Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
2 May 1996
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 7th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 21 March 1996, at 4 p.m.
: Mr. VERGNE SABOIA (Brazil)
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (
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within one week of the date of this document
to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.
The meeting was called to order at 4.10 p.m.
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (item 4 of the provisional agenda) (
) (E/CN.4/1996/18 to 21, 108 and 120)
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (item 7 of the provisional agenda) (
) (E/CN.4/1996/26 and 27)
(Australia), referring to the situation in the Middle East, said that the recently elected Australian Government had moved quickly to put on public record its strong commitment to supporting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. His Government deplored the recent terrorist attacks in Israel and welcomed the clear message delivered by the international community at the Sharm-El-Sheikh Summit that those who used terror to oppose peace would not be allowed to succeed. The Israeli and Palestinian authorities must combine their efforts to vanquish terrorism.
21. His Government welcomed the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank especially the Council elections, the development and management of economic infrastructure and the efforts to improve the security situation. It would continue to provide practical support for the peace process through full participation in the Water Resources and Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working groups, which were areas where it believed that Australian expertise would be useful.
(Mauritania) said that the considerable progress made in implementing the Declaration of Principles signed in Washington on 13 September 1993 and the other subsequent agreements, showed that the Middle East was definitely committed to peace because peace constituted for all the peoples of the region a strategic choice that would open up enormous prospects and bring them considerable advantages. However, solid and lasting peace had to be just and comprehensive and must, therefore, be based on law and international legality. It should enable the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate national rights, which meant the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon.
23. As the Head of his Government had stated at the Sharm-El-Sheikh Summit of the Peacemakers, the peace process remained fraught with problems and the path to peace was still strewn with obstacles and dangers. Although there had been many such obstacles in recent months, they should nevertheless not shake the faith of the peacemakers; on the contrary, they must strengthen the commitment of all parties to peace, the best defence against violence.
24. The repressive measures adopted by Israel following the recent outrages were not conducive to peace and were more likely to fan the flames of violence rather than extinguish them. Actions favouring dialogue and understanding needed to be undertaken to restore the full confidence of populations traumatized by decades of occupation and repression. To consolidate peace, it was vital to improve the human rights situation in the occupied territories. That was not an impossible task given the ground already covered since Oslo. Although some challenges remained, any obstacles could be overcome if the political will existed.
Mr. MEJIA SOUS
(Nicaragua) said he welcomed the agreements signed within the framework of the Middle East peace process which had rendered possible the recent holding of first elections to the Palestinian Council. However, despite the progress made, there were still many obstacles in the path to peace. The serious problem of extremism was one of them. His Government reiterated its unflinching support for any initiative aimed at combating terrorism in all its forms and, in that regard, had welcomed the holding of the Sharm-El-Sheikh Summit.
26. The economic and social development of the occupied Arab territories was the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East and establish good relations between Israelis and Palestinians. To that end, the international community must help the Palestinian Authority to become economically independent. The frequent sealing-off of the West Bank and Gaza Strip caused serious damage to the Palestinian economy and only heightened social unrest.
27. The Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government - political entities responsible for the lives of millions of human beings - must work together in a spirit of confidence in order to guarantee both the security of Israel and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
(Bangladesh) said that the human rights violations committed in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, were all obviously linked to the continued occupation of those territories by Israel and the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, despite official policy. However, the return of Yasser Arafat to the territories and his election as President of the Palestinian Authority, following democratic elections, marked the beginning of the achievement by the Palestinians of their dream of and yearning for an independent State. The peace initiatives between Israel and its Arab neighbours, especially the Peace Agreement signed with Jordan, still held out hopes of finding a solution to the Middle East conflict and establishing lasting peace in the region. In his delegation's view, however, it was essential to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, to their own land and to political association. While condemning mindless violence, particularly the recent atrocities against innocent civilians in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon, it felt that isolated acts of terrorism must not be used as a pretext for reprisals against the entire Palestinian nation. As President Arafat himself had said, occupation, siege or the sealing-off of the territories, restrictive measures and collective punishment would not resolve the problem.
37. The transfer of certain powers to the Palestinian National Authority was indeed a positive development and the holding of democratic elections had demonstrated that the Palestinian leaders were capable of honouring their commitment to exercise power and assume responsibilities, with due regard for internationally recognized human rights standards and principles and the primacy of law.
38. However, their action would also be largely contingent on the acts of the Israeli authorities during the period of transition towards the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State. Those authorities must, first of all, dismantle the illegal settlements in the occupied territories and take practical steps to safeguard the right of Palestinians to their land, means of subsistence and a State. They must, as a matter of urgency, stop their collective punishment of the population and make a distinction between terrorists who attacked civilians and the community or population to which such terrorists belonged. The individual or group of individuals who committed such acts of violence must always bear the responsibility for them. Failure to observe that principle in the case of the Palestinians would amount to discrimination and constitute a violation of human rights principles. It would also strengthen the argument that collective punishments pushed young Palestinians towards extremism.
(Indonesia) said that Indonesia had always supported the Palestinian people in its struggle to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination, safeguard its national independence and regain its territorial integrity, because Indonesia firmly believed that the independence of the Palestinian people was a
sine qua non
for achieving peace, security and stability in the region. Although Israel had established new relations with the State of Palestine as part of the peace process, it still continued its aggressive policies and expansionist practices in the occupied Arab territories and continued to apply repressive policies which constituted flagrant violations of internationally recognized human rights standards and humanitarian law. Such practices must cease immediately because peace, security and justice could not be built on the violation of the fundamental rights of the peoples concerned.
(Observer for Israel) said that an outside observer, listening to the deeply prejudiced statements made the day before concerning his country, could have gained a totally distorted impression of Israel's position on human rights. It would seem that the killing and maiming of large numbers of Israelis in various attacks was negligible when compared with the fact that Israel, in order to protect itself, closed the gates to its territory to people which it was under no obligation to admit.
51. The height of hypocrisy had come from Iran, the purveyor of Islamic fundamentalist terror, and the crude misinformation disseminated by some NGOs - for example, about Israeli draft legislation that had never even been submitted to the Knesset.
52. Fortunately, several participants had pointed to the Palestinians' own responsibility to respect human rights and to the Palestinian Authority's clear failures in that regard, and had recognized the inadequacies of the Special Rapporteur's mandate.
53. Several speakers had also underlined the direct threat which terror represented to the peace process. Mr. Arafat had himself denounced the latest terrorist outrages in Israel and had signed the Sharm-el-Sheikh Declaration condemning terror in all its forms and whatever its motives. That did not seem to square with the intemperate outbursts of the observer for Palestine, who appeared to be representing no one but himself.
(Observer for Palestine), said, for the benefit of the observer for Israel, that never in history had there been a case when a country had been authorized to perpetrate crimes to protect itself. As for the "terrorist acts" of the Palestinians, the international community made a clear distinction between terrorism and the right of peoples to combat foreign occupation, including in arms, in order to gain their independence and liberate their territory.
63. He would refrain from responding to the ridiculous remarks as to whether or not his words were representative of the views of President Arafat.
(Observer for the Islamic Republic of Iran) said that he would not reply to the attacks made by the observer for Israel against his Government. What mattered most was that Israel should win support for the peace process from the Palestinian people living under occupation by demonstrating that it was a just peace, not by forcing it to accept the peace at the point of the bayonet.
(Observer for Israel) said that Iran would have to work hard to convince the international community that it was not a purveyor of terrorism and that it defended human rights. As for the remarks by the observer for Palestine, he regretted that once again that observer had confined himself to justifying the use of terror; it would have been preferable if, like the Palestinian President, he had condemned loud and clear the latest terrorist outrages in Israel and espoused the spirit of Sharm-el-Sheikh.
(Observer for Palestine) said that the day the observer for Israel denounced his own Government for repeated human rights violations and the crimes committed since 1967 - crimes that had already been condemned by the Commission - he himself would denounce acts by individuals that were not State practices.
The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.