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UNITED
NATIONS
E

        Economic and Social Council
Distr.
GENERAL
E/CN.4/1997/SR.20
6 May 1997

ENGLISH
Original: FRENCH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Fifty-third session

SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 20th MEETING

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Monday, 24 March 1997, at 10 a.m.


Chairman: Mr. SOMOL (Czech Republic)

CONTENTS

STATEMENT BY Ms. HANAN ASHRAWI, MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

REPORT OF THE SUB-COMMISSION ON PREVENTION OF DISCRIMINATION AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES ON ITS FORTY-EIGHTH SESSION

MEASURES TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION AND ENSURE THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS (continued)

RIGHTS OF PERSONS BELONGING TO NATIONAL OR ETHNIC, RELIGIOUS AND LINGUISTIC MINORITIES (continued)

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECLARATION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF INTOLERANCE AND OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF (continued)




This record is subject to correction.

Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.




The meeting was called to order at 11.35 a.m.


STATEMENT BY Ms. HANAN ASHRAWI, MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

1. The CHAIRMAN said that the delay in calling the meeting to order had been due to the fact that the Officers had had to resolve an issue concerning the procedure to be followed with regard to persons of consequence who wished to address the Commission; in particular, they had had to decide whether the fact that such persons had been invited to address the Commission gave them a special status. After consultation, and on the basis of the Commission's past practice, the Officers had decided by consensus to invite the Minister of Higher Education in the Palestinian Authority to address the Commission and make a statement in accordance with rule 70 of the rules of procedure.

2. Ms. ASHRAWI (Palestine) paid tribute to the activities of the Commission, which she considered to be the collective conscience of the international community. The world was currently faced with a drastic deterioration in human rights, which took many forms: internal ethnic, tribal and cultural conflicts, the emergence of strongly centralized Governments which ignored the rules of democracy, denial of the rights of women and the disadvantaged, the appearance of new “haves” who exploited the new “have-nots” in the context of global economies and a technical information revolution whose benefits might not be available to all. At the same time, obsolete power forms - military occupation and the denial of a people's right to self-determination, such as the occupation of Palestine by Israel - continued to persist.

3. On behalf of the Palestinian people, she expressed her appreciation for the efforts made in all areas by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights and the Commission. In particular, she thanked the Centre for the programme it had established with the Palestinian Authority with a view to promoting education in, and the enhancement of, human rights in all public institutions in the Palestinian territories. That programme promised to increase the awareness, not only of the public sector, but of the Palestinian people as a whole.

4. In that regard, the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education and the Rectors' Conference had approved the introduction of a course on human rights and international humanitarian law in all institutions of higher education. Over 40 per cent of the Ministry's decision-making posts were currently occupied by women. As the founder and first Commissioner General of the Palestinian Independent Commission on Citizens' Rights and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the constituency of Jerusalem, she assured the Commission that the principles of representation, accountability and the rule of law were far more than abstractions for the Palestinian people. As a people long victimized by serious violations of its rights, it was particularly sensitive to its relations with others. And, because accountability began at home, it had chosen to be self-critical, to monitor human rights violations and to ensure the accountability of those responsible.

5. She was deeply disturbed by the fact that the Palestinian-Israeli peace process was in serious jeopardy, that the partnership that had been so painfully and painstakingly built was being replaced by a relationship of occupier and occupied, and that the Israeli Government's extremism was feeding extremist elements among the Palestinians. There was a resurgence of the mentality of domination among Israelis. Although the question of Jerusalem, the capital of the emerging Palestinian State and a city sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews, was the linchpin of peace, the Israeli Government was seeking to extract that city from the heart of Palestine; it was also dismembering the Palestinian land by establishing settlements and building bypass roads. By so doing, it was unilaterally pre-empting the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. It flagrantly ignored the interim agreements by continuing to hold hostage over 3,000 Palestinian prisoners, refusing to authorize safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank by tightening its stranglehold on the crossing points; it was turning the Palestinian territory into a prison by denying access to the Palestinian airport and harbour. It was hardly necessary to recall all the hardships caused by closure of the territories, which constituted a unique form of collective punishment.

6. She strongly denounced the discrimination of the Israeli authorities in their implementation of human rights values, the use of violence against captive Palestinians under interrogation and the fact that Israel was the only country to have legalized torture. The peace process had become an instrument of blackmail through which the Palestinian Authority was being held responsible for the security of Israelis at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people and the integrity of the process itself. The Palestinians would not allow the peace process to be sidetracked. Only a lasting peace could guarantee the realization of human rights and allow the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to harness their energies for construction rather than destruction. The Palestinians looked to the Commission to work courageously towards that end.

/...


MEASURES TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION AND ENSURE THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS (agenda item 11) (continued) (E/CN.4/1997/65)

RIGHTS OF PERSONS BELONGING TO NATIONAL OR ETHNIC, RELIGIOUS AND LINGUISTIC MINORITIES (agenda item 17) (continued) (E/CN.4/1997/82 and 83; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/2 and 28; A/51/536)

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECLARATION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF INTOLERANCE AND OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF (agenda item 19) (continued) (E/CN.4/1997/91 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1997/NGO/19; A/51/542/Add.1 and 2)

/...

16. Mr. LACK (International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists), ...

/...

19. In conclusion, he expressed regret that the representative of the Palestinian Authority had not seen fit to deny the false allegations made by the Observer for Palestine in one of his statements to the Commission to the effect that Israelis had inoculated 300 Palestinian children with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during the intifadah. Her silence might be interpreted as tacit approval of those lies.

20. The CHAIRMAN pointed out that the Commission had responded appropriately to that incident by circulating an open letter on the subject.

/...

The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

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