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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 37th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 12 April 2002, at 10 a.m.
later: Mr. LEWALTER (Germany) (Vice-Chairperson)
later: Mr. JAKUBOWSKI (Poland) (Chairperson)
STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ITALY
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF LIECHTENSTEIN
STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS OF SAUDI ARABIA
REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (continued)
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (continued)
RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION ( continued)
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (continued)
1. The SECRETARY-GENERAL said that it was always a pleasure for him to join the meetings of the Commission. Ever since he had become Secretary-General, he had sought to place human rights at the centre of all that the United Nations did. He therefore considered the Commission’s work to be very important and paid particular attention to it.
2. No less obviously, he attached great importance to the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and her staff, some of whom took great personal risks in the cause of human rights. He paid a special tribute to those who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
3. Over the past five years, the United Nations had gained immensely from the presence of Mrs. Mary Robinson as High Commissioner. She had brought to the office not only the great prestige she had earned in her earlier career but also - and more importantly - an unflagging and fearless determination to uphold the cause of human rights throughout the world. The poor, the oppressed and the victims of injustice in every country had reason to be grateful to her. The task of finding a worthy successor was one of the most challenging assignments facing him. On behalf of the whole world community, he thanked the High Commissioner for what she had done. He wished her well in the future and expressed the hope - but also the confidence - that, in whatever capacity she served, her talents would continue to be deployed in the cause of justice and universal human rights. He was also glad that she would remain in her post until September 2002, working with her usual energy.
4. The current session of the Commission must be one of the most important it had ever held. It met under the shadow of the desperate situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, which had become an affront to the conscience of mankind. He would revert to the subject at the end of his address. It also met in the shadow of what had happened in the United States on 11 September 2001 and of what had happened in many countries since then, as a direct or indirect consequence. On that day, several thousand human beings had been brutally deprived of the most fundamental of all human rights - the right to life - by a premeditated act of utter nihilism, which many had called a crime against humanity.
5. That abominable act had expressed a state of mind in which human rights ceased to have any meaning. The precise motives of those who had undertaken it were not known and might never be known. It had to be assumed that, for whatever reason, they had reached a point where human life - their own and other people’s - had lost all value in their eyes. They had also reached the point where they were prepared to use any means, no matter how callous, cruel or destructive, to achieve their political objective.
6. That was the scale of the challenge. That was the attitude that the international community must confront, combat and refute, wherever it might arise. It followed that security could not be achieved by sacrificing human rights. To try to do so would hand the terrorists a victory beyond their dreams. On the contrary, he was convinced that greater respect for human rights, along with democracy and social justice, would, in the long term, prove the only effective prophylactic against terror.
7. The struggle to give everyone on the planet a reason to value his or her own rights and to respect those of others must continue. At the same time, the primacy of the rule of law and the principle that certain acts were so evil in themselves that no cause, however noble, could justify their use must be constantly reaffirmed. The end did not justify the means. Instead, the means tarnished, and might pervert, the end.
8. No doubt there was a hard core of terrorists whose minds were already beyond reach and against whom the international community had no choice but to defend itself physically, with great vigilance at all times, dispensing exemplary justice when they were captured and, when necessary, using military force. It was essential, however, to act always in accordance with the rule of law. In defending itself, the international community must be careful not to play into the enemy’s hands or to act as his recruiting sergeant.
9. Vigilance was essential but, in exercising it, it was important not to lose sight of such fundamental principles as the presumption of innocence until guilt was proved. Nor must it be forgotten that even the guilty retained certain basic rights such as those laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Governments must avoid falling into the trap of thinking their aim so vital that even the worst of means could be used to reach it. That way, instead of preventing terrorism, he feared they would encourage it. Governments should rather ensure that their security measures were firmly founded in law. In defending the rule of law, they must themselves be bound by law.
10. As for justice, it must indeed be both the means and the end of the struggle against terrorism. Mass murderers must no longer go unpunished, whether they were terrorists, warlords or dictators. That was why he so greatly welcomed the historic milestone passed the previous day when the threshold of 60 ratifications of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court had been achieved. The Statute would come into force on 1 July 2002 and the Court should be operational by 2003.
11. The establishment of the Court would not detract from the responsibility of States to prosecute and punish war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by their citizens or within their jurisdiction. Nor would it undermine their ability to do so. On the contrary, it would give all States a strong incentive to improve their standards in that respect, since the Court would have jurisdiction only where the State primarily concerned was either unable or unwilling to proceed. Over time, he believed that the practice and procedures of the Court would provide a benchmark of international justice against which the standards of all States could be measured.
12. It was a well-known principle that justice must not only be done but must also be clearly seen to be done. When criminals were punished, no fair-minded person should be able to doubt the justice of either the conviction or the sentence.
13. Justice did not mean only punishment of the guilty. It must also mean fair treatment of the innocent. It was essential therefore not to place whole communities under suspicion and subject them to harassment because of acts committed by some of their members. Nor must the struggle against terrorism be allowed to become a pretext for the suppression of legitimate opposition or dissent. In 1999, he had told the Commission that no Government had the right to hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate the human rights or fundamental freedoms of its people. That point was currently more widely accepted than it had been at the time. Indeed, it was well made in the recent report by the independent International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, entitled The Responsibility to Protect , which had addressed all aspects of the problem. After broad consultations conducted in every region of the world, that Commission had concluded that there was a wide understanding that States had the responsibility to uphold and protect the human rights of their citizens. When they failed or themselves became the threat from which their citizens needed protection, the responsibility fell on the international community.
14. Terrorism was one of the threats against which States had not only the right but the duty to protect their citizens. They must also, however, take the greatest care to ensure that counter-terrorism did not, any more than sovereignty, become an all-embracing concept used to cloak or justify human rights violations. Any sacrifice of fundamental freedoms in the struggle against terror was not only wrong in itself but would ultimately be self-defeating.
15. The greatest effort was needed to ensure fair treatment for those most exposed to prejudice, such as religious and other minorities, as well as migrants. Never had the need for tolerance been greater. Diversity was, after all, what gave the human species its splendour and enabled it to make progress, as peoples of different experience and culture learned from one another. When people failed to respect each other’s right to different beliefs and forms of worship, or to form different communities with their own ways of life, their humanity was diminished. What could not and must not be tolerated was the use of violence by members of one community against another. All attacks on mosques, churches, synagogues and other centres of communal life must stop.
16. Such issues had already been on the Commission’s agenda before 11 September 2001. Indeed, the very week before the tragic events of that date, they had been under discussion at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. His point was to stress that what had happened on 11 September had not diminished the importance of the agenda but had, if anything, increased it. The need for effective mechanisms to protect minorities and other vulnerable groups was as great as it had ever been.
17. The Commission on Human Rights had itself a vital role to play in devising and overseeing such mechanisms. In the struggle against terrorism, its role must be complementary to that of the Security Council. Of course, the Council and its Counter-Terrorism Committee must themselves be sensitive to human rights as they pursued their vital work. However, whereas the Council had primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Commission had a particular responsibility to promote the international implementation of human rights. It must therefore make every effort to protect those threatened by human rights violations, whether resulting directly from terrorism or committed in the name of counter-terrorism. In that context, he noted that the Commission had decided to send a mission, led by the High Commissioner, to the Middle East. The political and the human rights bodies must clearly understand that their tasks were complementary and make a real effort to work coherently together. Only thus could there be an adequate response to the challenges facing the international community.
18. Turning to the question of military force, he said that it might be necessary, in certain cases, to defend a country against terrorism, as against other forms of assault. Care must be taken, however, to use force only in self-defence or in accordance with Security Council decisions. And when it was used, it should be used within the law: the international law of war. Targeting civilians, and the disproportionate use of force beyond legitimate military objectives, were illegal practices which must be rejected. Nor could military action be considered legitimate self-defence when used to perpetuate the occupation of foreign territory.
19. Moral clarity and intellectual accuracy were required in every judgement on the use of force by States. The same must apply, however, when judging the actions of armed resistance movements. The killing of innocent civilians violated international law and undermined the legitimacy of the cause it purported to serve. That, of course, applied also to suicide bombings aimed at civilians, which were as indiscriminate and morally repugnant as they were politically harmful.
20. Such considerations applied particularly, needless to say, to current events in the Middle East, where international norms of human rights and humanitarian law were being violated on a massive scale. Everyone must be deeply upset by the spectacle of so many unnecessary deaths, so much destruction and distress, so much erosion of restraints and blunted moral sensibility. He had already made his position clear in the Security Council and in direct contacts with the leaders of both sides.
21. The parties were locked in the logic of war. In order to move them to the logic of peace and bring peace and security again within reach, the core issues - occupation, violence, including terrorism, and the economic plight of the Palestinians - must be addressed. It must also be remembered that one cause of the current situation had been the denial of fundamental human rights. The task of the international community and of the Commission was to help bring both parties back to civilized standards of conduct; to insist on respect for human rights and humanitarian law; to demand access for humanitarian organizations; and to press for a return to respect for freedom of expression.
22. A start would be for the leaders of both sides to make an immediate declaration of commitment to respect basic norms of human rights and humanitarian law. He solemnly called upon them to take that step forthwith.
23. One of the lessons of the history of the United Nations was that it could not afford to be neutral in the face of great moral challenges. It was currently faced with such a moral challenge. Wanton disregard for human rights and humanitarian law could not be accepted. Those responsible must be made to understand that they faced the verdict of history.
24. He pleaded once again for respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, whenever force was used, whether by States or by resistance movements. In particular, it was essential to ensure respect for the four Geneva Conventions. Their purpose was crystal clear and their wording broad enough to apply to all armed conflicts, no matter what the specific circumstances. There was no need to reinterpret them. What was vital was that they should be obeyed.
STATEMENT BY THE ASSISTANT DEPUTY MINISTER FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS OF SAUDI ARABIA
45. Prince Torki AL-SAUD (Saudi Arabia), ...
52. No discussion of human rights and discrimination could ignore the plight of the Palestinian people, who were subject to violence and inhuman treatment and the destruction of their economic infrastructure as a result of the ongoing blockades to which Palestinians and their leaders were subjected by the continuing Israeli military occupation. That occupation was incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, constituted a gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and posed a grave threat to international peace and security.
53. His Government had consistently sought to achieve peace: in 1982, it had proposed the “Fez Initiative”, adopted by the Arab States, calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories in return for a peaceful existence within secure borders. Israel had, however, failed to respond to that initiative. Despite the lack of progress and the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories, Crown Prince Abdullah had recently put forward a peace initiative based on the principle of land for peace and the resolutions of United Nations bodies. It would guarantee peace and security for all, normal relations between Israel and the Arab States in return for full withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, the establishment of a Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem and settlement of the refugee question in accordance with the relevant resolutions. That initiative had been adopted unanimously at the recent Arab Summit Conference in Beirut, which had also expressed the desire of the Arab States to achieve a lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East in a manner consistent with the international community’s responsibility to promote peace and security.
54. Despite the adoption of that initiative by the Arab States and the positive reaction of the international community, the Israeli Government continued to take the path of violence, placing a defenceless people and its leaders under siege and attempting to eliminate the Palestinian Authority by subjecting its infrastructure to even greater damage and devastation. The Commission should endorse and support the initiative and should emphasize the need for an immediate and full Israeli withdrawal from all the Palestinian territories so that all efforts and resources could be devoted to furtherance of the peace process in the best interests of the Palestinians, Israelis, the Arabs of the region and the world as a whole. Tolerance, cooperation, equal treatment and respect for others must triumph over discrimination, racism and assertions of superiority.
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OF ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item 5) ( continued) (E/CN.4/2002/L.4, L.6 and L.7)
Draft resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/2002/L.4)
62. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), introducing the draft resolution, said that the right of peoples to self-determination had been on the agenda of the United Nations for many years. The principle of self-determination was enshrined in Articles 1 and 55 of the Charter of the United Nations, the relevant resolutions and declarations of United Nations bodies, and the provisions of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The General Assembly had adopted many resolutions reaffirming the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
63. A change had been made to the eighth preambular paragraph, which should read: “Welcoming and endorsing the Arab peace initiative based on the proposals of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
64. In view of its importance, he hoped that the Commission would be able to adopt the draft decision by consensus. He was convinced that recognizing the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination would guarantee peace and security in the Middle East.
65. Mr. LEBAKINE (Secretary of the Commission) said that the representatives of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Togo and the United Kingdom and the observers for Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Netherlands, Norway and Turkey had become sponsors of the draft resolution, which had no financial implications.
66. Mr. PEREZ-VILLANUEVA y TOVAR (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union and of the associated countries of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and Turkey, said that the Union endorsed the draft resolution which did not in any way pre-empt the outcome of the negotiations between the parties to the dispute. The Palestinian people had a legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination, including the right to establish a sovereign and independent State. Furthermore, the creation of a sovereign, democratic and peaceful Palestinian State, on the basis of existing agreements and negotiation, was the best way to guarantee Israel’s security and recognition as an equal partner in the region. Constructive dialogue was the only way to achieve lasting peace. Therefore, he urged both parties to resume peace negotiations and to find a solution in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1397 (2002) which affirmed a vision of a region in which two States, Israel and Palestine, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders. The Union was determined to make a significant contribution towards the future peace, stability and prosperity of the Middle East region.
67. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the question of Palestine had been on the agenda of the United Nations for over 30 years. The right to self-determination was recognized under international humanitarian law, and was enshrined in the provisions of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The Commission had adopted many resolutions affirming the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, but Israel had chosen to disregard them and continued to cause great harm to the lives, land and property of the Palestinian people. He was confident that the Commission would adopt the draft resolution which represented the triumph of its values and would help to put an end to military domination and all the crimes perpetrated against the people of Palestine. The Commission must do its utmost to guarantee the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.
68. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that, although the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian people did have some impact on human rights, it was essentially part of a much broader political context to be determined in the bilateral track of negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Israel supported the principle of self-determination and the right of all peoples to govern themselves, including those in the Middle East.
69. More than 20 years previously, in the framework of the Camp David meetings, Israel had recognized the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and their just requirements. Through the Oslo process, Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to recognize their mutual legitimate political rights, to be achieved within the framework of the peace negotiations on a permanent solution to the conflict.
70. The two parties had recently negotiated outstanding permanent status issues, including the future status of the territories under dispute. However, negotiations at the Camp David summit had broken off as a result of the strategic choice of the Palestinians to ignore the Israeli proposals and to embark on a campaign of violence. Once the violence had ended, peace talks were bound to resume.
71. He urged the Commission not to pre-empt the outcome of the issue by adopting the draft resolution, which would only undermine attempts to reach a successful conclusion of the negotiations. The matter should be left for the parties themselves to resolve.
72. Mr. ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting, said his Government recognized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination through the creation of a Palestinian State. However, until all countries in the region expressly accepted Israel’s right to exist as a State, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1402 (2002), the only way his delegation could support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was within the framework of negotiations between the two parties and the express acceptance by all the countries in the region of the agreements reached.
73. The questioning since 1948 of the creation of an Israeli State to live side by side with a Palestinian State, together with the many wars and acts of terrorism tolerated and encouraged by certain political and religious leaders, made the right of Jewish people to self-determination very vulnerable.
74. His delegation could support only a resolution that addressed the right of both peoples to self-determination and provided for two States with internationally recognized and secure borders. The draft resolution would not help to bring about a negotiated settlement that would allow both parties to live in peace. Therefore, while recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, his delegation would vote against the draft resolution.
75. At the request of the representative of Guatemala, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.
In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi,
Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.
76. The draft resolution, as orally revised, was adopted by 52 votes to 1.
77. Mr. Jakubowski (Poland) resumed the Chair.
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 8) (continued) (E/CN.4/2002/L.2)
Draft resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/CN.4/2002/L.2)
93. Mr. SALLOUM (Syrian Arab Republic), introducing the draft resolution, said that his delegation was submitting it once again because Israeli occupation of the Golan continued, as it had done since 1967, in violation of human rights and international resolutions, depriving the people of the Golan of medical assistance and the right to travel or visit their families and imposing upon them the Hebrew language and even Israeli identity cards. Military occupation by one State of another independent sovereign State, or even a part of it, was unacceptable and his delegation hoped that the draft resolution would receive overwhelming support.
94. Mr. LEBAKINE (Secretary of the Commission) said that the representatives of Malaysia and Togo had become sponsors of the draft resolution, which had no administrative or financial implications.
95. Ms. GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting, said that, while there were some elements of the draft resolution which her delegation agreed with, there were others it could not support. Her delegation acknowledged that the Golan Heights were occupied territories and did not recognize permanent Israeli control over the territories it had occupied in 1967. It also supported the concept that the peace process had to be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). However, the draft resolution did not provide the full context or a balanced assessment of the situation in the region and her delegation would therefore abstain.
96. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that Israel had come into possession of the Golan Heights in self-defence in a war initiated by neighbouring Arab countries, including Syria, which had lost the war and, consequently, lost the territory. In recent years, his Government had been negotiating with the Syrians to reach a peaceful solution to outstanding problems and had, at one point, been very close to an agreement, but Syria had rejected its proposals. Israel was still committed to negotiating a peace settlement with Syria and the Commission’s adoption of a resolution on the issue would prejudge the outcome of those negotiations and create a disincentive for the Syrians to return to the negotiating table.
97. Mr. ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala), said that Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) called for the recognition of Israel’s right to exist within internationally recognized safe borders. However, despite Israel’s internationally recognized right to exist there seemed to be a numbers of States intent on seeking its destruction. Consequently, only after the recognition and negotiation of secure borders between Israel and its neighbours as part of an international solution guaranteeing Israel’s security would it be possible for Israel to adhere to the contents of the draft resolution regarding territory. His delegation would thus be voting against the resolution.
98. Mr. SALLOUM (Syrian Arab Republic), said that, once again, the observer for Israel had distorted the truth. He had asserted that Syria had attacked Israel and lost the war but there were hundreds of books stating who had launched the attack and it was also quite clear from the memoirs of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Minister of Defence at the time, who had attacked first. The observer for Israel was also distorting the facts when he said that Syria and Israel had been on the point of reaching agreement but that Syria had rejected the proposals - it was Israel that had rejected the agreement.
99. The leaders of Israel had been pursuing a policy of human rights violations for a very long time. It had begun in 1948 when they had assassinated Count Bernadotte, the Swedish mediator who had had been trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. There had been many other instances of unarmed people being killed because they had spoken out for peace or presented ideas for avoiding bloodshed. Even Israeli peacemakers had been killed, such as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
100. The only way to end the bloodshed was for Israel to withdraw behind the borders of 4 June 1967. Israeli violations in the Syrian Golan were clear from the reports of the special rapporteurs. Israel had done nothing to improve the human rights situation of the Golan population - it prevented them from meeting their families, deprived them of their history and imposed Israeli identity on them - in defiance of international law. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) called for Israel’s withdrawal. If, on behalf of the Israeli leadership, the observer for Israel was able to say that its forces were prepared to withdraw, that would save a great deal of time for the Commission to devote to other issues. He urged the Commission to adopt the proposed draft resolution and to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan.
101. At the request of the representative of Canada, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.
In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.
Abstaining: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay.
102. The draft resolution was adopted by 34 votes to 1 with 18 abstentions.