Another item currently under discussion at the Commission is the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. Delegations condemned the deterioration of human rights in the occupied Arab territories and called for a resumption of peace talks and the implementation of such agreements as the Oslo and Madrid accords.
Right to Self-determination: Documentation
The Commission has before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/1998/30) which says that in accordance to a request by the Commission, he has addressed a note verbale to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel and to all other Governments requesting information pertaining to the implementation of the resolution 1997/4, which, among other things, reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination without external interference.
SHI YANHUA (China) said the Middle East peace process was facing the most difficult situation since the signing of the Oslo accords. After building at will Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, Israel had refused to continue the withdrawal of its troops from the West Bank. That had landed the peace talks in an impasse and renewed the tension between Israelis-Palestinians just as they had begun to improve. The Chinese Government and people had always supported the Palestinian people in their struggle for the restoration of their legitimate rights, including the right to self-determination. In the same manner, China firmly believed that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East was the common aspiration of the countries and peoples of the region. In her opinion, under the current situation, the parties concerned should continue with the peace talks on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and in keeping with the principle of "land-for-peace". They should also renounce all forms of terrorism and acts of violence so that the national security of States and a normal life of the people could be fully guaranteed.
NOBUTOSHI AKAO (Japan) said that if the present stalemate in the Middle East continued, there was a real danger that the peace process launched in Madrid in 1991 with such vigour and promise could be damaged. The urgent need for all the parties directly concerned to make their best efforts for setting the peace process back on track could not be overemphasized. Japan strongly urged the parties to make every possible effort to overcome the difficulties that were preventing them from resuming full-fledged negotiations. Japan maintained its commitment to participate actively in the international efforts in support of the Middle East peace process. It would also make use of every opportunity available to assist the parties directly concerned through strengthening its dialogue with them and through offering cooperation for improving the environment for expediting the direct negotiations. Japan was actively participating and offering economic assistance to the Palestinians, who were suffering severe economic hardships. In an effort to stabilize the Palestine community, Japan had decided to extend a new aid package of $18.5 million last February. With that assistance, the total amount of aid extended by Japan to Palestine had reached $340 million.
NACER BENJELLOUN-TOUMI (Morocco) said the peace process started a few years ago had given rise to great hopes in the Middle East; unfortunately the courage and sustained effort that went into reaching those agreements today seemed to be very seriously threatened. Very little progress had been made of late; there was a deadlock on several important negotiating topics; the Israeli army had not been redeployed. Confidence had been seriously undermined following the Israeli decision to continue and even step up its programme of building settlements; the policy was unacceptable. In addition, there were further violations of the rights of the Palestinian population; there was a lack of respect for the Geneva Convention of 1949. For negotiations to succeed, there had to be trust and serenity; instead Israel was creating frustration and anger. Israeli actions in ignoring United Nations resolutions were setting a dangerous precedent; the country must fulfil its obligations to the United Nations and the peace process; it was essential that the human rights situation in the occupied territories be improved, Palestinian detainees released, and Israeli troops withdrawn from the occupied regions.
CARLOS AMAT FORES (Cuba) said the question of the situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, had been on the Commission's agenda since 1969. On many occasions, the Commission had adopted resolutions condemning the flagrant and massive violation of Palestinian human rights and denounced the illegal occupation of the Arab territories by Israel. The peace process, which encompassed the expectations and hopes of the international community, had been brought to a critical phase by Israel's intransigent policies. The resumption of settlement activities was at the root of the deadlock of the peace process. Cuba was also concerned over the Israeli Supreme Court's blessing of the use of "moderate physical pressure" in the questioning of Palestinian detainees.
VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the Commission was being held at a time when the Middle East peace process was going through one of its most critical stages. Ukraine strongly condemned the violations of human rights and all acts of terrorism. It called on the parties to refrain from actions that could undermine a very fragile atmosphere of peace. Ukraine recognized the right of peoples to self-determination as an inalienable right of all nations. However, it should be emphasized that the principle of self-determination did not automatically imply the right to territorial secession. Ukraine strongly believed that the right to self-determination should be exercised with strict observation of adherence to the principles of democracy; protection of human rights and the rights of national minorities; recognition of inviolability of state borders, and peaceful means of solving disputes.
KAMEL MORJANE (Tunisia) said the treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation continued to deteriorate; human rights violations were repeated. The Israeli Government continued in its expansionist polices; it continued to imprison thousands of Palestinians, a practice also rife in the occupied Syrian Golan; torture, furthermore, was practiced by the Israelis during interrogations, and United Nations resolutions calling for an end to such behaviour continued to be ignored. Tunisia had been committed to the peace process and had pursued it energetically; it was now in a state of grave crisis; hopes were dimming. An appeal should be addressed to the Israeli Government that it respect the relevant resolutions; the situation might collapse to the point where peace throughout the region was imperiled; international efforts to end this deadlock must be intensified and greater pressure brought to bear on Israel.
TURKI AL-MADI (Saudi Arabia) said the continued occupation of the Arab territories , including Palestine, by Israel, had given rise to bitterness and revolt. The occupying Israeli authorities had continued their expansionist policies through the confiscation of lands belonging to Palestinians. Palestinians were also the target of torture, despite Israel's ratification of the Convention against Torture. Border closures without any valid reasons had severely damaged the economy of the Palestinian population. The recent killing of three Palestinians by Israeli police without reason was yet another grave violation of human rights by Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court's authorization of the use of physical pressure during the interrogation of detainees was also a matter concern.
ABDULLAH MADADHA (Jordan) said the peace process had undergone a constant degradation over the past two years, and great hopes for the future were being sacrificed; lasting peace could not be achieved without a commitment to respect human rights in the occupied territories, and without honest efforts to achieve social and economic development. It was inconceivable that the international community could stand silent until the peace process was completed before putting an end to the grave and daily violations of the human rights of Palestinians. Broader regional perspectives should be employed in approaching the Middle East peace process, and it should be stressed that stability could not be attained without giving due regard to Palestinians' rights to self-determination. The Israeli Government's policy confirmed suspicions raised about its sincerity relating to the peace process; it must cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.
MOUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) said he had spoken of the crisis facing the Middle East peace process and the flagrant violations of human rights by Israeli forces, which had led to an escalation of the violence and a dead end to the peace process. An end must be put to this vicious cycle of violence. Israel must be obliged to respect its peace commitments and acknowledge that Palestinians had inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and to their own State. There should also be a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied Arab territories, including East Jerusalem. It was extremely worrisome the way that the situation was complicated because of Israel's refusal to acknowledge the Palestinians' right to self-determination. And Israel was not content to just ignore the right to self-determination -- it also confiscated land to establish settlements.