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Agenda item 117 : Human rights questions (continued)
(a) Implementation of human rights instruments
(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Agenda item 117: Human rights questions
(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Draft resolution A/C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1: Situation of and assistance to Israeli children
21. Mr. Gillerman (Israel), introducing draft resolution A/C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1, said that Israel would have preferred a comprehensive treatment of children, in accordance with standing practice, but had decided to introduce the text when, for the second consecutive year, the sponsors of draft resolution A/C.3/58/L.24, addressing only the situation of Palestinian children, had insisted on putting it to a vote against the wish of many delegations. Israel had been prepared to withdraw its text, but since draft resolution A/C.3/58/L.24 had been adopted, it was necessary and fair to sponsor a resolution addressing the suffering of Israeli children as a result of Palestinian terrorism. The text of the draft resolution having been distributed to the delegations, the representative of Israel proceeded with a brief presentation, stressing the amendments made to the initial version, particularly in order to take account of the outcome of consultations held with the delegations concerned. After quoting preambular paragraphs 4 and 5, he recalled that, since September 2000, terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had killed 903 Israelis, including 109 children, and injured thousands. Many terrorist attacks had deliberately targeted children. Addressing only the situation of Palestinian children and disregarding the difficulties faced by Israeli children would suggest that one side to the conflict held a monopoly over victim status. Certain that most delegations realized the suffering inflicted on Israeli children by terrorism, the representative of Israel urged the delegations to support the draft resolution.
22. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the Syrian delegation was opposed to draft resolution A/C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1, which had been introduced under the wrong agenda item. Its content did not fall within the competence of the Third Committee. The speaker requested the General Committee to introduce it under another agenda item.
23. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine) stated Palestine's observations on the initial version of the draft resolution (A/C.3/58/L.30). By copying the form and text of the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (A/C.3/58/L.24), which had already been adopted, Israel showed how insensitive it was to the Palestinian children's suffering, which it tried to trivialize. Having steadily maintained that there should be no resolution on the situation of any particular group of children and used that argument to reject the draft resolution on the plight of Palestinian children, Israel was contradicting itself.
24. Palestine maintained that the situation of Palestinian children was unique. That meant neither that their situation was worse than the situation of other children nor that the Palestinian children held a monopoly over suffering.
25. The form and content of the draft resolution reflected the distorted and unacceptable character of the Israeli positions and all references to the situation of children were subordinated to those political considerations. The revised version before the Committee aimed at avoiding the rejection of the draft resolution - which largely fell outside the competence of the Third Committee - by a vast majority of the delegations. The text remained inadmissible even after the revisions. Palestine hoped that, if put to a vote, it would be rejected.
26. Mr. Kronfol (Lebanon) said that his delegation associated itself with the statements of the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic and of the Observer for Palestine.
35. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) said that the General Assembly had characterized the wall that Israel was building on Palestinian territory as a violation of international law and demanded from Israel to discontinue its construction. In view of tangible security concerns, Israel was entitled to build a wall along the 1949 Armistice Demarcation Line (Green Line), but not on Palestinian territory. Construction of the wall on Palestinian territory could only be regarded as de facto annexation, and the annexation of occupied territories was proscribed by the United Nations Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The decision to extend the wall to the settlement at Ariel, about 22 km into the West Bank, meant that about 16 percent of the West Bank would end up between the wall and the Green Line. At the same time, there were attempts to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel had declared the area between the wall and the Green Line a "closed zone", where Israelis could move freely but the Palestinians, who lived and worked there, needed authorization to do so. Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall would be cut off from their lands, homes, clinics and schools. Checkpoints were run arbitrarily, clearly with the intent to press the Palestinians to resettle on their side of the wall, an event that would create a new generation of displaced persons.
36. The Special Rapporteur said that the settlements constituted a violation of Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbade an occupying power to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupied. Israel no longer claimed - as in the past - to freeze the settlements. On the contrary, the Government had increased resource allocation to the settlements, including those that had earlier been considered illegal. The Special Rapporteur noted that the wall and the settlements would have an extensive and adverse impact on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, rendering Palestinian self-determination meaningless, as the Palestinian people would soon have too little land of their own on which to build a State. The wall and the settlements also constituted the main cause of the unbearable situation of the Palestinians, who were humiliated daily at the checkpoints; and served to justify destruction of property on a large scale and environmental degradation.
37. The Special Rapporteur pointed out that he had deliberately decided not to deal with the other serious human rights violations: loss of human lives, excessive force used indiscriminately against civilians and combatants, ever more assassinations of Palestinians, detention of more than 6,000 Palestinians and transfer of prisoners under administrative detention from the West Bank to Gaza.
38. Mr. Gillerman (Israel) regretted that the Special Rapporteur reiterated allegations contained in his earlier reports disregarding Israel's rectifications and continued to use his mandate as a means of pursuing his political agenda. Israel's position on the security wall was well known. It had been explained to the Security Council and the General Assembly. He nevertheless wished to raise some further points concerning the Special Rapporteur's last report. Although he acknowledged Israel's "legitimate security concerns", the Special Rapporteur regarded the measures taken by Israel as disproportionate, failing to consider the menace of Palestinian terrorism, with its multitude of victims and its refusal to distinguish between civilian population and combatants. Whether a measure was proportionate could not be determined mechanically and from afar, merely by tabulating reported damages and alleged casualties. To that end, specialized, legal and operational, knowledge was required and account should be taken of the specific context in which the operations took place, the security situation that Israelis faced and the illegal use of Palestinian civilians as a human shield. The speaker believed that by disregarding these factors the Special Rapporteur had deliberately made a selective and incorrect use of law and facts. He noted that the Special Rapporteur did not consider any defensive measure taken by Israel as legitimate or proportionate to the act that had motivated it, and that he held Israel responsible for all the ills befalling the Palestinian people, absolving the Palestinian leaders and the Arab States that funded and favoured terrorism in the region. The Special Rapporteur thereby contributed to the problem rather than to its solution.
39. Mr. Mekhad (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the report of the Special Rapporteur provided further evidence of Israel's brutal practices in the occupied territories and proved that Israel - by continuing to build the wall of racism - spurned the wish of the international community. He concurred with the Special Rapporteur that the purpose behind the wall was a de facto annexation of an ever-larger part of Palestinian territory. That showed Israel's intention to thwart any idea of an independent Palestinian State. He recalled the warnings issued by Syria and other States against the expansionist wall and the intentions of Israel, which - in the event of a resumption of negotiations - could be expected to claim that the wall was its boundary with any Palestinian entity. Discussions then would no longer concern the establishment of a Palestinian State but land demarcation. Settlements played the same role. Such practices constituted terrorism and the international community had a duty to combat them by all means. Terrorism could not be eradicated unless Israel also fought against it. Israel's so-called self-defence was defence of occupation and aggression.
40. Mr. Vigny (Switzerland) congratulated the Special Rapporteur for his report and assured him of Switzerland's support in his mandate. The representative of Switzerland wondered whether the Special Rapporteur could enlarge on the idea of proportionality. Moreover, since the Special Rapporteur had in his report requested the Israeli authorities to either authorize an independent international committee to investigate the complaints of torture or to conduct themselves an independent and detailed judicial investigation into those allegations, the speaker asked whether the Special Rapporteur had any suggestion as to the specific international bodies that might be asked to conduct such an investigation or whether he thought that an independent international ad hoc committee should be set up to that end. Lastly, the speaker asked whether the Special Rapporteur planned to conduct a new mission before the sixtieth meeting of the Commission on Human Rights to be held in Geneva in March-April 2004.
41. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) said that proportionality was an intricate issue and that he intended to further examine its various aspects. It was very difficult to assess the proportionality of a reaction to an act. Regarding the proposal for a judicial investigation into cases of torture, although he had suggested setting up an independent committee, he was inclined to first give Israel a chance to handle that matter itself. Regarding the observations of the representative of Israel, the Special Rapporteur said that he was cognizant of Israel's security concerns, but considered that the facts regarding the wall and the settlements, which were illegal and had an enormous impact on human rights, were clearly established in his report. He regretted that the representative of Israel had not addressed those two problems in his statement.
The meeting was suspended at 4.40 p.m. and resumed at 5.10 p.m.
54. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) reassured the representatives of Israel and the United States that he had followed no political agenda and his sole concern was respect for human rights. Replying to the United States representative's criticism that in his report he had taken a one-sided view of proportionality, he said that one should look at the facts. Although sending Palestinian suicide bombers to stage attacks in Israel was deplorable and reprehensible, Israel's response (detaining 6,000 Palestinians, resorting to summary executions, demolishing homes, imposing curfews, and setting up checkpoints) had been such that poverty was affecting 60 per cent of the Palestinian population. Nor was it possible to keep silent about the wall, which would interfere with the life of half a million Palestinians and seemed to redraw the boundary between the two territories. The speaker was disappointed that the United States representative had made no reference to that issue and asked him to weigh all factors and to consider seriously whether he had actually overstated the case against Israel in his report. The Special Rapporteur was convinced that on balance the facts were against Israel.
55. Ms. Noman (Yemen) applauded the courage of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. She hoped that the international community, with all due impartiality, would press Israel to cease its violent activities.
The meeting rose at 17.35 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.