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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/781
1 April 1997


HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON SITUATIONS
IN MIDDLE EAST, WESTERN SAHARA


Debate Continues on Rights of Detainees


(Reproduced as received; delayed in transmission.)


GENEVA, 26 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights adopted five resolutions this afternoon on the situation in the Middle East, calling -- as in previous years -- for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory; for an end to repressive measures in the occupied Syrian Golan; for cessation of the Israeli policy of expanding settlements in the occupied Arab territories; for an end to violations of human rights there; and for intensified efforts in the peace process under way between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). All but the last measure, which was passed by consensus, were approved by roll-call votes, with only the United States opposed.

The Commission also adopted a resolution urging direct talks to resolve the stalemate over the settlement plan in Western Sahara.


In a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, passed by a roll-call vote of 25 in favour, 1 against, with 23 abstaining, including the countries of the European Union, the Commission condemned continued violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular continued acts of killing, detention of thousands of Palestinians without trial, continuation of confiscation of lands, extension and establishment of Israeli settlements, confiscation of property of Palestinians, and expropriation of their land. It called upon Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories.

In a resolution on the human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, passed on a roll- call vote of 26 in favour, 1 opposed, with 23 abstaining, the Commission called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure, and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan; to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens in the territory; and to
desist from repressive measures against them.


In a resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, sponsored by the European Union and passed on a roll-call vote of 47 in favour, 1 opposed, with 2 abstentions, the Commission welcomed positive developments including the recent step towards further implementation of relevant agreements of the Middle East peace process, but expressed deep concern at expansion of Israeli settlements, expropriation of land, demolition of houses, and confiscation of property. The Commission also strongly condemned all acts of terrorism, and called upon all parties not to allow any acts of terrorism to derail the ongoing peace process.

In a resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine, passed by a roll-call vote of 28 in favour, 1 opposed, with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel to comply with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, and to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and the other Arab territories which it had occupied since 1967 by military force.

In a resolution on the Middle East peace process, approved without a vote and sponsored by the United States, the Commission emphasized that achieving such a peace was vital to full implementation of human rights; welcomed the Protocol concerning the redeployment in Hebron of 15 January 1997 signed by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization; called upon all parties to protect the human rights and well-being of all detained persons under their control; and encouraged the continuation of negotiations on the implementation of the next stage of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.

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Speaking after the voting, a representative of Israel said his country was part of the peace process and deeply committed to it; that there was no room in the process for acts of terrorism; and that several of the resolutions had "slavishly followed" anti- Israeli choreography of previous years, and even featured a hardening of language against Israel.

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The Commission will reconvene Thursday, 27 March, at 10 a.m., to continue discussion of the human rights of detainees.


Action on Draft Resolutions

In a resolution passed on a vote of 25 in favour, 1 opposed and 23 abstaining on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (E/CN.4/1997/L.3), the Commission condemned continued violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories since the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, in particular continued acts of killing, detention of thousands of Palestinians without trial, continuation of confiscation of lands, extension and establishment of Israeli settlements, confiscation of property of Palestinians, and expropriation of their land, and called upon Israel to cease those acts immediately; condemned the opening of a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa mosque; the revocation of identity cards of the citizens of the Palestinian city of Jerusalem, forcing them to live outside their home; condemned the use of torture against Palestinians during interrogation, which the Israeli High Court of Justice had legitimized; called upon Israel to cease immediately its policy of collective punishments, such as demolition of houses and closure of the Palestinian territory; and called upon Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and the Commission.

The following countries voted in favour: Algeria, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

The following country voted against: United States.

The following countries abstained: Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it would abstain on voting on the three draft resolutions the Commission would take up first. Last year, the European Union had abstained as well. The resolutions this year were similar to those of last year. The authors of the resolutions had changed the draft, taking into account exclusively negative developments. The European Union shared the concern about the negative developments, but believed that positive developments should also be reflected. The substance of the item did not reflect how the Commission should address these issues and so the European Union abstained.

The representative of the United States said the United States could not support the resolution. It was one-sided in nature and complicated the Middle East peace process; it also interfered in the ongoing peace process, which was best left to direct negotiations between the Governments involved. The language of the resolutions tabled under this agenda item had not changed with the times. The peace process had done far more to promote human rights in the Middle East than all the resolutions condemning Israel put together. The United States did not approve of the construction by Israel of new settlements, and had made that clear on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, the United States believed that one-sided rhetoric and attempts to prejudge the peace process were more likely to add to the tensions in the region than ease them. The resolution, and three others on the same general subject to be voted on today did not serve a positive purpose and did not help to resolve the delicate problems of the Middle East.

In a resolution passed by a vote of 26 in favour, 1 opposed and 23 abstaining on the human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/CN.4/1997/L.5), the Commission called upon Israel, the occupying power, to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council, in which the Council decided, among other things, that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void; called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure, and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasized that displaced persons must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their properties; called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens in the territory, and to desist from repressive measures against them; determined that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan were null and void; and called upon member States not to recognize any such legislative or administrative measures.

The following countries voted in favour: Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

The following country voted against: United States.

The following countries abstained: Angola, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

In a resolution passed on a vote of 47 in favour, 1 opposed and 2 abstaining on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories (E/CN.4/1997/L.6), the Commission welcomed positive developments including the recent step towards further implementation of relevant agreements of the Middle East peace process involving signing of the Protocol concerning the redeployment in Hebron; and the report submitted by the Special Rapporteur; expressed deep concern at Israeli settlement activities, including expansion of settlements, expropriation of land, demolition of houses, and confiscation of property, among other things; strongly condemned all acts of terrorism, while calling upon all parties not to allow any acts of terrorism to affect the ongoing peace process negatively; and called upon the Government of Israel to comply fully with previous Commission resolutions, to cease completely its policy of expanding settlements and related activities in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, to forego and prevent any new installation of settlers in the occupied territories, and to address the question of the Israeli settlements during negotiations on the final status of the territories.

The following countries voted in favour: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe.

The following country voted against: United States.

The following countries abstained: Dominican Republic, Uruguay.

ARTURO HERNANDEZ BASAVE (Mexico), in a explanation of vote, said it would vote for the draft resolution. Mexico condemned any terrorist acts wherever they occurred. Terrorist acts were particularly of concern in the context of the Middle East peace process. Acts of terrorism deserved to be condemned and civilians deserved to be protected.

MOUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) said Egypt would vote for the draft resolution. Egypt had requested that the sponsors add a paragraph to the preamble to refer to the failure of the Security Council to take a decision on this issue. Unfortunately, that request had not been taken into consideration, which was why Egypt had not sponsored the draft.

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said it would vote in favour of the draft resolution presented by the European Union nations; the intention was to contribute here to a just and equitable resolution of the peace process. There was not a strong enough condemnation of violations of human rights in the resolution, Algeria felt, and Algeria was not satisfied with the lack of mention of other occupied territories, but it nonetheless would support the measure.

MIGUEL RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) said the Colombian delegation would have voted for the resolution contained in document L.3 if it had been present during the vote.

LUIS LILLO (Chile) said the delegation had voted in favour of the resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine; it shared concern over serious human-rights violations in the occupied territories. However, Chile would have preferred more balanced language in the text and that the resolution had called more energetically for all parties to achieve a successful resolution to the peace process.

In a resolution passed by a vote of 28 in favour, 1 opposed and 21 abstaining on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/1997/L.4), the Commission called upon Israel to comply with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, and to withdraw from the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and the other Arab territories which it had occupied since 1967 by military force, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions; and requested the Secretary- General to transmit the resolution to the Government of Israel and other Governments, and to make available to the Commission prior to its fifty-fourth session all information pertaining to the implementation of the resolution by the Government of Israel.

The following countries voted in favour: Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

The following country voted against: United States.

The following countries abstained: Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

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Through a resolution adopted without a vote on the Middle East peace process (E/CN.4/1997/L.8), the Commission stressed the importance of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace; emphasized that such a peace was vital to full implementation of human rights; welcomed the peace process started in Madrid and supported the subsequent bilateral negotiations; also welcomed the Protocol concerning the redeployment in Hebron of 15 January 1997 signed by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the subsequent redeployment of Israeli troops from parts of Hebron; welcomed the release of female Palestinian prisoners from Israeli detention as a confidence-building measure; called upon all parties to protect the human rights and well-being of all detained persons under their control; called upon all parties to work to advance a free civil society, under the rule of law; expressed full support for the achievements of the peace process thus far, including the series of agreements reached; and encouraged the continuation of negotiations on the implementation of the next stage of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.

YOSEF LAMDAN (Israel) said that since it was systematically excluded from membership in the Commission, it could scarcely speak on a vote in which it was denied participation. None the less, Israel drew great encouragement from the draft and hoped it would be adopted unanimously. Israel was part of the peace process and was deeply committed to it. Israel was heartened by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi's speech earlier this week in which she said the Palestinians were also committed to the peace process. The resolution specifies that acts of terrorism violated the principles of the peace process and were aimed at destroying human rights. There was no room in the peace process for acts of terrorism and they had to come to a complete end. Israel drew no comfort that L.4 and other resolutions adopted together slavishly followed the cerography against Israel. In fact, there was a hardening of language against Israel. In the real world, these resolutions would have no impact on direct peace negotiations.

NABIL RAMLAWI, observer for Palestine, said draft resolution L.8 was unbalanced, because in its third preambular paragraph reference was made to the international peace conference held in Madrid; but that peace conference had been held on the principle of land for peace, in accordance with Security Council decisions; Palestine did not know how the co-sponsors of the resolution could ask the Commission to abandon this principle of land for peace. The paragraph in question did not talk about this principle, and meant the United States had stepped back from it, and that was not acceptable, and the international community should not accept it. If the Commission adopted the resolution, it would have to bear the responsibility for abandoning the principle of land for peace. As for the fifth preambular paragraph, when 30 women were liberated from Israeli prisons, there were still some 4,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons still awaiting trial; the paragraph did not mention them; it was unbalanced. The paragraph was in favour of Israel, the torturer. Also, the resolution did not mention establishment of new settlements by Israel when it mentioned various threats to the peace process.

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said his delegation would go along with consensus on L.8 because it sought to consolidate the peace process, which Algeria supported. Algeria had hosted two conferences to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization to address the Madrid and Oslo meetings. However, Algeria felt that the text was still insufficient because it did not question Israel's illegal occupation of Arab territories, nor acts that threatened what had already been achieved.

MOUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) said the delegation was sorry to say it had not been consulted on the drafting of the resolution, as it had hoped; if it had, it would have made certain additions taking account of the peace process, its progress, and the obstacles holding it back. Still, Egypt hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus, although it wished its remarks to be noted in the summary records; further, it felt the principle of land for peace was missing from the third preambular paragraph; it also should have referred to the resolution on the withdrawal from the Lebanese territories. It also would have been better to talk about the release of all Palestinians in Israeli jails who had not been charged or tried. Egypt denounced all acts of terrorism, and felt violence engendered violence and was an obstacle to the peace process; it would have liked to have seen an operative paragraph talking about that issue; and it would have liked to have had a paragraph referring to Israeli settlements.

DANIEL BERNARD (France) said France had never seized giving support to the peace process and it supported L.8 because it was desirable for the Commission to restate its unanimous support for peace efforts. It was necessary to complete what had been started in Madrid. France welcomed the progress already made in Israel's redeployment from Hebron. However, France condemned the reneging on agreements already made and condemned acts of violence.

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