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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 20th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 23 March 2007, at 10 a.m.
President: Mr. De ALBA (Mexico)
later: Mr. LOULICHKI (Morocco)
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
IMPLEMENTATION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 60/251 OF 15 MARCH 2006 ENTITLED “HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL” (agenda item 2) (continued)
Reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (continued) (A/HRC/4/17 and 116)
Follow-up to decisions of the Human Rights Council (continued)
Update on the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-3/1 (continued) (A/HRC/4/113)
1. Ms. VADIATI (Observer for the Islamic Republic of Iran) said that the failure of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-3/1 to carry out its mandate and the lack of cooperation on the part of the Israeli Government were regrettable. Taking note of the challenges facing the Mission, she called for urgent implementation of that resolution for the sake of the human rights of the Palestinian people and the credibility of the Council.
2. Mr. ANNAN (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) drew attention to the killing of seven children in Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006 and the gang rape and subsequent brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl by American soldiers in the Iraqi town of Al-Mahmudiyah. Those crimes, which were indicative of the grave human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Iraq, had been committed with total impunity.
3. The attack launched at the previous meeting by the observer for Israel against the Council and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 exemplified Israel’s position with regard to its international legal obligations. Moreover, Europe’s silence regarding those crimes came as a surprise, given its claim to championship of human rights and its strong condemnation of the situation in Darfur. The time had come for the Council to stake out a clear moral ground and to call the above-mentioned human rights violations by their true name.
4. Mr. MARTABIT (Observer for Chile) said that during the Council’s consideration of the situation in Darfur members had agreed that there could be no excuse for a fact-finding mission’s failure to carry out its mandate. The Council should therefore redeploy the failed mission to Beit Hanoun and ensure effective follow-up. The Council could only fulfil its universal human rights protection mandate if all States assumed their responsibilities and turned it into a credible institution.
5. Ms. SIEFKER-EBERLE (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that full cooperation by States with all Council mechanisms was paramount. It was therefore regrettable that the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun had been unable to carry out its mandate. The European Union remained concerned about the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and had repeatedly expressed those concerns to both parties to the conflict, reminding them of their responsibility to exercise restraint, cooperate for peace and respect civilian lives.
6. Ms. CLARK (BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights), speaking also on behalf of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, the Union of Arab Jurists, the Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP), International Educational Development, the World Peace Council, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Interfaith International, the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru and Al-Haq, said that Israeli practices affecting the Palestinian people were among the most long-standing and urgent denials of human rights. States had a duty to protect Palestinians’ right to self-determination, denounce discrimination, racism and colonization, and enable Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return home. The United Nations and its Member States must act to prevent further population transfers within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Unless a rights-based approach was taken to addressing the situation, the conflict would deepen and undermine world peace.
7. The Council should consider the legality and implications of Israel’s historic policy of institutionalized discrimination within Israel and the occupied territories and request the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation. The Council should extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and appoint a special rapporteur or independent expert to examine discriminatory practices affecting Palestinians and other minorities in Israel. It should consider urging Member States to impose economic or diplomatic sanctions on Israel for its breaches of international law and failure to implement United Nations resolutions and should call for the deployment of United Nations forces to protect Palestinian civilians.
8. Ms. SHARFELDDIN (International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), speaking also on behalf of the Arab Lawyers’ Union, the Union of Arab Jurists and the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said that in conflict-settlement, States had a responsibility to abide by the rule of law and act in compliance with General Assembly resolutions. Accordingly, action should be taken to implement General Assembly resolution ES-10/15, entitled “Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”, in which the Assembly had acknowledged the Court’s advisory opinion and called for States’ compliance with the legal obligations mentioned therein. States must also pressure Israel into abiding by the advisory opinion, thus restoring peoples’ confidence in the rule of law and the international system.
9. Mr. NEUER (UN Watch) reminded the Council that the Commission on Human Rights had been established in the aftermath of the holocaust to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. Sixty years later the Human Rights Council’s only response to reports of torture, persecution and gender-based violence around the world had been to enact a series of resolutions condemning Israel; Hezbollah and Hamas were granted impunity and millions of victims of human rights violations around the world were being ignored.
10. It was hardly credible that the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women, the occupiers of Tibet or the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya truly cared about the human rights of the Palestinian people. More than 130 Palestinians had been killed by Palestinian forces in recent months, yet the champions of Palestinian rights had remained silent because Israel bore no responsibility. In fact, the despots who ran the Human Rights Council did not care about Palestinians or human rights, but sought instead to demonize Israeli democracy, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Jewish State, scapegoat the Jewish people, and distort and pervert the very idea of human rights. The terrible lies and moral inversion of the Council were turning the dream of the founders of the Commission on Human Rights into a nightmare.
11. The PRESIDENT said that the way in which the representative of UN Watch had referred to the Council and its members was unacceptable. In memory of the founders of the Commission on Human Rights, and for the sake of the cause of human rights, speakers should choose their words more carefully. In future, statements of a similar nature would not be reflected in the official records.
12. Mr. MATAS (B’nai B’rith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations) thanked the representative of UN Watch for his statement. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (A/HRC/4/17) was a tired repetition of accusations levelled against Israel. Those who assigned unilateral blame understood nothing about the conflict in the Middle East. In his lengthy description of Israeli measures taken to defend the population against terrorist attacks, the Special Rapporteur had not once mentioned the fact that those attacks emanated from the West Bank and Gaza. Nor had any reference been made to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005. The Special Rapporteur had not shied away from using Nazi vocabulary by labelling Jews a “racial” group contrasted with the Palestinian “racial” group, language that would fuel the worldwide upsurge in anti-Semitism.
13. The Special Rapporteur’s long-standing one-sidedness was being compounded by attempts to perpetuate his mandate until further notice, a step which prejudged the review of all mandates by the Council, thus violating the principle of non-selectivity. Extension of the current Special Rapporteur’s mandate would only serve to perpetuate the conflict in the Middle East. The mandate took no account of the progress that had been made since its establishment in 1993 or of the human rights violations that were perpetrated in the context of inter-Palestinian conflict. Accordingly, the Council should reject such selectivity and appoint a new, more objective mandate-holder, thereby encouraging Israel’s cooperation.
14. Mr. KHOURI (Union of Arab Jurists) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his professional and courageous report. The tragedy of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory undermined the entire human rights system. In addressing violations of Palestinians’ right to life and self-determination, the Council had an opportunity either to prove its impartiality or to confirm old double standards. Despite the adoption of countless resolutions condemning the human rights violations in the occupied territories, Israel had done nothing to end those practices. Unfortunately, the resolutions adopted lacked effective implementation mechanisms.
15. The situation in Palestine was being reproduced in Iraq, where United States army personnel and the militia appeared to be competing in an escalating spiral of killing and destruction. The Council should take effective measures to address the serious human rights situations in both Palestine and Iraq, and should extend the Special Rapporteur’s mandate until the end of the occupation.
16. Mr. AHMAD (Al-Haq), speaking also on behalf of the International Federation for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, with its pervasive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, was irreconcilable with the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and the very notion of self-determination. Illegal Israeli settlements continued to expand. Israelis moved freely through Palestinian land, while the Palestinian’s freedom of movement was severely restricted. Some 30 per cent of Palestinian land was off limits to Palestinians, and water resources were exploited for the benefit of Israeli settlers. The work of human rights defenders was severely curtailed by restrictions that had prevented the director of Al-Haq from travelling to Geneva to attend the current session of the Council. Despite its so-called disengagement from Gaza, Israel effectively controlled the area, as illustrated by repeated military incursions, the closure of border crossings and the refusal to grant entry to the fact-finding mission deployed by the Council.
17. As a body mandated to protect human rights, the Council must do its utmost to end the violations perpetrated against Palestinians, inter alia by requesting the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories. An end to occupation was the only chance for lasting peace.
18. Ms. PEREIRA (Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America) said that the forum provided by the United Nations and the Council would never suffice to denounce and condemn the criminal acts committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. The incidents described in the Special Rapporteur’s report painted an ever bleaker picture of the situation, which was characterized by impunity, Israel’s geographical expansion and a flagrant disregard for human rights and international law.
19. Her organization wished to express its solidarity with all efforts of the United Nations to change a situation which brought unimaginable suffering to the Palestinian people, undermined the international human rights protection system and posed a serious threat to world peace. She urged the Government of the United States of America to consider diverting the resources it currently allocated for financial and military support for Israel towards humanitarian relief for the Palestinian people, thereby demonstrating that its purported concern over the situation in the occupied territories was genuine.
20. Ms. DORRI (Organization for Defending Victims of Violence) deplored the fact that the High-Level Mission had been unable to assess the situation in Beit Hanoun. The Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory constituted collective punishment and exacerbated the humanitarian crisis there. She called on the Council to adopt a resolution condemning the violations of human rights law and of international humanitarian law perpetrated by all parties in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Council should also request the Security Council to deploy an interposition force to ensure the supply of food, water, medicine, fuel and electricity to Palestinian civilians; demand that the Quartet should review humanitarian aid mechanisms proposed by the World Bank in order to facilitate the payment of salaries to Palestinian public servants; and request the Israeli Government to stop withholding taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority.
21. Mr. SPLINTER (Amnesty International) said that the failure of the Governments of Israel and the Sudan to cooperate with the high-level missions deployed by the Council undermined the Council’s authority and credibility. When determining how to address that problem, the Council should look at the way in which it established specific measures requiring cooperation from States. The Governments participating in the Council must put aside political considerations and adopt measures that would actually make tangible improvements in the particular human rights situations. Having attempted to do so with regard to Darfur, the Council must make a greater effort to achieve real dialogue on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It must adopt specific measures to address both the ongoing systematic gross human rights violations committed by the Israeli authorities and the human rights abuses committed by the Palestinian authorities and armed groups. In addition, Israel should be offered a real opportunity to cooperate with the Council and its mechanism, but if it failed to do so, it should be held to account.