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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 57th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 26 April 2002, at 10 a.m.
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS:
(a) STATUS OF THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS;
(b) HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS;
(c) INFORMATION AND EDUCATION;
(d) SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT (continued)
EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS:
(a) TREATY BODIES;
(b) NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND REGIONAL ARRANGEMENTS;
(c) ADAPTATION AND STRENGTHENING OF THE UNITED NATIONS
MACHINERY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (continued)
ADVISORY SERVICES AND TECHNICAL COOPERATION IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS ( continued)
RATIONALIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE COMMISSION (continued)
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE SESSION (continued)
REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (continued)
1. Mrs. ROBINSON (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) said that the current session of the Commission called for deep reflection. Everyone wished the human rights idea to triumph nationally, regionally, and internationally. How that was to be achieved was a topic that excited great passions and had given rise to both agreement and divisions. Every effort must be made to spread a universal culture of human rights and to protect the victims of violations in any part of the world; that had always been the policy of the Commission and must remain its bedrock in the future. If the Commission were unable to provide protection for those whose rights were being violated on a massive scale, it would lose its essence.
2. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001, and with acute conflict and tensions in some parts of the world, it had been clear from the outset that the session would be a difficult one. However, no one could have envisaged just how difficult it would prove to be organizationally. Following the cancellation of evening and night meetings, the Commission had been forced to make drastic adjustments to its work.
3. She paid tribute to the Chairperson, for the wisdom and patience he had demonstrated in bringing the session towards a successful conclusion, and to the members of the Expanded Bureau who had faced unprecedented organizational difficulties due to lack of meeting services. Her own team had coped well at every level. She hoped that such a situation would not be repeated in the future, so that the rapporteurs, national institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would be heard in fair and full measure.
4. It was important to reflect on how that situation highlighted the need to re-evaluate the essential contribution the Commission made in giving leadership in human rights. She pledged to work closely with the Chairperson and the Bureau over the following months and to encourage the process of reflection.
5. In addition to organizational difficulties, the Commission had been forced to cope with acute substantive and procedural difficulties due to the worsening situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. That was the first shadow darkening the human rights horizon that had been identified by the Secretary-General in his address to the Commission. The Commission had recognized the need to respond to the severe loss of life of both Palestinians and Israelis and to the spiral of violence that raised fundamental challenges with regard to the observance of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Commission had reviewed the situation, called for a Visiting Mission, called for and received a fact-finding report, and had kept the situation under review. The steps it had taken stemmed from its commitment to protect victims of violations of human rights in a particularly difficult context.
REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (agenda item 4) (continued ) (E/CN.4/2002/L.116)
Draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (E/CN.4/2002/L.116)
73. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that, following consultations with other delegations, some changes had been made to the text of the draft resolution. Paragraph 3 would become paragraph 1 and the word “rejection” in the first line should be replaced by the word “denial” and the phrase “and the withdrawal of its agreement to receive the fact-finding team nominated by the United Nations Secretary-General” at the end of the paragraph should be deleted. Paragraph 1 would become paragraph 2; the words “and systematic” in the second line being replaced by the phrase “widespread and flagrant”.
74. An understanding reached with certain delegations concerning the insertion in paragraph 4 of the phrase “in this context”, after the word “Endorses” had, regrettably, not survived the consultations. In the spirit of cooperation imbuing IOC, however, the sponsors would honour the understanding and retain the text with that change, rather than reverting to stronger language. He hoped that the text, as modified, would be acceptable.
75. In response to an observation by Mr. MENDOÇA E MOURA (Portugal), he agreed that it was inconsistent to retain the word “systematic” in the penultimate line of new paragraph 3 (former paragraph 2). There, too, it should be replaced by the phrase “widespread and flagrant”.
76. Mr. VEGA (Chile) said that, like those of several other Latin American countries, his delegation was anxious to adopt a draft resolution that would strengthen the Commission’s approach to human rights in the Middle East. The phrase “in this context” constituted a real stumbling block, however, since it was not clear whether the “context” referred to was the High Commissioner’s recent report or the preceding paragraphs of the draft resolution. In the latter case, his delegation would find it difficult to support the draft resolution. He requested clarification or else a separate vote on paragraph 4.
77. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said that, as the representative of Chile well knew, several hours of consultation had been devoted to the phrase “in this context”. He preferred not to put an interpretation on it, because it spoke for itself. It was for the Chilean delegation to decide for itself what the “ context” was and whether to vote for or against the draft resolution.
78. Mr. VEGA (Chile) said that he was seeking not an “interpretation” but the actual meaning of the phrase, so that delegations would know what they were endorsing.
79. Mr. PEREZ DEL CASTILLO (Uruguay) concurred. When the High Commissioner had submitted her report, she had done so in a clearly defined context. If the sponsors accepted that, there was no need to retain the phrase “in this context”. The matter should be clarified, in order to avoid differing interpretations of the phrase in the future.
80. Mr. VOTO-BERNALES (Peru) agreed with the representatives of Chile and Uruguay. The phrase could be interpreted as applying to a context different from that of the High Commissioner’s report.
81. Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) said that the Commission should not allow a problem of interpretation to prevent it from adopting the draft resolution without a vote. There was no ambiguity in the phrase concerned; it simply referred to the situation as described in the High Commissioner’s report. Indeed, it could be regarded as a mere linking phrase, with no connection with any extraneous issues.
82. Mr. MENDOÇA E MOURA (Portugal) said that he had, perhaps naively, assumed that the phrase was to be read in the context of the entire draft resolution. The High Commissioner’s report was what gave the draft resolution its added value since the general situation in the Middle East had been constantly discussed during the current session. Paragraph 62 of her report, above all, was crucial, in that it suggested further investigation. His delegation would be able to support the draft resolution if the High Commissioner’s report was acknowledged to be its framework.
83. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said the context was the Committee’s decision of 16 April 2002 to request the High Commissioner to undertake a mission to the Middle East to report on the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Israeli authorities refusal to cooperate with her. The context was also the High Commissioner’s report and, above all, the grave humanitarian situation which had arisen as a result of the Israeli incursion into Palestinian territory. The draft resolution addressed concerns about the human rights situation of the civilian population and there did not seem to him to be any ambiguity.
84. Mr. VEGA (Chile) said that, in his opinion, the context should be that of the report of the High Commissioner only and he therefore requested a separate vote on inclusion of the words “in this context” in paragraph 4.
85. Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) reiterated that it was his understanding, as confirmed by the representative of Pakistan, that the context was the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow access to the occupied territories by the High Commissioner as well as the High Commissioner’s report. The draft resolution sought to support the High Commissioner’s call for an investigation of the situation in the occupied territories and to address the concerns relating to the serious humanitarian situation. He hoped that a vote could be avoided.
86. Mr. MENDOÇA E MOURA (Portugal) said that if the purpose of the draft resolution was to support the High Commissioner’s call for an investigation, the words “in this context” were not essential and could easily be deleted, thereby allowing the draft resolution to enjoy broad support.
87. Mr. VOTO-BERNALES (Peru) said he agreed that the words “in this context” were open to misinterpretation and might be construed to imply more than the investigation proposed by the High Commissioner. If those words were not removed from the proposed text, he requested a recorded vote on their deletion.
88. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that he regretted that the Commission had consistently failed to make a positive contribution to the human rights situation in the Middle East by adopting an unbalanced and unhelpful approach, insisting on singling out only one of the parties for harsh criticisms. The debates and resolutions did not take into account the human rights violations suffered by the Israeli population or mention the havoc caused by suicide bombers.
89. He had already explained why Israel had been compelled to act in self-defence, in particular with regard to the refugee camp in Jenin, from which 23 suicide bombers had come, killing and maiming hundreds of Israelis, with another 3 bombers being intercepted before they could carry out their missions. The Commission had also disregarded human rights abuses on the part of the Palestinian Authority, which stockpiled arms and explosives in civilian refugee camps and was guilty of executing Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.
90. The draft resolution, by again ignoring the suffering of the Israeli people did not serve the cause of human rights in the region. It did not call for an end to incitement to violence and the abuse of women and children, who were encouraged to become suicide bombers. He appealed to all delegations which were truly attached to peace to vote against the draft resolution.
91. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that Israel, as the military occupying Power, was responsible for acts of aggression and human rights crimes in the Palestinian territory, especially the refugee camp in Jenin. In painting Israel as the victim, the observer for Israel was trying to manipulate the Commission.
92. He did not understand the confusion over the words “in this context”. The context was violations of the rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, a situation which the Commission had already condemned. The draft resolution simply established a link between the stance adopted by the Commission in the past and the High Commissioner’s request for an investigation. The Commission should be consistent in clearly condemning unacceptable actions on the part of the occupying Power and he appealed to it to adopt the draft resolution without a vote.
93. Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) expressed shock at the tenor of the statement by the representative of Israel. The Commission had deplored all civilian victims of violence and he pointed out that Israel bore a special responsibility for the deterioration in the situation by using overwhelming military force against civilians and their lightly armed defenders.
94. Mr. VOTO-BERNALES (Peru), speaking on a point of order, reminded the Commission that he had requested a recorded vote on his proposal to delete the words “in this context” from paragraph 4.
95. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on a point of order, said that it was the representative of Chile who had first called for a separate vote on the retention or deletion of the words “in this context”.
96. Mr. VEGA (Chile) explained that his delegation would have been able to support the draft resolution if it had been clear that the words “in this context” referred simply to the report of the High Commissioner. That was not clear and he had therefore asked for a separate vote on whether or not to delete those words; he supported the request by the representative of Peru for a recorded vote on his proposal to delete the words “in this context”.
97. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the sponsors would oppose deletion of the words “in this context” and he hoped that all those who were concerned at the grave situation in the occupied territories would do likewise. He stressed that the general context for the investigation proposed by the High Commissioner was, in fact, the situation caused by military operations against the civilian population.
98. Mr. ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting, said that his delegation found the entire draft resolution unbalanced and unsatisfactory. It would abstain during the voting on the deletion of the words “in this context”.
99. Mr. MORA GODOY (Cuba) said that the preambular and operative paragraphs clearly defined the context for the investigation proposed by the High Commissioner and his delegation would therefore vote against the deletion of the words “in this context”.
100. Mr. PEREZ DEL CASTILLO (Uruguay) said that all delegations were fully aware of the humanitarian emergency in the occupied territories and supported the High Commissioner’ s proposal for an investigation. Delegations calling for the deletion of the words “in this context” simply felt that they might be open to misinterpretation and wished to remove any ambiguity so that the High Commissioner’s call for an investigation would receive the broadest possible support.
101. At the request of the representative of Peru, a recorded vote was taken on his proposal to delete the words “in this context” in paragraph 4 of the draft resolution.
In favour: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Sweden, Uruguay.
Against: Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.
Abstaining: Austria, Burundi, Cameroon, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
102. The Peruvian proposal to delete the words “in this context” in paragraph 4 was rejected by 27 votes to 12, with 14 abstentions.
103. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Commission to take action on the draft resolution.
104. Mr. PEREZ-VILLANUEVA y TOVAR (Spain), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting on behalf of the European Union, said that he had taken the floor on numerous occasions during the current session to express the Union’s concern at the grave situation in the Middle East and to condemn violence, terrorism and human rights violations. The draft resolution before the Commission made no useful contribution to improving the situation and provided no new information other than express support for the investigation proposed by the High Commissioner, which the Union fully approved. Unfortunately, the text framed support for that proposal in terms which attempted to distort and manipulate the situation. It was regrettable that there had not been full consultations on such an important matter. Given the unsatisfactory nature of the text, the delegations for which he was speaking would abstain from voting.
105. Mr. LUKIYANTSEV (Russian Federation) reiterated his delegation’s concern at the situation in the Middle East and the disruption of the functioning of the Palestinian Authority. Given the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe, exceptional measures were required to assist the Palestinian people. The situation in Jenin and the suffering caused by military operations there were particularly deplorable. His delegation fully supported the High Commissioner’s proposal for an investigation and called on both parties to cooperate fully with her.
106. While the Commission must react to the suffering of the innocent, he stressed that a lasting solution could be obtained only through political dialogue leading to the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. His delegation, which would continue to work with all parties to resolve the crisis and achieve a settlement, would support the draft resolution.
107. Mr. ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) said he regretted that the draft resolution was not a balanced one and did not, for example, mention the terrorist acts against Israeli civilians which had led directly to the current crisis. The Commission’s numerous resolutions on the situation in the Middle East could in fact complicate the work of other, more appropriate, forums in attempting to achieve a settlement between the two parties. He therefore requested a recorded vote on the draft resolution and said his delegation would oppose it.