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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 49th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 15 April 2004, at 10 a.m.
Chairperson: Mr. SMITH (Australia)
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (continued)
Draft resolution concerning human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan
Draft resolution concerning Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories
Draft resolution concerning the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 8) (continued)
Draft resolution concerning human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/CN.4/2004/L.12)
51. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), introducing the draft resolution, on behalf of the sponsors, said that it focused on issues linked to the work of the Commission, in particular human rights violations against Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan.
52. Israel had imposed its administration on the occupied Syrian Golan in violation of the principle of non-acquisition of territory by force as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations. The draft resolution stressed the importance of the peace process and called on Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly. It called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the Golan, to allow its inhabitants to return to their homes and to spare them imposition of Israeli citizenship or other measures.
53. The draft resolution reaffirmed the illegality of the occupation and called on all States Members of the United Nations not to recognize the legislative and administrative measures and actions of Israel in the occupied Syrian Golan. It recognized the legitimate right of Syrian citizens in Golan to live in dignity and have their territory restored, and should be viewed as a humanitarian measure designed to alleviate their suffering.
54. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) reminded the Commission that Israel had originally taken possession of the Golan Heights in self-defence in a war which had been initiated by neighbouring Arab countries, and which Syria had lost.
55. In recent years, negotiations had taken place to find a peaceful solution to outstanding issues, including the Golan Heights. The failure to reach an agreement several years back had been due to Syria’s refusal to compromise and agree to a proposal that had reflected the interests of both parties.
56. The likelihood of a peaceful solution depended on Syria’s willingness to cooperate in combating terrorism. He called on Syria to ban the operations of the 10 terrorist organizations headquartered in Damascus, and take action against the Hamas leader who was also based in the Syrian capital. It should also suspend any assistance to Hezbollah.
57. As a gesture of respect for human dignity, Syria should release information on the whereabouts of the three Israeli soldiers who had gone missing in action 22 years previously in Lebanon.
58. Israel was still committed to negotiating a peaceful settlement with Syria. Adopting one-sided resolutions that determined the future of the territorial issue of the Golan Heights prejudged the outcome of such negotiations and created a disincentive for Syria to return to the negotiating table. He, therefore, appealed to the members of the Commission not to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
59. Mr. WEHBE (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the sponsors of the draft resolution had been motivated by their deep concern about Israeli practices in the occupied Syrian Golan, as documented in the report by the Special Committee (A/58/311).
60. The draft also sought to highlight the need for Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions, notably Security Council resolutions that called for withdrawal from all the
61. occupied Syrian Golan. Israel should restart the peace process on the basis of Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace.
62. In the context of the expansion and proliferation of Israeli settlements and attempts
63. to impose Israeli identity on Syrians, it was essential to stress the illegal nature of Israel’s 1981 decision to impose its laws on the occupied Syrian Golan, which had resulted in its de facto annexation. The draft resolution called upon Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures and actions mentioned in the draft, and demanded that Israel allow displaced persons from the area to return to their homes and to recover their properties.
64. The Commission needed to exert pressure on Israel, so that the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices could fully discharge its mandate.
65. Any reservations concerning the draft should be seen in the context of the plight and suffering of Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan.
66. The CHAIRPERSON informed the Commission that there were four additional sponsors of the draft resolution, who would be named in the report.
67. Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on behalf of the States members of the EU that were members of the Commission, and the acceding State Hungary, said that the Union was unable to support the draft resolution. The EU recognized the need to respect and safeguard the human rights of persons living in the occupied Syrian Golan, but was of the opinion that the text needed a stronger focus on the human rights question. That explanation of vote had been agreed to by the EU as a whole, by the acceding States Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, and by the candidate countries Bulgaria and Romania.
68. Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States of America), speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said that the draft resolution was another one-sided text aimed at condemning Israel. It was not helpful in resolving the status of the Syrian Golan or improving the lives of its residents.
69. The objective of guaranteeing peace and security for the entire region could only be reached through direct negotiations between the concerned parties.
70. The draft resolution reflected the Commission’s biased approach to Israel. One entire agenda item and three resolutions had been dedicated to the Arab-Israeli situation, and two resolutions considered under other agenda items were also critical of Israel. That disproportion indicated a serious distortion of judgement on the part of the Commission about the relative gravity of human rights abuses worldwide.
71. The energy expended on discussing the Syrian Golan each year would be better spent on achieving progress on the ground. The United States called for a recorded vote and would vote against the draft resolution.
72. At the request of the representative of the United States, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.
In favour: Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe.
Against: United States of America.
Abstaining: Australia, Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
71. The draft resolution was adopted by 31 votes to 1, with 21 abstentions.
Draft resolution concerning Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories (E/CN.4/2004/L.19)
72. Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the EU and its acceding countries and all other sponsors, said it was regrettable that Israel had failed to respond to appeals from the international community on the issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories.
73. The EU observed with grave concern the continuing settlement activities and the construction of the so-called security fence. The settlements were illegal under international law and constituted a major obstacle to peace. There was also concern that the route marked for the fence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could prejudge future negotiations, render a two-State solution physically impossible and cause further humanitarian and economic hardship to the Palestinians.
74. The objective of the draft resolution was to reiterate the international community’s condemnation of the settlement activities and to call on Israel to reverse its settlement policy and construction of the fence so as to address the related increasing levels of violence.
75. The “Roadmap” endorsed by the United Nations Security Council needed to be implemented as a matter of urgency. An Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, within the framework of the proposals laid down in the Roadmap, could be a significant step towards a two-State solution, provided that it did not involve a transfer of settlement activity to the
76. West Bank, that there was an organized and negotiated handover of responsibility to the Palestinian Authority, and that Israel facilitated the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza.
77. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that the resolution lacked a direct condemnatory reference to the decision taken by the Palestinian Authority to resort to violence rather than continue negotiations as agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
78. The current draft resolution addressed political and non-human rights matters under the guise of a discussion on settlements. It criticized the construction of the security fence, a defensive measure which Israel had been forced to introduce in order to combat violence and the infiltration of terrorists into its territory. Suicide bombers had killed and wounded civilians, including women and children - an act that constituted a crime against humanity - and the Palestinian Authority had taken no significant action to stop such activities.
79. The fence was a temporary defensive measure, not a political act. It was not intended to be a border or to prejudge any future negotiations, and it had no effect on the status of the land on which it was constructed. The Commission on Human Rights was not a suitable forum to discuss the fence, especially not within the context of a resolution on settlements.
80. The fact that the draft resolution was being discussed just when talks were being held between Israel and the United States regarding Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip illustrated the Commission’s lack of connection with reality. Israel’s unilateral initiative presented to a member of the Quartet, of which the United Nations was also a member, should be sufficient reason to reconsider the annual ritual of condemnation. In the draft resolution, that initiative received much less attention than other aspects of Israeli policy.
81. The draft resolution addressed the questions of curfews and restriction of movement, which were also unrelated to settlements. Those measures had been introduced only to stem the current wave of violence; in the absence of action by the Palestinian Authority against suicide bombers, they would continue to be necessary to protect Israel’s civilian population.
82. The parameters for a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinians needed to be negotiated between the two parties. Passing one-sided judgements on outstanding issues prejudged the results of the negotiations and thus created an additional disincentive for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
83. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that, although it had in the past supported European efforts to table a resolution on the question of Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, his delegation could not endorse the draft text that was before the Commission because it encompassed much broader issues than it ought to. His delegation categorically rejected operative paragraph 2 (c) in which the Commission urged the Palestinian Authority to concretely demonstrate its determination in the fight against terrorism and extremist violence.
84. Such a statement amounted to an instigation to war against the Palestinian people. The people of Palestine who had shown resistance to the Israeli forces within the occupied territories were not terrorists but were merely exercising their legitimate right to resist occupation. Any acts of resistance that took place outside the occupied territories - including those that took place in Israel - should not be discussed under agenda item 8. His delegation would onl y accept the draft resolution if operative paragraph 2 (c) was removed. Regrettably, its appeals to the European States to that effect had not been taken into account.
85. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the members of the Commission that belonged to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in explanation of vote before the vote, said that the OIC remained deeply concerned about the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Although the OIC countries had supported the resolution in the past, they would abstain from voting on the draft text at the current session because it contained material that went beyond its original intention. For example, operative paragraph 2 (c) contained new language that placed the onus of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories solely on the Palestinian Authority. Yet, the Palestinian Authority could not be expected to meet its obligations in the current climate of assassinations, destruction and brutal military power. The construction of the separation wall by Israel in contravention of international law had added a tragic and dangerous new dimension to the situation. Operative paragraph 2 (d) mentioned Israel’s right to self-defence in the face of terrorist attacks against its citizens, but failed to take into account the established precept that the right to self-defence could be invoked only within the recognized borders of a State and only when that State conducted itself in conformity with the principles of international law. Although the Arab Group had engaged in serious consultations with the sponsors of the draft resolution in the hope of reaching a consensus, its concerns had not been taken into account.
86. Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States of America) said that the draft resolution before the Commission was fundamentally inconsistent with the joint statements made by the Quartet. Although the sponsors had attempted to add some measure of balance by including language that condemned terrorist attacks against civilians, the draft text directed all specific criticism and calls for action to Israel and failed to cite the obligations and responsibilities of the Palestinians and to criticize those who supported terrorist groups. President Bush had said that the Palestinian State had to be reformed as a peaceful and democratic State that abandoned forever the use of terror. He had also made it clear that Israel should also take steps under the framework of the Roadmap. The United States Secretary of State had indicated that Israel and Palestine had to walk the road of peace together, if either were to arrive at the desired destination. Unfortunately, given its lack of balance, the draft resolution before the Commission failed to provide any incentive for either side. His delegation therefore called for a recorded vote on the draft resolution and would vote against its adoption.
87. Mr. GONZÁLEZ-SANZ (Costa Rica) said that, although his delegation supported the underlying principles contained in the draft resolution, it would abstain from voting because the draft text failed to reflect that there were two parties to the conflict and that both were suffering from violence. There should be no doubt, however, as to Costa Rica’s desire for peace and dialogue in the Middle East: his delegation would willingly support the adoption of a more balanced draft.
88. Mr. MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) said Australia shared the view that Israeli settlements were an obstacle to the achievement of a long-term, peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict but would abstain from voting because the draft resolution was unbalanced in its criticism of Israel. Australia supported Israel’s right to take defensive measures, including through the construction of a security barrier, but had concerns about the barrier’s route.
89. Mr. WANG Min (China) suggested that the Commission should vote separately on operative paragraphs 2 (c) and (d). However, if that was not possible, his delegation would abstain from voting.
90. The CHAIRPERSON said that it was regrettably too late for additional proposals.
91. At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.
In favour: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, China, Croatia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Against: Congo, United States of America.
Abstaining: Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe.
90. The draft resolution was adopted by 27 votes to 2, with 24 abstentions.
Draft resolution concerning the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (E/CN.4/2004/L.6)
91. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that there had been a sharp rise in human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories since the previous session of the Commission. The Special Rapporteur indicated in his report (E/CN.4/2004/6) that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was characterized by serious violations of international, human rights and international humanitarian law and pointed out that sustainable peace in the region should be pursued within the framework of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions. The Israeli forces committed violations such as acts of extrajudicial killing, closures, collective punishments, arbitrary detentions, siege and shelling of Palestinian towns and expansion of Israeli settlements. As a result, since September 2000, the death toll had reached 2,800 and almost 15,000 Palestinians had lost their homes. Some 3 million Palestinian refuge es were facing a dire humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, the Israeli authorities had continued the illegal construction of a separation wall in contravention of international law and in defiance of the appeals made by the international community. The building of such a wall inside Palestinian territory was tantamount to the de facto annexation of Palestinian land. Many of the Palestinians living in the newly created enclaves would become socially and economically isolated. Durable peace in the Middle East could be achieved only through the establishment of an independent State of Palestine in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, which would require full adherence to and implementation of the Roadmap. The international community should urge Israel to end the human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The draft resolution before the Commission was based on facts. He sincerely hoped that it would receive the support of the whole Commission. In conclusion, he informed the Commission that the words “by all available means” in the eighth preambular paragraph should be replaced by the words “in conformity with international law”.
92. The CHAIRPERSON informed the Commission that three more countries had joined the sponsors of the draft resolution.
93. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) urged the Commission to reflect carefully on the nature of the draft resolution and on the motives of those who had submitted it. The wording and implications of the text would contribute neither to the advancement of human rights nor to the cessation of violence in the region. If the text had truly been designed to promote human rights, it would have taken a factual, rather than a politicized and one-sided, approach. If it had been designed to end violence, it would have included a clear and unequivocal demand for the Palestinian leadership to call on all its followers to end the violent armed attacks and suicide bombings against Israel. The Palestinian Authority was clearly unwilling to engage in such condemnations and to fulfil its obligations to fight terrorism. Moreover, it appeared that a non-existent distinction was made between areas where terrorists operated and areas where they did not. If the sponsors of the draft resolution were committed to ending incitement, hatred and violence, they would also call on the Palestinian leadership, the media and religious leaders in Gaza and the West Bank to end their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campaign. Those genuinely interested in peace would address their messages to both sides. As it stood, the draft resolution seemed to suggest that Israel should yield immediately to all Palestinian demands.
94. Israel had been unfairly singled out for special treatment under a number of different agenda items and had been held up by some speakers as a scapegoat for the failure of the Palestinian Authority to protect the human rights of its people. Between 1994 and 2002, the Palestinian Authority had received funds from donor countries in excess of $5 billion. However, the fact that there had been no significant changes or developments in long-term sustainable projects was hardly the fault of Israel. Israel was the only State Member of the United Nations that was deprived of the right to belong to a regional group and was thus unable to become a member of the Commission. He urged delegations to vote against the draft resolution.
95. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the Commission’s position regarding the situation in the occupied Arab territories had remained unchanged for many years. It was clear that Israel as an occupying power had not ceased to violate the human rights of the Palestinian people. In fact, Israel had been very creative in finding new ways to violate those rights, such as the construction of the separation wall. The previous day, following talks with the Israeli Prime Minster, President Bush had endorsed a plan that would allow Israel to steal even more land from the Palestinians and had announced that it was unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations would be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. That shift in policy signified the end of the Roadmap and would encourage Israel to pursue its aggression against Palestine. His delegation strongly rejected the statement made by President Bush. The borders of the State of Palestine as defined in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947 were the only borders to have been accepted by the international community and were therefore the only valid ones, as had been acknowledged by the Secretary-General.
96. Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States of America), speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the United States was deeply concerned about the terrorist activities and ongoing violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The human rights situation in those areas had deteriorated largely because of the conflict. Regrettably, the draft resolution did not reflect the reality of the situation on the ground but presented a completely one-sided perspective, turning a blind eye to other issues such as terrorism. The text’s sponsors ignored the fact that Israeli actions took place in the context of the Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and alluded to the right of resistance in an attempt to justify the use of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis. Palestinian suicide bombers murdered innocent people and such actions should be condemned in the strongest terms. Adopting a resolution that essentially endorsed the use of terrorism would be reprehensible and contrary to the very concept of human rights. A fair observer would have to recognize Israel’s right to self-defence. There could be no excuse for the violence the Israeli people had had to endure. The United States remained committed to moving the Middle East peace process forward in a manner consistent with the relevant Security Council resolutions. President Bush had clearly articulated his vision of two States living side by side in peace and security and had taken productive and positive steps towards achieving a solution to the conflict. The actions of the Commission, however, were unhelpful and appeared to be divorced from the reality of what was necessary on the ground to adhere to peace. It was inappropriate for the Commission to pass judgement in its resolutions on political matters such as borders and settlements that were beyond its jurisdiction and competence. Such action could never be a substitute for negotiations between the two parties. His delegation looked forward to the day when the Commission would take a balanced and constructive approach to human rights concerns in the Middle East. It called for a recorded vote on the draft resolution and would vote against it.
97. Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the countries of the EU that were members of the Commission and the acceding State of Hungary, said that the explanation of vote had been agreed to by the EU as a whole and by the acceding countries of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia and the candidate countries of Bulgaria and Romania. The EU was deeply concerned by the human rights violations and civilian deaths that had been taking place as a result of the Israeli presence and military operations in the occupied territories. Notwithstanding its right to fight terrorism, Israel bore full responsibility for preventing, investigating and sanctioning such violations. The EU condemned all terrorist acts, including those that continued to be carried out by Palestinian groups, and called on the Palestinian Authority to address the issue of security and to combat terrorism. It welcomed the announcement of plans to improve Palestinian security performance but stressed the need for full and proper implementation. Regrettably, although the EU shared many of the concerns expressed in the draft resolution, it was unable to support the draft text, which failed to condemn terrorism in a sufficiently clear and unequivocal manner and used emotive language that was not appropriate to the Commission. Neither did it call on the Palestinian Authority to meet its commitment to bring terrorists to justice. The EU’s firm commitment to the cause of human rights in the occupied territories was demonstrated in the resolution just adopted as document E/CN.4/2004/L.19 and by its support for relevant resolutions in other United Nations forums.
98. At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.
In favour: Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, Zimbabwe.
Against: Australia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.
Abstaining: Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden.
99. The draft resolution, as orally revised, was adopted by 31 votes to 7, with 15 abstentions.