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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/1032
14 April 2003

Commission on Human Rights adopts resolutions
on self-determination, defamation of religion

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Speaks;

Debate Begins on Remaining Agenda Items

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 14 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights adopted four resolutions this afternoon under its agenda items on the right to self-determination and racism and racial discrimination.

In a resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 51 in favor and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State, and looked forward to the early fulfillment of that right. The Commission requested the Secretary-General to transmit the text of the resolution to Israel. The United States cast the lone dissenting vote.

A Representative of Israel said self-determination was primarily a political issue under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, and unfortunately, as the record clearly showed, it was the choice of the Palestinian Authority not to consummate negotiations, but instead to resort to continuous violence in order to force Israel's hand to make further concessions on the matter.

A Representative of Palestine said the resolution was in line with the United Nations Charter on the right to self-determination and that the statement of the Israeli delegation was meant to mislead the members of the Commission.

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Action on Resolutions on the Right to Self-Determination

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In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.9) on the situation in occupied Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 51 in favor and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State, and looked forward to the early fulfillment of that right; and requested the Secretary-General to transmit the present resolution to Israel.

The results were as follows:

In favour: (51) Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

Against: United States.

Abstention: Guatemala.

A Representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of European Union and acceding countries which were members of the Commission, said that the EU supported and had cosponsored the draft resolution entitled "situation in occupied Palestine". The text reaffirmed the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination. The EU believed that the resolution did not prejudice final status negotiations between the two parties. It was the firm belief of the EU that the right of the Palestinian people to build a sovereign, democratic, viable and peaceful State might not be brought into question. That right was established. Moreover, the international community, including the parties, shared a common vision of two States, Israel and a democratic Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders.

A Representative of Israel, in a statement before the vote on draft resolution L.9, said that the Commission should carefully consider its vote on self-determination for the Palestinians. This was primarily a political issue under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, as the record clearly showed, it was the choice of the Palestinian Authority not to consummate negotiations, but instead to resort to continuous violence in order to force Israel's hand to make further concessions. The effort made in the Commission by several parties commanding a certain majority was an attempt to increase military and terrorist pressures on Israel and to force her hand diplomatically. Israel's position remained that self-determination must be achieved through direct, peaceful negotiations between the two sides directly involved. In the Palestinian view, the right of return meant that if and when a Palestinian State was established, Palestinian refugees could return not only to a Palestinian State, but also to Israel, thus effectively annulling Israel's right to self-determination. The goal of the Palestinian leadership was neither to co-exist nor to negotiate with Israel but rather to end Israel's existence and to eliminate Israel's national movement.

A Representative of Palestine, in a statement before the vote on draft resolution L. 9, said that the draft resolution was in line with the United Nations Charter on the right to self-determination. The draft only mentioned in one paragraph the issue of the self- determination of the Palestinian people. Israel had spoken on issues which had nothing to do with present draft resolution. The statement of the Israeli delegation was meant to mislead the members of the Commission.

A Representative of the United States, in an explanation of vote before the vote on draft resolution L.9 on the situation in occupied Palestine, said it was long past time for this Commission to embrace a similar vision for peace as that of President Bush's speech on 14 March for peace in this troubled region. Resolutions such as the one before the Commission only served to reinforce the distrust and fear that were obstacles to a genuine and lasting peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people. The repeated efforts of some members of the United Nations to isolate and vilify the Government of Israel were an affront to the Charter of the United Nations. This resolution damaged the ability of the United Nations to play a constructive role in the search for peace in the Middle East. It tainted the organization with bias and prejudice, polarization and mistrust. Any Government that supported a role for the United Nations in the peace process must oppose this resolution and help to shape a debate in the Commission that could dispel the fear and misunderstanding that had fueled war in the region for too long. The United States would therefore call for a vote on this resolution, and would vote no.

A Representative of Australia said Australia supported resolution L.9, which recognized the legitimate right of the Palestinians to self-determination. However, Australia was concerned at the lack of reference in the resolution to the need to resume negotiations to find a solution to the conflict.

A Representative of Guatemala, in an explanation of vote after the vote, said the delegation had abstained in the vote on resolution L.9. Guatemala did not agree with the text, which made allusion to the State of Israel. The sphere of human rights and politics should not be mixed. The fundamental concern of Guatemala was respect for human rights. The value judgment on the situation of human rights with regard to self-determination was not supported by the delegation. Guatemala supported the self-determination of all peoples without any distinction.

A Representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union member States of the Commission as well as the acceding country to the EU that was a member of the Commission, in an explanation of vote on resolution L.7, on mercenaries, said the EU shared many of the concerns about the dangers of mercenary activities and the duration and nature of armed conflicts and it strongly condemned the involvement of mercenaries in terrorist activities wherever they occurred. However, the EU could not support the draft resolution before the Commission. The EU believed that the Commission was not the right forum for dealing with the problem of mercenary activities. While fully recognizing the numerous dangers caused by mercenary activity, the EU doubted that the use of mercenaries could be dealt with as a human rights problem and as a threat to the right of peoples to self-determination. The EU shared the view that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries should be terminated.

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