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        General Assembly
4 November 2004

Original: French

General Assembly
Fifty-ninth session
Official Records

Sixth Committee

Summary record of the 5th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Wednesday, 13 October 2004, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. Simon (Vice-Chairman) .................................................... (Hungary)
later: Mr. Bennouna (Chairman) .............................................................. (Morocco)


Agenda item 140: Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts

Agenda item 141: Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives

In the absence of Mr. Bennouna (Morocco), Mr. Simon (Hungary), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.

The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.

Agenda item 140: Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (A/59/321)

1. Ms. Noland (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the 25 members of the European Union, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania), the stabilization and association process countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and also Iceland and Liechtenstein, ...


10. Mr. Al-Naqbi (United Arab Emirates) ...


12. His Government was deeply alarmed at the serious violations of human rights committed by the Israeli Government against Palestinians and the Arab population of the Syrian Golan. Israel was not complying with the legal obligations imposed by the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly. Moreover, the International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion on the legality of the construction of a separation wall in the West Bank, had affirmed that the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols applied to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and the Shab’a farms. It was therefore imperative for the international community, including the United Nations and the influential States in the Security Council, as well as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, to exert pressure on Israel to compel it to fully implement the relevant instruments in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories.

13. Ms. Ramos Rodríguez (Cuba) said that civilians were increasingly being targeted in armed conflicts, in particular Palestinians living in the occupied territories. For that reason it was of the utmost importance to strengthen the legal regime applicable to armed conflicts by encouraging its universal acceptance. As recent history had been marked by numerous violations of international humanitarian law, the international community and the United Nations should strive to ensure strict adherence to the rules relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.


16. Mr. Shreim (Observer for Palestine), stressing the importance of the Additional Protocols and welcoming the increase in the number of States parties thereto, recalled that paragraph 4, article 1, of Protocol I had added to the list of conflicts covered by the Geneva Conventions wars of national liberation, that is, wars waged by peoples in order to free themselves from an occupying power or a racist regime and exercise their right to self-determination.

17. Several General Assembly resolutions reaffirmed the applicability of Protocol I to the occupied Palestinian territory, demanding that Israel respect its obligations as an occupying Power and that Palestinian civilians be protected. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had also said, on numerous occasions, that the Fourth Geneva Convention applied to the occupied territories (a view recently confirmed in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the separation barrier). A consensus did, therefore, exist. However, for 37 years Israel had refused to recognize its responsibilities and discharge its duties under international law. Such systematic violations of international law, particularly those covered by article 85 of Additional Protocol I and article 147 of the fourth Geneva Convention, had gone unpunished. The failure to apply humanitarian law had prevented the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination and had brought disastrous consequences. The int ernational community must take strong action before it was too late to halt the practices that placed Israel outside international law.

18. In paragraph 7 of its resolution ES-10/15, the General Assembly called on Israel to respect the Fourth Geneva Convention and invited Switzerland, in its capacity as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, to conduct consultations and to report to the General Assembly on the matter, including with regard to the possibility of resuming the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Palestine was grateful to Switzerland for its efforts and looked forward to receiving its report.


56. Mr. Chaabani (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, emphasized the universality of the four Geneva Conventions and the two Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, which were an integral part of international humanitarian law. He appealed to all States to respect the rules of that law, particularly Protocol I. Lastly, he reiterated that international humanitarian law did indeed apply to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and called for compliance with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the obligation of all States parties to the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to ensure that Israel abided by the rules of international humanitarian law contained in that Convention.


Statements in exercise of the right of reply

58. Mr. Lenk (Israel) said that he wished to protest in the strongest terms the abuse of the platform afforded by the Sixth Committee to point out the obligations of a single party to a single conflict under international law, since respect for that law, which was vital in all situations of armed conflict, was weakened and not strengthened when it served as a political weapon. He was surprised that the obligations imposed under international humanitarian law were not held up against the deliberate terrorist policy of the Palestinian leaders, a policy which violated that same law, since it jeopardized the right to life not only of innocent civilians who were victims of attacks in Israel, but also of Palestinians who were used as human shields by the perpetrators of those attacks. While Israel had a duty to protect its population against terrorist attacks, it was, of course, also required to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law; that task was complicated, however, by the tactics of its enemies, who bore the primary responsibility for the Palestinian losses resulting from their actions. In that conflict, as in all conflicts, responsibility must be shared, and the interests of international humanitarian law were better served when that law was applied equitably to all parties, duly taking into account realities on the ground, rather than invoked inappropriately and with dubious intent.

59. Mr. Hmoud (Jordan) said that while the Sixth Committee was a technical body, its debates nonetheless had a political dimension, inasmuch as they dealt with such issues as the application of international humanitarian law in general and the two Additional Protocols in particular, which were related to one of the central goals of the United Nations — the maintenance of international peace and security — and to a related situation, the situation in Palestine. Moreover, there was no doubt that international humanitarian law and the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 applied to the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel’s declared intention to respect its obligations as an occupying Power in the territories occupied since 1967 was therefore welcome.

60. Furthermore, the measures taken by a State to protect its population against terrorist attacks, in exercise of a right which Jordan willingly acknowledged as a right of all States, must comply with certain statutory rules and regulations of international humanitarian law; in the case of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that meant the Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, of 1907, and the Regulations annexed thereto, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I Additional to those Conventions. Such measures must, in particular, comply with the requirement of “military necessity”, meaning, for example, that no collective penalty could be decreed against a population on the ground of acts by individuals.

61. Mr. Shreim (Observer for Palestine) said, first, that the Sixth Committee was indeed the forum in which to address questions relating to the legal obligations of States under international humanitarian law, and particularly the question of Israel’s obligations as an occupying Power. With regard to terrorism, which would be discussed under another agenda item and in other United Nations forums, attacks against civilian populations and objects, such as places of worship, and indiscriminate attacks against unprotected civilians — practices engaged in extensively by Israel during its 37-year-long occupation, which had been characterized by excessive use of force against Palestinians — were considered terrorist acts under international humanitarian law. No one could deny that Israel had a right and a duty to protect the lives of its people, as the International Court of Justice had pointed out in its recent advisory opinion, but the Court had nonetheless made it clear that in the exercise of that right, Israel must abide strictly by its obligations under international law, which it had failed to do in respect of the Palestinian people.


The meeting rose at 5.25 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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