Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
29 March 1999
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 5th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 29 March 1999, at 10 a.m.
: Ms. ANDERSON (Ireland)
STATEMENT BY THE VICE-MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION OF MOZAMBIQUE
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER OF JUSTICE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS AND MINISTER OF LABOUR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS OF MAURITIUS
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION OF TUNISIA
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE SESSION
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION
RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION OF TUNISIA
(Tunisia) said that the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been celebrated in Tunisia with a national programme under the patronage of the President of the Republic and it had comprised numerous events. Commitment to human rights should not be limited to occasional celebrations, however. Ongoing and sustained efforts must be made to ensure the realization of the principles set forth in international human rights instruments and to combat constantly the injustice, oppression and marginalization from which many people suffered, chiefly as a result of the economic imbalances occasioned by globalization, and human rights violations which were largely the result of civil wars or foreign occupation. His country believed that the right of peoples was an integral part of human rights and therefore supported the struggle of the Palestinian people to recover its land and its right to freedom and dignity. His delegation was deeply disturbed by the deadlock in the Middle East peace process and by Israel's refusal to honour its international commitments.
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item 5) (
) (E/CN.4/1999/10, 11 and 123; E/CN.4/1999/NGO/32, 58 and 59)
(Qatar) expressed his country's deep concern at the grave continued violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, where the continued occupation was in itself a violation of the right to self-determination, as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories had confirmed in his report (E/CN.4/1999/24). Qatar was particularly concerned about the colonization and confiscation policy pursued by Israel with a view to changing the demographic composition of Jerusalem. Those unacceptable practices had destroyed hopes of a lasting peace in the territories. That sorry situation was the fatal result of the Israeli Government's intransigence and failure to respect the basis on which the peace process had been built, namely the principle of land for peace and Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Rather than continue to flout human rights and the international community, the Israeli Government should realize that peace could be achieved only on the basis of respect for international law. There could be no peace as long as the Palestinian people was unable to enjoy its legitimate rights, the most important being the right to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.
(Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the right to self-determination was an inalienable right deriving from the Charter of the United Nations and a whole series of international instruments. Yet Israel denied the Palestinian people that right by using the worst forms of violence and destruction, as was regularly reported in the media. It had to be acknowledged that all peoples who had struggled for independence had achieved their ends with the exception of the Palestinians, who had been struggling for more than half a century with the support of the international community against Israel's expansionist and aggressive ideology. The exercise by that people of its right to self-determination, which must entail the creation of an independent State, was long overdue.
46. The Syrian Arab Republic had been one of the first countries to support, particularly within the Special Committee on Decolonization, efforts by countries to secure independence. In doing so, it had always sought to draw a distinction between legitimate struggles for self-determination and terrorism, which it rejected and condemned.
(Observer for Mauritania) pointed out that the right of peoples to self-determination was a prerequisite for the exercise of all human rights, since colonial or foreign domination was incompatible with the exercise of those rights. While the legal texts setting forth that right had helped the overwhelming majority of States currently Members of the United Nations to gain independence, that had not been the case with the Palestinian people, which had been deprived of its legitimate rights and driven from its territory at the time the wind of decolonization had begun stirring throughout the world. Nearly 50 years later, that injustice had yet to be rectified, despite the resolutions adopted by various United Nations bodies, including the Commission on Human Rights, and in particular General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which provided for the partition of Palestine into two States and separate legal status for the Holy City of Al Quds.
48. The Commission, which was the international community's living conscience, had continued to denounce Israeli occupation and to call for a just and lasting solution. The peace process begun in Oslo had created the hope that such a solution was at hand, but three months before the end of the agreed transitional period it must be acknowledged that there was still a long way to go. The responsibility for that deadlock in the peace process, with all the suffering it entailed for the Palestinian people, lay with Israel. That country must abide by international law and realize that there could be no lasting peace in the Middle East without withdrawal from all occupied territories, including the Holy City of Al Quds, and the establishment by the Palestinian people of an independent State on its own land. The international community and the two sponsors of the peace process in particular must redouble their efforts to ensure respect for international law in that sensitive region and create conditions conducive to a peaceful, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement that guaranteed the Palestinian people its legitimate rights and allowed all other peoples of the region to live in peace and security.
(Observer for Jordan) said that for many long decades Israel had deprived the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination, which was set out in the Charter of the United Nations. Israel also flagrantly violated the fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the principles set out in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
50. Throughout those tragic decades, Jordan had left no stone unturned in the search for a peace in the Middle East that would guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The peace process that had started in Madrid in 1991 and had inspired in Palestinians, Jordanians and Arabs the hope that peace would become a reality in the region on the basis of the self-determination of the Palestinians, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace, had suffered many setbacks in recent years. While some might attribute that situation to the violence and hatred that some extremist elements tried to impose on the region, the Israeli Government bore much of the responsibility because of its reluctance to take the necessary steps to move peace forward. The keys to security, peace and the welfare of future generations were the dedication, courage, honesty, mutual respect and unwavering commitment to the implementation of the peace agreements, including those signed at Wye Plantation.
51. He urged the Israeli Government to desist from its unilateral actions and settlement-building policies, which sought to change the status quo in the occupied territories, and particularly the Holy City of Jerusalem. His delegation also demanded that the Israeli Government respect the deadlines and timetable agreed for the different stages of the peace process.
52. Jordan believed that the Palestinian leadership was fully entitled to proclaim a Palestinian State within the framework of the peace agreements and called upon the international community to recognize the Palestinian State when it was declared. The Israeli Government had primary responsibility for establishing a climate of respect, trust and peace between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of equality, justice and respect for the rights of others.
(Observer for Egypt) said that the right of peoples to self-determination was an integral part of international humanitarian law and a fundamental human right. As to the situation in occupied Palestine, at its previous session the Commission had adopted resolution 1998/4, in which it had called upon Israel to comply with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, and to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other Arab territories which it had occupied since 1967 by military force. He deeply regretted that the peace process begun in Madrid in 1991 had reached a deadlock because of Israel's policy, particularly its settlement policy and the measures to cut off the occupied territories, which had an adverse effect on the economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. That policy had been regularly condemned by the United Nations and some specialized agencies, particularly ILO and WHO.
54. Accordingly, he called upon the Commission to continue its efforts to convince Israel to respect its commitments vis-à-vis the Palestinians, to comply with the Wye River Memorandum and cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories with a view to opening up the way to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
(Observer for Israel) said that Israel supported the right of self-determination, since the creation of the State of Israel had itself been a restoration of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. However, that right was not an absolute right; it must be weighed against other rights and could never justify acts of terrorism. It was a right that could take many forms; in the Middle East, the peace process sought to achieve the right of self-determination for all peoples of the region, including Palestinians.
57. In the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel had recognized the right of the Palestinian people to determine its own future. That approach had found concrete expression in the Oslo Agreements, in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had recognized their mutual rights. Under that process they had undertaken to settle all issues relating to permanent status through bilateral negotiations between the two sides. After decades of sterile resolutions adopted by international organizations, a few years of bilateral negotiations had resulted in 97 per cent of all Palestinians under the authority of the Palestinian Council, which they themselves had elected. Both sides must move the peace process forward to its conclusion, but any attempt to prejudge the settlement of issues relating to permanent status by means of unilateral acts, whether in the name of self-determination or other principles, would only endanger the peace process and in fact force Israel to take measures of its own in an attempt to restore the situation.
58. To save the peace process, the Commission should exercise responsibility and restraint and affirm that only bilateral negotiations were likely to lead to just and lasting solutions. Israel invited the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and work together to find solutions.
The meeting rose at 1.20 p.m.