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Chairperson : Mr. WIBISONO (Indonesia)
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)
(E/CN.4/2005/26-28 and 29 and Add.1; E/CN.4/2005/G/5 and 9; E/CN.4/2005/NGO/4, 67, 152, 292, 308, 327 and 347)
91. Mr. DUGARD (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), introducing his report (E/CN.4/2005/29/Add.1), said that the present was a time for hope in the Middle East: since the recent meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders the level of violence in the region had dropped significantly, while Israel had taken a number of measures to improve the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, those changes failed to address the main human rights violations in that Territory - settlements, the construction of the Wall, checkpoints and roadblocks, the imprisonment of Gaza and the continued detention of over 7,000 Palestinians.
92. Israel had decided to evacuate some 8,000 settlers from Gaza, but the issue of settlements remained cause for grave concern. Some 150 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem housed over 400,000 settlers, and settlements continued to expand. On 22 March 2005, the Israeli Government had approved the construction of 3,500 new homes that would link the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim with East Jerusalem. Moreover, the Israeli Government had reportedly colluded in the construction of illegal caravan outposts, which often occurred on privately owned Palestinian land. Although the Israeli Government had undertaken to dismantle a small number of settlements and outposts, t Israel had decided to evacuate some 8,000 settlers from Gaza, but the issue of settlements remained cause for grave concern. Some 150 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem housed over 400,000 settlers, and settlements continued to expand. On 22 March 2005, the Israeli Government had approved the construction of 3,500 new homes that would link the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim with East Jerusalem. Moreover, the Israeli Government had reportedly colluded in the construction of illegal caravan outposts, which often occurred on privately owned Palestinian land. Although the Israeli Government had undertaken to dismantle a small number of settlements and outposts, the majority were clearly intended to be there to stay, whereas in 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had found the establishment of those settlements in breach of international law.
93. In its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ICJ had declared the construction of that Wall illegal and called for its dismantlement. Israel had rejected that ruling and continued construction, albeit marginally changing its course to encroach less on Palestinian land. Recent developments had made it clear that the main purpose of the Wall was the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Israel; current building plans foresaw the inclusion of 76 per cent of the West Bank settler population on the Israeli side of the Wall. Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem had been formally, albeit illegally, annexed already.
94. The construction of the Wall, the introduction of an arbitrary permit and gate system and the resulting travel restrictions constituted a serious violation of the rights of some 50,000 Palestinians living in the “closed area” and another 500,000 living within 1 kilometre of the Wall, depriving them of free access to their land, workplace, health care and education and thus destroying the very fabric of their lives. Israel’s claim that the Wall was a mere security measure lacked credibility, given that it did not follow the Green Line, but instead had been built to enclose settlements and fertile lands.
95. Checkpoints and roadblocks in the Occupied Palestinian Territory imposed severe travel restrictions on Palestinians. Israel also envisaged the introduction of special permit requirements for inhabitants of East Jerusalem wishing to travel to Ramallah, thus compelling them to either sever ties with Ramallah or give up residence in East Jerusalem. The measure was one of many aimed at entrenching Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
96. A system of road apartheid had been established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory whereby highways were reserved for exclusive use by settlers, relegating Palestinians to second-class roads obstructed by checkpoints and roadblocks. Israel had reportedly asked the international donor community to finance upgrading of Palestinian roads, which was yet another attempt to receive outside funding for the occupation.
97. The existence of settlements seriously undermined any prospect for peace in the Middle East. Their protection and advancement determined Israel’s policy towards Palestinians and rendered a two-State solution impossible.
98. The detention of over 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including 850 administrative detainees and 323 children, was also cause for concern. The recent release of 500 mainly short-term prisoners, or prisoners who had nearly completed their sentences, was insufficient.
99. A bold step was required of Israel in the service of peace.
100. While the Israeli Government’s commitment to evacuate 8,000 settlers from Gaza was a brave move which deserved due recognition, such While the Israeli Government’s commitment to evacuate 8,000 settlers from Gaza was a brave move which deserved due recognition, such disengagement would not put an end to Israeli control over Gaza or to Israel’s role as an occupying Power in terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Gaza’s external imprisonment and the humanitarian crisis caused by the closure remained unresolved.
101. The continuation of the current ceasefire required commitment from both sides. The Palestinian Authority must exercise control over the militant groups responsible for violent acts against Israelis and suicide bombings within Israel, and Israel must address the issues that had given rise to terrorist acts committed against its people. If it failed to do so, it would forfeit a unique opportunity.
102. Mr. LEVANON (Observer for Israel) said his delegation was pleased that the Special Rapporteur, in his latest report (E/CN.4/2005/29/Add.1), had taken note of the confidence-building measures taken by Israel, including the release of prisoners; the repeal of assigned residence orders; the cessation of security-related targeted killings and demolition of houses; the increase in the number of Palestinian workers and merchants permitted entry into Israel; the removal of checkpoints in the West Bank; the handing over of West Bank cities to Palestinian control; and the rerouting of the security fence. The Special Rapporteur had also acknowledged the significance of Israeli disengagement from Gaza and recognized the need for the Palestinian leadership to take concrete steps to counter terrorism.
103. However, the very nature of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, which only authorized him to consider violations committed by Israel, was problematic. The Israeli delegation objected to the criticism of anti-terrorist measures Israel had taken in self-defence. Many of the allegations made in the Special Rapporteur’s report were ill-founded or inaccurate. Israel recognized the challenges arising from its efforts to balance security and human rights and would gladly participate in any open and impartial dialogue on those issues. Unfortunately, the prejudicial mandate of the Special Rapporteur made such dialogue impossible and failed to reflect the understanding that mutual and reciprocal implementation of commitments was the only path towards reconciliation.
104. Israel’s handing over of cities in the West Bank and the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to confront terrorism highlighted the dissonance between the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and the situation on the ground. Reviewing that mandate was imperative and would greatly contribute to restoring the Commission’s credibility.
105. Mr. ABU-KOASH (Observer for Palestine), noting that the construction of the so-called “security fence” was in flagrant violation of international law, called on Israel and the international community to implement the provisions of the ICJ Advisory Opinion. The ongoing human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory needed urgent addressing and rectification. The gentle words of the Israeli leadership stood in stark contrast to the hardship suffered by the Palestinian people under the prolonged Israeli occupation. The recent dispossession of Christian land in occupied Jerusalem was consistent with Israel’s attempts to erode the holy city’s multi-religious fabric, in blatant violation of international law and relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The Israeli Government had refused to honour its commitment to supply the United States Government with aerial pictures of Israeli settlements; instead, settlement activities continued. Its recently announced intention to expand major settlements in the West Bank betrayed the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit.
106. Ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories, which was breeding extremism throughout the world, was the only solution to the conflict. The positive environment created by the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh offered a valuable opportunity for Israel to reverse its colonial policies, instead of continuing endless negotiations that only served to postpone the inevitable and obvious. Palestinians and Israelis needed to join hands to tear down the walls of occupation, hatred and revenge and create a new reality based on human rights, equity, freedom, self-determination and respect for international law for present and future generations.
107. Mr. BERNS (Observer for Luxembourg) asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on interactive measures needed to create lasting peace. He also wished to learn of the Palestinian people’s reaction to the ICJ Advisory Opinion relating to the construction of the Wall.
108. Mr. DUGARD (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967) said that the Palestinian community had been very pleased with the Court’s ruling. However, the failure of the international community to work towards the enforcement of the provisions of the Advisory Opinion had come as a great disappointment.
109. The creation of lasting peace in the region required negotiations on issues such as refugees, occupation and the status of Jerusalem. Prior to such negotiations, however, and in order to prevent a resurgence of Palestinian militancy, Israel needed to urgently address the issues that constituted the major stumbling blocks to peace in the region - settlements, the Wall, checkpoints, roadblocks and prisoners.