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        Economic and Social Council
23 March 1998

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-fourth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 19 March 1998, at 10 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. SELEBI (South Africa)

later: Mr. HYNES (Canada)

later: Mr. GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador)




The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.


60. Mr. AL­KHALIFA (Bahrain) …


61. The most basic priority of human rights was the provision of dignified freedom for human beings by releasing them from poverty, hunger and disease which were still afflicting some of the peoples of the developing countries. The sufferings of the Palestinian people under occupation constituted a grave violation of human rights and also of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which was deserving of condemnation by the international community, as were the events currently taking place in Kosovo.


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, 17-20, 112, 116, 124, 125, 128, 133, 134, 136, 137 and 141; E/CN.4/1998/NGO/61)


75. Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that occupation was a denial of the fundamental rights of the occupied people, and it was, therefore, appropriate that the Commission should continue to deliberate on the human rights violations in the occupied Arab territories in the fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite some positive political changes in the occupied territories, including the transfer of certain powers to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli occupation continued. The initiative which had led to the signing of the Hebron Protocol appeared to have waned, and the international community was still awaiting developments with regard to the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.

76. His delegation urged the Government of Israel to dispel the concern that it was trying to affect the outcome of those negotiations by attempting to change the demographic composition of Jerusalem. It agreed completely with the view expressed by the spokesman for the European Union that there was no alternative to the peace process. However, lasting peace could not be achieved without respect for human rights.

77. The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories had noted a marked deterioration in the human rights situation in those territories since the beginning of the peace process. The Commission should thus voice its support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to return to their homeland and to establish an independent State on their national soil with Jerusalem as its capital. It was only when those rights had been achieved that the Commission could reconsider continuation of its agenda item 4.

78. Mr. IDRIS (Sudan) said that agenda item 4 was of extreme importance because of the continuing deterioration of the situation in the occupied Arab territories as reported by the Special Rapporteur and in the mass media. The situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and the continued construction of settlements and confiscation of Palestinian homes were matters of great concern. The efforts being made to change the religious and ethnic composition of those territories was also a flagrant violation of human rights.

79. His delegation thus appealed to the Commission and other international human rights organizations to take action to obtain the liberation of detainees, especially women and children, and to prevent the repression of Palestinian demonstrators. It also appealed to the States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to ensure that Israel observed its provisions.

80. His delegation, which fully supported the right of the Palestinian people to self­determination, recalled Commission resolution 1996/5, which called upon Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, reiterated the need to ensure a global and just peace in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, and called on the international community to strengthen its role so as to enable the Palestinian people to throw off the yoke of occupation.

81. Ms. RUBIN (United States of America), said that the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East had long been a major goal of her Government. The Palestinian Authority had gained control over Gaza and most of the Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to and implemented the Hebron Protocol. All those events, including the peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan, represented progress.

82. However, 1997 had not been a good year for the peace process. A crisis of confidence had developed, but, suggestions that the peace process had somehow died were wrong, since the parties were still engaged in dialogue. Some hard decisions would soon have to be made, however.

83. Her Government's current efforts to help the Palestinians and Israelis bridge the differences between them had four parts: increased security cooperation and the fight against terror and its infrastructure; further Israel redeployments in the West Bank; a moratorium on unhelpful unilateral steps; and the acceleration of permanent status negotiations on such sensitive issues as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders and relations with other neighbours. The past months had not been easy, but she assured the Commission that her Government would not turn its back on the critically important region and the historic process of change.

84. The Commission's agenda currently contained a singular anomaly: of all the nations in the world, only Israel was assigned its own particular agenda item. That nation was working towards peace with the Palestinians, had completed treaties with Egypt and Jordan and had expressed its willingness to negotiate with Syria and Lebanon. No nation, including Israel, was without fault, but to hold it to a standard far exceeding that applied to any other nation was simply unfair. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur for the occupied territories was the only one with an open­ended mandate and the only one whose mandate presupposed that human rights violations had taken place, in clear violation of any objective standard of fairness.

85. Such a difference in treatment did the Commission no justice, nor did it further the cause of peace in the Middle East. Reform of the Commission's agenda could begin with the elimination of item 4 altogether and the consideration of Israel under item 10, like any other nation. The Special Rapporteur's mandate could be rewritten to conform to the same standards as all others. It was time for the Commission to discuss those issues in an objective, accurate and balanced way. Such an approach would bring about a more productive dialogue on the human rights situation in the occupied territories.

86. The United States believed that the future of the occupied territories should be decided through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principles of land for peace, security for all States in the region, including Israel, and the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people.

87. Mr. LEGWAILA (Botswana) said that his delegation shared the disappointment and frustration concerning the Middle East peace process expressed by the Special Rapporteur in his report (E/CN.4/1998/17). Making peace between two peoples who, rightly or wrongly, had long regarded each other as mortal enemies was understandably a very difficult and risky enterprise, but it could be done, as demonstrated by the events in South Africa.

88. A start had been made in the Middle East towards peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. To complete that process, however, Israel would need to recognize that there was much in common between its own people and the horrors they had endured in their history, and the Palestinian people and their yearning for self­determination. Botswana recognized the right of Israel to exist in peace and freedom, but that did not supersede the right of the Palestinian people to enjoy peace and freedom in a land they could call their own.

89.89. A conflagration in the Middle East was inevitable if the right of the Palestinian people to self­determination was denied. A peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the only insurance against that possibility, from which neither Israel nor Palestine would emerge unscathed. A prolonged stalemate provided a fertile opportunity for the men and women of violence on both sides to make it even more difficult for the people of goodwill on both sides to sow the seeds of peace. The proliferation of illegal settlements in disputed land and in territories whose final status had yet to be negotiated was a clear invitation to violence, and a hindrance to normalization of the situation between Israel and the Palestinian people.

90. Mr. KRYLOV (Russian Federation) said that the peace process in the Middle East region had clearly come to a halt. His Government, as one of the sponsors of that process, had an interest in the fate of the Israeli­Palestinian agreements that had already been reached. Those agreements should be implemented in a spirit of fairness and compromise. Only through the implementation of the Madrid Principles, the Oslo Agreement, Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the “land for peace formula” could real and lasting peace in the Middle East be achieved.

91. The construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories had become a serious impediment to the peace process. His delegation urged that Israeli­Palestinian talks should continue on the difficult question of the construction of settlements as well as on the question of access by all religions to the holy places and on the complex question of the final status of Palestine. The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self­determination, was not counter to the interests of Israel, but would further those interests by helping to strengthen its security and improve relations with its neighbours.

92. His delegation shared the view of the Special Rapporteur that the economic development of the Palestinian territories was an important prerequisite for political stability and guarantees of security for Israel. It regretted Israel's unwillingness to enter into a constructive dialogue with international mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, and to accept the recommendations of such international organs as the Committee against Torture.

93. Terrorism, which was a serious threat to peace in the region, was becoming more intensive. Terrorist activities in the Middle East had one purpose only: to destroy the peace talks. The only answer to the terrorists was to continue the peace process despite their actions, as Yitzak Rabin had done. The peace process must not be held to ransom by extremists. The international community must show restraint and vision in making every effort to restart the talks, and his delegation would support any initiative in that direction.

The meeting rose at 1 p.m.

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