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        General Assembly
22 September 2003

Original: French

Fifty-seventh session
Official Records

Third Committee

Summary record of the 21st meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Wednesday, 16 October 2002, at 10 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. Wenaweser .................................................. (Liechtenstein)


Agenda item 43: Follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children ( continued)

Agenda item 105: Promotion and protection of the rights of children ( continued)

Right of reply

The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.

Agenda item 43: Follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children (continued) (A/57/350)

Agenda item 105: Promotion and protection of the rights of children ( continued) (A/57/41 and Corr.1, A/57/235, A/57/402)


5. Mr. Saleh (Bahrain) ...


8. At the 1990 World Summit for Children, leaders from all over the world had undertaken to ensure that children were protected from the consequences of war and able to live in peace and security. However, as the Secretary-General stated in his report (A/S-27/3), the decade since the Summit had witnessed ethnic conflicts and civil wars in which children had been the victims of violence. In that regard, mention should be made of the suffering endured by Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation and the barbaric practices that Israeli settlers and the occupation forces engaged in for the purpose of spreading terror, giving rise to loss of human life and permanent disabilities. The international community should, as a matter of urgency, take measures to put an end to the criminal practices to which Israel subjected Palestinian families and children, in flagrant violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the fourth Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and human rights generally.


23. Mr. Al-Nagbi (United Arab Emirates) ...


24. The United Arab Emirates was deeply concerned by the question of children who were the victims of armed conflict and foreign occupation and called upon the international organizations concerned with the question of human rights and the rights of the child to strengthen the international instruments relating to protection of children against all forms of aggression and to redouble their efforts to put an end to the killings and forced displacements to which children were subjected in many parts of the world, in particular in the occupied Palestinian territories, where children were deliberately murdered by the Israeli Occupation Forces, which did not hesitate to use internationally prohibited weapons. Since September 2000, 848 Palestinian children had been killed, 7,000 others had been wounded, and 980 suffered from a permanent disability. The United Nations, and more particularly the Security Council, should compel Israel to put an immediate end to the daily massacres perpetrated against Palestinian civilians and to comply with the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The United Arab Emirates also called for an end to the suffering of Iraqi children, who had for 12 years been suffering the effects of the sanctions imposed on their country.


26. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine), speaking on agenda item 105, said that children were the most vulnerable members of society, especially in view of the scourges of poverty, violence, armed conflict and foreign occupation. The international community should promote and protect their rights, as the special session of the General Assembly on children had stressed and as was envisaged in the Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children.

27. The fact that millions of children died from preventable diseases, suffered from malnutrition, were living in absolute poverty or, particularly in the case of girls, did not have access to education was unimaginable. The eradication of those scourges would make it possible to offer children a better future.

28. The international community had expressed deep concern about the lot of Palestinian children, who, for more than 35 years, had been the victims of the Israeli occupation. More particularly, during the past two years, the Israeli occupation forces had committed countless war crimes, denied Palestinian children access to education and health care and subjected them to both physical and psychological trauma. The war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed by the Israeli occupying forces had resulted in the killing of more than 1,877 Palestinian civilians, of whom more than 458 had been children under the age of 18. While some had been killed because they had been throwing stones, others had been killed or injured while in their homes, in the street or in school. The humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people, reflected, in particular, by a drastic deterioration in the health of thousands of children, was continually worsening.

29. The acts committed by the Israeli occupying forces constituted a flagrant violation of international law and, in particular, the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Palestinian children, who should be able to develop freely in their own independent State, were currently living in a world — that of life under occupation — that could in no way be reconciled with the ideal of a world fit for children.

30. Her delegation was submitting a draft resolution entitled “The situation of and assistance to Palestinian children” and trusted that it would receive the support of the majority of the members of the Committee.


38. Mr. Al-Enezi (Kuwait) ...


40. Nor could one pass over in silence the plight of Palestinian children in the occupied territories, who were suffering the acts of violence committed by the Israeli Forces in violation of all the international conventions and instruments relating to human rights in general, and to the rights of the child in particular.


51. Mr. Koren (Israel) said that in 2001, 2.1 million children under the age of 18 had been living in Israel, comprising slightly more than one third of the population. His Government was committed to the protection and welfare of children and had already made significant progress towards achieving those objectives, particularly by increasing its focus on the rights of children, irrespective of their background, and raising public awareness. All branches of government had been working closely with non-governmental organizations and children themselves to implement the international instruments and agreements for the protection of children’s rights, especially through the National Council for the Child, created in 1979.

52. Since becoming a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, his Government had undertaken comprehensive reforms. The ratification of the Convention and the enactment of the 1992 basic law on human dignity and liberty had enshrined the rights of the child in the Constitution.

53. His Government had also acceded, in 1999, to the amendment to article 43, paragraph 2, of the Convention, which brought the number of experts members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child from 10 to 18, and it hoped that the amendment would swiftly enter into force.

54. The Israeli Government attached great importance to the outcome document of the General Assembly special session on children, “A world fit for children” (A/S-27/19/Rev.1), and to the Global Commitment reaffirmed at the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in December 2001.

55. Over the past decade, Israel had passed more than 20 laws guaranteeing the right of children to health care and education. In 1997, the Ministry of Justice had appointed an intergovernmental committee of experts to re-examine the entire body of Israeli law in the light of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had asked it to present recommendations for the codification and implementation of the Convention. Extensive campaigns had been undertaken to increase public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect, and special treatment programmes had been developed. The Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center offered a number of programmes in early childhood education.

56. Expressing his condemnation of the immoral practices of which children were victims, he said that in November 2001 Israel had signed the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would be ratified once national law had been adjusted in accordance with the commitments set out in those instruments.

57. Convinced that the use of children in armed conflicts was entirely contrary to basic international norms and the principles of humanity, Israel commended the Secretary-General’s report on protection of children affected by armed conflicts (A/57/402). For the long-term protection of the rights of the child, it was critical to promote a culture of peace and tolerance and to ensure that peace was maintained not merely by treaties reached by Governments, but by respect between the peoples themselves.

58. Since education was a way to transform attitudes, efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together, through various projects, were of prime importance. The Israeli Government urged UNICEF to intensify its efforts in that regard.

59. The death of any child, Palestinian or Israeli, was a tragedy, and it was regrettable that certain delegations cynically implied that there was no hope of improving the situation. Replying to the statement made by the Observer for Palestine, he again condemned the use of children in armed conflict. He said that, during the recent outbreaks of violence, Israel had repeatedly protested against the use by the Palestinian leadership of children under the age of 15, who were often placed in the front line of the hostilities against Israel. The Israeli Government was doing everything in its power to avoid injury to innocent civilians, in particular children, even while the Israeli civilian population was the target of a widespread wave of violence.

60. Convinced of the need for common action, Israel called on its neighbours to cooperate in the creation of a Middle East that was fit for children.


73. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic) ...


76. Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of children affected by armed conflict (A/57/402), her delegation hoped that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict would be able to perform his duties with regard to Palestinian children, who were victims almost daily of the Israeli occupation. Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan since 1967 was the main obstacle preventing thousands of Syrian children from exercising their rights, particularly their right to a normal life, education and freedom of movement.

77. Her delegation hoped that no double standards would be applied to questions relating to children. The well-being of children — the basis of society — must be an integral part of social development. Despite the progress made by her Government over the past 10 years in improving the lot of children, the efforts made should be continued and stepped up in order to improve their living conditions.

78. Ms. Khalil (Egypt) said she would have liked the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to talk about the situation of children living under foreign occupation, particularly the Palestinian children of the occupied Arab territories, whose suffering was immeasurable. Those children were deprived not only of their most elementary rights, such as the right to live in peace in a family that was not constantly threatened with losing its home or means of subsistence, but also their only means of achieving a better future, namely, education, since the occupying authorities closed Palestinian schools.

79. Concerning the report submitted by Israel, the occupying Power, the Committee on the Rights of the Child had expressed profound concern at the absence of any information on the situation of children living in the occupied Palestinian territories and at the legal distinction made between an Israeli child, defined as any person under the age of 18, and a Palestinian child, defined by Israeli military order No. 132 as any person under the age of 16. The Committee had also expressed grave concern at complaints that Israeli police had tortured Palestinian children and at the serious deterioration in health care for children in the occupied Palestinian territories. To remedy that situation, the Committee had recommended that the Israeli Government bring its legislation into line with the first two articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, investigate all cases of torture of children and bring the perpetrators to justice and provide health care to all Palestinian children. The suffering of those children was so great that there was little hope that their situation would improve in the near future. Her delegation called on all countries to come to the aid of Palestinian children in order to enable them to lead a decent life.


Right of reply

129. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine) noted that only an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory, a source of rampant lethal violence, would enable Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and not be prey to constant fear. It was extremely regrettable to hear the representative of Israel say that Palestinian leaders were sending their children off to commit suicide. The only desire of Palestinians was to ensure their children’s welfare and enable them to live in peace. They taught children neither violence nor hatred. Children were only responding to the daily brutality of the Israeli occupation. One third of the 1,877 Palestinians killed since 28 September 2000 were children who had been at home or school or playing in the street, but it should be stressed that those killed while throwing stones had had the right to resist occupation and oppression. No people in history had ever welcomed occupying forces with open arms.

130. As the representative of Israel had said, it was necessary to work together, but the occupation must cease for that to occur. Only thus could Palestinian and Israeli children live in better conditions.

131. Mr. Tamir (Israel) noted that some delegations endeavoured to focus the attention of the Committee on a single issue. With regard to the statement by the observer for Palestine and her right of reply, he stressed that the individuals in the cases mentioned had been killed during battle. While it was regrettable that Palestinian children had perished, Israel had been exercising its right to self-defence.

132. Almost 200 young Israelis had also been killed, albeit intentionally, on the sole grounds that they were Jewish or Israeli. Palestinians must put an end to such deadly activities, cease to encourage them and renew dialogue. Terror would not end the occupation. The establishment of peace would be the only way to improve the living conditions of Israeli and Palestinian youth.

The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.

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