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        Economic and Social Council
27 March 2003

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-ninth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 21 March 2003, at 3 p.m.

Chairperson : Ms. AL-HAJJAJI (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)


The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.

THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item 5) (E/CN.4/2003/4, 15 and 16; E/CN.4/2003/NGO/31, 48, 107, 116, 118, 119, 135, 198, 203, 209, 214, 221, 249, 252 and 259)


32. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that, while the Special Rapporteur had acknowledged that Israel was among the places where terrorist attacks had taken place, he had failed to mention what was happening in the area around Israel. Since he had been able to go there, he must surely have discovered that the Israeli army, Government, settlers and civilians were also indulging in State terrorism against the Palestinian people. He should rectify that omission in order to present a more balanced report.

33. Mr. SALLOUM (Syrian Arab Republic) said he agreed with the observer for Palestine and asked the Special Rapporteur whether he meant that Israel had permitted terrorist activities against the Palestinian people. If he meant that Israel was a victim of terrorism, then he should realize that, if an occupying State destroyed houses and killed children, it was that State that was committing acts of terrorism. The Special Rapporteur should take those facts into account in his next report.

34. Mr. BERNALES BALLESTEROS (Special Rapporteur on mercenaries) replying to the representative of Pakistan, asked all Governments to submit in writing their comments and views on the legal definition of a mercenary, so that a consensus could be achieved. He apologized to the observer for Palestine for his omission. He had not intended to leave out any cases of aggression or attacks of a terrorist nature.

35. Mr. UMER (Pakistan) speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the right to self-determination, an inalienable right belonging to all peoples, had been conferred on the peoples of Palestine and of Jammu and Kashmir by the United Nations 50 years previously. The tension and uncertainty currently prevailing in the Middle East and South Asia were a direct result of the occupying Powers’ failure to comply with numerous United Nations resolutions reaffirming that right.

36. Denigrating liberation and resistance movements against domination and foreign occupation had been a common feature of the strategy of those Powers. Israel’s systematic and massive abuse of human rights had been amply documented. The reconvened Conference of the High Contracting States to the Fourth Geneva Convention had upheld the applicability of that Convention to the occupied Palestinian territories and had called for the deployment of impartial observers to monitor the implementation of the Geneva Conventions.

37. The Commission, as the custodian of fundamental rights, had a special responsibility towards the peoples of Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir. Political and economic sanctions should be imposed on occupying Powers which did not abide by the relevant United Nations resolutions. If the international community had been able to bring about the end of apartheid, it could also ensure the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and full compliance by Israel with its decisions.

38. Mr. AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain) said that his delegation continued to support all efforts and initiatives aimed at securing peace in the occupied Palestinian territories. That cause would not be advanced by the Israeli policy of exposing the Palestinians to humiliating practices. On the contrary, subjected to the horrors of occupation, the Palestinian people had the right to self-defence and to the use of all available means to expel the occupying Power. It was incorrect to characterize Palestinian actions as terrorism; they were the reaction of a people which wanted to regain its rights against the lethal use of the Israeli war machine. When the Israelis withdrew, it would be possible to establish a State governed by the rule of law. To that end, the Arab world was engaged in dialogue with various international actors in a battle for the future in which victory would be achieved through self-control. His delegation supported the peace plan put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the “road map” in its original form, as accepted by the Palestinians.

39. The international community should intervene to guarantee the Palestinians’ basic rights, prevent the systematic violation of those rights and convince Israel to accept the option of peace. It was self-evident that war could not bring about peace. It would rather increase hatred and instability in the region.

40. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people had acquired legal force under the terms of the agreements signed between successive Israeli Governments and the Palestinian side, yet the commitments made under those agreements had been disregarded by the Israeli side. The murder of innocent people, the blockade of Palestinian areas, the destruction of infrastructure and the denial of the Palestinian people’s basic right to self-determination violated all values and customary practices and showed contempt for the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, including those of the Commission.

41. The Israeli Government deluded itself if it believed that its massacre of the defenceless Palestinian people would induce them to lose hope and submit to conditions inconsistent with United Nations resolutions and the agreements signed between the two parties. Israel’s disregard for appeals to return to the negotiating table, moreover, was a clear indication of its intention to destroy all the remaining infrastructure. The situation had assumed the proportions of a major humanitarian disaster, which made it difficult to establish a framework for a peace that would serve the interests of both sides.

42. The way forward would be for Israel to recognize the importance of establishing a Palestinian State based on constitutional legitimacy, otherwise the violence could escalate and have disastrous consequences, the price of which would be paid by Palestinians and Israelis alike. The peace initiative launched at the Beirut Summit of the League of Arab States in March 2002 had covered the question of an independent Palestinian State and put forward a proposal based on both an Arab consensus and the relevant United Nations resolutions.

43. The Commission’s customary resolution on the right of peoples to self-determination did not seem to have any practical effect for the Palestinian people, whose destiny had fallen prey to political considerations. The Commission must endeavour to enable them to enjoy their full rights and establish an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital, as stipulated in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002), not merely by passing resolutions but by giving them its active support.

44. Ms. ZHANG Meifang (China) said that, according to the Charter of the United Nations, General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the right to self-determination was the precondition for the realization of all other basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. Only by casting off colonial rule and foreign aggression and occupation could a people become master of its own destiny. The United Nations had made significant headway in promoting the realization of the right to self-determination, but the Palestinian people remained under foreign rule, with the result that a violent conflict had escalated in the Middle East. The international community should take more effective steps to seek a just solution to the Palestinian problem.

45. All peoples had the right freely to choose their own political, economic and social systems and their own paths of development, without outside interference. No country had the right to impose its own social system or ideology on others. To that end, it was essential that international relations should be democratized. All countries, whether large or small, strong or weak, were equal members of the international community and should respect each other. Interference in other countries’ internal affairs constituted a violation of peoples’ right to national self-determination. Unilateral moves to impose economic sanctions or to use, or threaten to use, force ran counter to the Charter and the principles of international law.

46. The principle of national self-determination was born in the context of anti-colonial struggles. General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) clearly stated that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country was incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter. Only through full compliance with the Charter and the principles of international law could all peoples enjoy peace, development and human rights.


50. Mr. KHABBAZ-HAMOUI (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the right to self-determination, which had been achieved by many peoples over the course of the past 50 years, continued to elude the Palestinian people and the inhabitants of the Syrian Golan. Israel continued to ignore the calls by the United Nations and the human rights treaty bodies. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (E/CN.4/2003/30 and Add.1) showed clearly how much the situation had deteriorated.

51. The United Nations itself lost credibility when its resolutions were defied with impunity. The Commission should therefore take on the responsibility of condemning Israel’s policy of aggression and establishing an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. The Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon should also be liberated. Above all, Israel must be condemned for adopting a contemptuous attitude to international legality.

52. Mr. NENE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Palestinian struggle for statehood was a legitimate one which should have the support of the international community, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights instruments. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 reflected the unabated violence by the Israeli forces against the Palestinians in a bid to silence their legitimate call for emancipation from foreign occupation. It was to be hoped that the Israeli Government would cooperate with the proposed visit by the High Commissioner to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

53. The African Group was concerned that successive General Assembly and Security Council resolutions had been ignored by Israel and hoped that, when it came to implementing the resolutions on Palestine, the newly found determination to implement United Nations resolutions would be demonstrated by those with a history of not honouring them.

54. The situation of the Palestinian people had deteriorated over the years. In the past two years alone, the escalation of violence and the destruction of both life and property had reached unprecedented proportions. The African Group noted with regret that Commission resolution 2002/1 authorizing an investigative mission to the occupied territories had not been implemented owing to a lack of Israeli cooperation. That resolution was still valid and the Commission should consider its implementation. The African Group hoped that the recent pronouncements on the “road map” represented genuine efforts to advance the cause of peace rather than being designed to legitimize the current unacceptable practice of regime change and disregard of the legitimate role of the United Nations in matters of international peace and security.

55. A just and sustainable settlement that recognized the right of Palestinians to viable statehood and the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live within safe and secure borders would bring lasting peace to both nations. The African Group thus commended the Non-Aligned Movement for all its initiatives over many decades to achieve peace in the Middle East. Sustained dialogue between the parties, the halting of further settlement activities and an end to the military occupation of Palestinian lands would bring about the necessary trust.

56. Ms. GABR (Observer for Egypt), having endorsed the statement made on behalf of the African Group, said that the right to self-determination was enshrined in a whole range of international instruments, including the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the Millennium Declaration. Only one people was still deprived of that right: the Palestinians, whose hopes of statehood were constantly being dashed by the Israelis.

57. The report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 drew attention to the continuing violations by Israel of international law and of the Fourth Geneva Convention, with its destruction of homes and agricultural land and its building of new settlements under the pretext that they were needed for the country’s security. Israel had ignored Commission resolution 2002/3 and the statement issued at the 2003 Summit of the League of Arab States. The members of the League of Arab States would therefore sponsor a new resolution to the same effect. Nothing would deflect them from standing by the Palestinians and the objective of establishing a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

58. Mr. AL ABOODI (Observer for the United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the members of the League of Arab States, said that the right to self-determination was one of the foundation stones of the United Nations Charter and its denial was the denial of all human rights. Notwithstanding the countless resolutions passed by United Nations bodies, the people of Palestine still did not enjoy that right. Violations by the occupying Power were reaching record levels and the international community had to face up to its responsibilities to support the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the establishment of its own State. As in 2002, the members of the League of Arab States, in association with the OIC, would again be presenting a proposal emphasizing the need for the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination and they hoped that the international community would support it.

59. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the United Nations had linked international peace and security to the exercise by all of the right to self-determination. Consequently, many resolutions by the Commission and various resolutions passed by the General Assembly had affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination without any foreign interference.

60. The Palestinian people were the only people still living under oppression and deprivation and subjected to crimes such as murder, expulsion and military siege by the Israeli occupation authorities. The Government of Israel had refused to abide by any of the resolutions passed by the General Assembly relating to the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and was in violation of Articles 1 and 55 of the United Nations Charter and common article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

61. The events currently taking place in the Middle East were a direct result of the Palestinian people being denied their right to self-determination. The path of oppression followed by the Israeli Government was linked to its desire to persist in wars and bloodshed with the aim of creating the necessary environment to allow it to continue its acts of aggression, dispossession and expansion in the region. Such acts would be impossible in an atmosphere of genuine peace and stability. If the international community wished to achieve the goals of peace, security and stability it would need to implement international law and approve the rights of peoples to exercise their self-determination without foreign interference.

62. Mr. DHARI (Observer for Iraq) said that his delegation supported the appeal for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and noted that United Nations resolutions were continuously being flouted by the Israeli Government. On Thursday, 20 March 2003, a massive act of aggression had been launched against his country and its people, contrary to international law. The international community had been unanimous in rejecting the action and people across the world had demonstrated against the war. The attack represented a flagrant act of aggression by a sovereign State, a founder member of the United Nations, aiming to occupy his country, change the regime and establish a military presence. His delegation appealed to the Commission to condemn the attack and to call on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities by putting an end to the hostilities.

63. Mr. AL-RIYAMI (Observer for Oman), having endorsed the statement by the representative of the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the members of the League of Arab States, said that, although the right to self-determination was enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Government of Israel refused to apply it, laying down a challenge to the international community and a threat to peace. His Government, along with those of other peace-loving countries, had taken part in efforts to guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination under the provisions of international law. Pressure must be exerted against Israel to force it to respect international law. The matter called for diplomatic efforts and a display of mutual solidarity to assist the Palestinian people in creating their own State in their own territory.

64. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that his Government supported the right to self-determination and the right of peoples to govern themselves worldwide and respected the right of its neighbours to self-determination. However, a condition therefor was that it should be mutual recognition, in other words, neighbours must acknowledge not only the de facto existence of the State of Israel but also its right to self-determination.

65. The Oslo Peace Process had been both a recognition and a realization of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It was only through such a process that both Israelis and Palestinians could hope to realize their legitimate rights to live side by side in peace and security. The issues had been discussed at the Camp David negotiations in July 2000 and an agreement with the Palestinians had been close. However, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority had chosen not to consummate the negotiations and had instead resorted to a course of violence to force Israel into making further concessions. His Government would not give in to violence and violence would not force it to change its political positions.

66. Agenda Item 5 on self-determination should not be a cause within the Commission for continuous attacks on Israel and its policy. Self-determination would have to be achieved through direct, peaceful negotiations between the two sides.


69. Mr. MADI (Observer for Jordan), having endorsed the statements by the observer for the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the League of Arab States and the representative of Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, said that, in 2002, his Government had welcomed the Saudi initiative by Crown Prince Abdullah and Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) affirming the vision of a region in which two States, Israel and Palestine, could live side by side within secure and recognized boundaries. His delegation believed that all necessary measures should be taken to implement the “road map”. It was also high time that the Commission sent a clear message to Israel that occupation must end to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy their inalienable human rights.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply

70. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel), replying to the statement made by the representative of Pakistan on behalf of OIC, said that it was necessary to uphold the inherent right to life for all rather than justify terrorism. Adopting a less partisan stand could be much more beneficial than one-sided rhetoric and violence, which was the main obstacle to peace and self-determination.

71. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the Israeli representative’s assertion that his Government upheld the right to self-determination in the region was untrue since it was occupying the lands of another people by force, a crime under international law. When the State of Israel had been established by force in 1948, no attempt had been made to negotiate with the Palestinian people concerning their rights.

72. Mr. SALLOUM (Syrian Arab Republic) said that, ever since Israel had been established in 1948, it had been growing at the expense of its neighbours. The Summit meeting of the League of Arab States held in Beirut in 2001 had offered to exchange a recognition of Israel for comprehensive peace, provided that Israel withdrew from all the occupied Arab territories and granted the Palestinian people the right to self-determination. Israel had rejected that offer and had responded by invading Jenin.

73. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that the course of history demonstrated that violence was pointless and would not lead to peace. The only path was that of dialogue, accommodation and negotiations.

74. Mr. RAMLAW I (Observer for Palestine) said that Israel had been created in 1948 by force, the Palestinians being killed, expelled and usurped. The observer for Israel wanted the Palestinians to negotiate peacefully, but the Israelis had not negotiated peacefully with the Palestinian people in 1948.

75. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel), speaking on a point of order, asked the Chairperson to instruct speakers to desist from the use of defamatory language.

The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.

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