seriously endangered. No real progress had been made in carrying out the planned timetable for the implementation of the declaration of principles. The negotiations on the permanent status of Gaza and the West Bank that were to have started in May 1996 and been completed within three years were still at a standstill. Most of the confidence­building measures provided for on paper remained unapplied.

32. The confidence engendered by the signing of the Al Khalil Accords on 15 January 1997, well after the initially planned date, had been seriously weakened by the decision of the Israeli Government to continue and intensify its policy of settlement in the occupied territories and in particular in East Jerusalem, where an unacceptable policy of Judaization was being applied. Its implementation was accompanied by almost daily vexations, hurtful to the dignity to the Palestinians, collective punishments, and sealing off of territories with resulting enormous losses for the Palestinian economy. It was nothing but a prolongation of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which was the basic cause of all the violations committed, including during the transitional period, without a vestige of respect for humanitarian law.

33. The Moroccan delegation deplored the fact that for over a year the Israeli Government had been primarily resorting to manoeuvres and preliminaries backed by threats and ultimatums in order to evade its international obligations. The new practice inaugurated by that Government of repudiating the commitments of its predecessor threatened to damage international relations seriously and create a dangerous precedent. Neither the praiseworthy flexibility that the Palestinian authority, under the direction of President Arafat, had consistently displayed in order to move forward the peace process, nor the appeals from the United Nations and the European Union, nor even the patient action of the United States of America seemed able to deflect the Israeli Government from its policy of stubbornness.

34. Faced with that situation, the international community must show its determination and its commitment to peace and to the realization of the hope that the Oslo Accords had brought to the entire region. The revival of the peace process would require meticulous respect for human rights and humanitarian law. The road to a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East lay through the withdrawal of Israel from southern Lebanon and the reopening as soon as possible of the negotiations with Syria, on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

35. Mr. AMAT FORES (Cuba) said that the rising tension and growing violence in the Middle East were extremely worrying. It was evident that the occupying power was continuing its policy of colonization aimed at assimilating the occupied territories by force. The practices infringing the four Geneva Conventions had been accompanied, as stated in the report of the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/1998/17), by a closure of the occupied territories which constituted a collective punishment with devastating effects on the fragile Palestinian economy.

36. Equally worrying, in the view of the Cuban delegation, were the repeated decisions of Israel's High Court of Justice effectively authorizing the application of “moderate physical pressure” to Palestinian detainees being interrogated on presumption of having committed offences against security, which amounted to approving torture as a legitimate means of obtaining confessions. To that dismal picture must be added the reprehensible incident that had occurred on 10 March 1998, when Israeli soldiers had killed three Palestinian workers and wounded nine others.

37. Since the basic cause of the human rights violations in the occupied territories was the maintenance of the Israeli occupation, the establishment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace was conditional upon the complete withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied Arab territories, including Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon. Cuba hoped that on the completion of that process the Palestinian people would at last be able to exercise their inalienable right to self­determination and set up an independent State.

38. Mr. KUCHINSKY (Ukraine), referring to the situation in the Middle East, deplored the escalation of violence that had marked the year 1997 and appealed to the parties to refrain from any action that could jeopardize the fragile peace process. It was indispensable that the parties should return to the negotiating table and honour the terms of the agreements signed at the Madrid Peace Conference and at Oslo, and that they should apply resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the Security Council, including the principle of “land for peace”. Failure to honour those commitments might lead to unpredictable consequences. Ukraine hoped that a mutually acceptable solution would be found to the difficult problem of the future of the holy city of Jerusalem and that by the end of the century the Palestinian people would at last be able to exercise their inalienable rights and achieve self­determination within their own State.


41. Mr. MORJANE (Tunisia) expressed his very deep concern at the deterioration of the situation in Israel, as described in the report submitted to the Commission by Mr. Halinen (E/CN.4/1998/17). Israel was persisting in its policy of territorial expansion and expulsion of Palestinians. Over 3,000 Palestinians were detained in Israeli prisons and internment camps. Israel's High Court of Justice authorized torture despite unanimous condemnation by the international community. Israel did not comply with the United Nations resolutions enjoining it to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention. It persisted in its policy of fait accompli, notably in regard to the establishment of new settlements, despite all the censure which that policy had provoked, in particular on the part of the Group of Ten.

42. Tunisia was all the more concerned about that situation in that it had made a big contribution to the efforts that had resulted in the Madrid Conference and had had high hopes that the peace process would finally bring about a lasting solution. It appealed to the Israeli Government to put an end to its policy of confiscation of Palestinian land, to the sealing off of Palestinian territories and to its violations of international law, and to cease challenging the legitimacy of the decisions taken by the world community. It was imperative to salvage the peace process, to ensure that the principle of “land for peace” was honoured and to create a climate favourable to the withdrawal of Israel from Golan, southern Lebanon and Palestine.

43. Mr. TURKI AL­MAHDI (Saudi Arabia) noted with deep dissatisfaction and concern that the Commission's resolutions were not producing any improvement in the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, where on the contrary the records showed an increase in infringements of those rights. One such instance was the murder of three Palestinian workers that had taken place just before the opening of the Commission's present session. In Palestine collective punishments, demolition of houses and expulsions were continuing and the High Court of Justice authorized torture, although Israel had ratified the Convention prohibiting that practice. Sadly, the freezing of the peace process could not but entail further violations of human rights, for those violations were intrinsically linked to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Saudi Arabia called upon the Commission to pronounce, once again, a firm condemnation of Israel.


48. Mr. MADADHA (Jordan) said that the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of human rights was the occasion for a reminder that the past 50 years had been marked, for the Palestinian people, by constant violations of those rights. The occupation constituted an infringement of all the basic rights and a crime against international peace and security. Regrettably, the peace process had been steadily losing momentum for the past two years, belying the hopes of seeing the Palestinian people freed from that occupation and from the violations of their fundamental rights that stemmed from it. And yet the latest events had shown the imperative need for a comprehensive peace settlement based on justice, mutual respect and dialogue.

49. As pointed out by the Special Rapporteur in his report, there could be no lasting peace without respect for human rights and without social and economic development. Jordan also shared the Special Rapporteur's view as to the need to approach peace in the Middle East from a regional perspective, profiting by the experience of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Whatever happened, it would be impossible to ensure stability in that region without taking into account the right of the Palestinian people to self­determination. It was hard to see how genuine peace could reign while collective punishments, legalized torture and illegal settlement building continued. Jordan, which had dedicated all its efforts to the peace process, was wondering how that process could be revived in face of the policy pursued by the Israeli Government, which was manifestly putting every possible obstacle in its way.

50. The Jordanian delegation urged the Government of Israel to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, bearing in mind that full respect for Palestinian rights was as vital for the people of Israel as for the Palestinians themselves. By putting an end to the constant violations of the basic rights of the population of the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, the Israeli Government would give tangible proof of its determination to establish trust and peace between Arabs and Israelis.


52.52. Mr. ZAHRAN (Observer for Egypt), referring to the crisis situation in the Middle East region, stressed that Israel, in defiance notably of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and of resolution 1997/4 adopted by the Commission, was continuing not only to make light of the Palestinian people's right to self­determination but also to deprive the Palestinians of the very content of that right, namely their land. Israel's policy of colonization was effectively reducing the occupied territories to the status of bantustans in defiance of all the principles of international law, as had just recently been declared by Mr. Robin Cook, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, which was currently exercising the presidency of the European Union. Completely isolated as it was in the international arena, Israel would never be able to convince the world that its policy of confiscation and settlement of other people's land was a legitimate act. The facts spoke for themselves. Egypt hoped that, with the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights currently being celebrated, the peace process still had a chance in that region of the world.


The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.

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