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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/1010
27 March 2003


COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS TAKES UP DEBATE ON SITUATION
IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE

Norwegian State Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs Delivers Address

(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 27 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights began consideration this afternoon of its agenda item on the "question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine", hearing from its Special Rapporteur on the topic and from several countries directly concerned.

John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Terriroties occupied by Israel since 1967, said the situation had worsened over the past year.  Israel did not seriously contest its violation of human rights norms and international humanitarian law, Mr. Dugard told the Commission -- loss of life, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, restrictions of freedom of movement, the arbitrary destruction of property, among other things, were instead justified as self-defense and as legitimate anti-terrorism action.  Israel's legitimate security concerns could not be denied, he said, but nonetheless it was very difficult to justify Israel's actions.

A Representative of Israel said the Special Rapporteur continued to view Israel’s security measures as taking place in a vacuum, without any recognition of the terrorism and security threats that necessitated them -- beyond the critical fact that Israel’s security measures in these areas were a reluctant response to a concerted wave of Palestinian terrorism emerging from civilian populated areas, the Special Rapporteur ignored an even more immediate cause of poverty and deprivation: the appalling and widespread corruption throughout the Palestinian Authority.  For example, the Representative said, the European Union was now investigating whether by funding the current Palestinian regime it was supporting corruption and the financing of terrorism and incitement.

A Representative of Palestine said the Government of Israel and its occupying troops had killed over 2,200 Palestinians, one-third of them children, in the past two and a half years, a figure that increased with each passing day.  The Israeli occupation forces had caused severe bodily harm to over 25,000 Palestinians, 8,000 of whom were suffering from permanent disabilities.  The world had condemned Nazism in the past for perpetrating acts of killing and mass killing during the Second World War, which lasted nearly 6 years, the Representative charged; the world also condemned Zionist Israel for the same crimes it had been perpetrating against the Palestinian people not only for six years but for over 50 years now.

A Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, commenting on the situation in the occupied Golan, said when the Golan had been invaded by Israel, there had been about 250 villages and farms and 160,000 Syrian inhabitants.  Now there were five remaining villages inhabited only by 25,000 Syrians. Israeli forces had destroyed all the other villages and farms and expelled the Syrian population and built more than 40 civil and military settlements, the Representative charged, and by these and other actions had rendered the life of the Syrian inhabitants intolerable.

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Contributing to the debate on the occupied Arab territories were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference) and Bahrain.

Representatives of Israel and Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission will meet in closed session at 10 a.m. Friday, 28 March, to consider questions of human rights violations under its "1503 procedure".  It will reconvene in public session at 3 p.m. to continue debate on the situation in the occupied Arab territories.


Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a series of documents.

There is a report of the Secretary-General on the question of the violation of human rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine (document E/CN.4/2003/27).  The report states that in accordance with a request of the Commission, the Secretary-General had brought a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine, to the attention of the Government of Israel and all other Governments, as well as the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  The resolution had also been transmitted to all the specialized agencies and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  No reply from Israel had been received at the time of the preparation of the present report. 

There is a report of the Secretary-General on human rights in the Occupied Golan (document E/CN.4/2003/28) which states that the Secretary-General had brought a resolution on the same topic to the attention of all Governments, as well as to the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  The report states that the Department of Public Information had undertaken the following activities: the revised and updated publication of the report; The Question of Palestine and the United Nations;, including extensive references to the reports of the Special Committee and including sections dealing with questions of human rights, settlement and refugees; the reports of the Committee were extensively covered by the Department in its daily new coverage; electronic copies of the reports of the Special Committee are made available to the public by the Department’s Public Inquiries Unit upon request and to delegations by the Dag Hammarskjold Library.

There is a note by the Secretary-General (document E/CN.4/2003/29) which explains that the Commission had requested the Secretary-General to provide it with all United Nations reports on issues between sessions of the Commission that deal with the conditions in which the citizens of the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories are living under the Israeli occupation.  In the report, the Secretary-General accordingly draws the attention of the Commission to the relevant United Nations reports. 

There is report of the Special Rapporteur, John Dugard, on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 (document E/CN.4/2003/30).  The report states that in the past year the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) deteriorated substantially from the perspective of human rights.  In large measure this was the result of repeated military operations carried out by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the West Bank and Gaza.  The IDF has justified its actions as self-defence anti-terrorism measures.  That Israel has legitimate security concerns cannot be denied, the report notes.  On the other hand, there must be some limits to the extent to which human rights may be violated in the name of anti-terrorism.  The principal balancing factor -- proportionality -- is the main focus of this report.  Children have probably suffered most from the present conflict, the report states.  Both Palestinian and Israeli children have been exposed to threats to personal safety, while Palestinian children have, in addition, felt the breakdown of family life, health care and education.  The report concludes that it is difficult to characterize the Israeli response to Palestinian violence as proportional when it has resulted in an excessive use of force that disregards the distinction between civilians and combatants, a humanitarian crisis that threatens the livelihood of a whole people, the killing and inhuman treatment of children, the widespread destruction of property, and territorial expansion.

Document E/CN.4/2003/130 , also listed under this agenda item, is not yet available.

Statements on the Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine

JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Terriroties occupied by Israel since 1967, said the situation had deteriorated radically during the past year.  The violations of both human rights and international humanitarian law were frequent, regular, substantial and effectively unchallenged.  Consequently, the credibility of the legal orders designed to promote human rights and to ensure respect for international humanitarian law were threatened.  If the international institutions established to protect human rights in time of peace and armed conflict could not respond more positively and effectively to the crisis in the Territory, the major advances of the past 50 years in those fields would be seriously undermined.

Mr. Dugard said over 3,000 lives had been lost in violence since the start of the Second Intifida in September 2000: over 2,300 Palestinians and 700 Israelis had been killed.  More than 25,000 Palestinians and 5,000 Israelis had been injured.  The Israeli military operations, dubbed "Defensive Shield" and "Determined Path" in the first part of 2002, followed by subsequent operations, had created a grave humanitarian crisis.  The heavy bombing of the cities of Jenin and Nablus, followed by curfews in the major Palestinian cities and towns, aggravated by restrictions of movement caused by several hundred military checkpoints and roadblocks, had destroyed the foundations of Palestinian economic and social life.  Poverty, based on a test of US$ 2 or less consumption per day, stood at over 60 per cent.

Mr. Dugard said destruction of property had been a regular feature of Israeli policy towards Palestine for many years.  The number of arrests and detention had risen dramatically.  Over 5,000 Palestinians at present were in custody.  Children had probably suffered most from the present conflict.  Both Palestinian and Israeli children had been exposed to threats to their personal safety.  Israeli territorial expansion continued either by means of an increase in settlers and settlements or by means of the "apartheid wall" which would place an estimated 10 per cent of Palestinian land within Israel.

Israel did not seriously contest its violation of human rights norms and international humanitarian law, Mr. Dugard said.  Loss of life, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, restrictions of freedom of movement, the arbitrary destruction of property, among other things, were instead justified as self-defense and as legitimate anti-terrorism action.  Israeli legitimate security concerns could not be denied; however, it was very difficult to justify Israel's actions.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that though this latest report demonstrated the beginnings of an understanding of the unlawful and unjustifiable nature of terrorism, and the right that States had to take measures against it, this insight remained purely on the abstract level.  In practice, the Special Rapporteur continued to view Israel’s security measures as taking place in a vacuum, without any recognition of the terrorism and security threats that necessitated them.  While there was not an argument about the gravity of the humanitarian situation in the territories, the Special Rapporteur’s insistence that this was purely a result of Israeli actions was inexplicable.  Beyond the critical fact that Israel’s security measures in these areas did not take place in a vacuum, but were a reluctant response to a concerted wave of Palestinian terrorism emerging from civilian populated areas, the Special Rapporteur ignored an even more immediate cause of poverty and deprivation: the appalling and widespread corruption throughout the Palestinian Authority. 

The Special Rapporteur did not address the acute dilemma that faced the international donor community and which was now being investigated by the European Union B whether by funding the current Palestinian regime it was supporting corruption and the financing of terrorism and incitement.  While the Special Rapporteur did mention that over one hundred Israeli children had been killed, his focus was on the suffering of Palestinian children.  He ignored the calculated use of Palestinian children by terrorist organizations in perpetrating violence, including active recruitment and involvement of children in the conflict, both as combatants and as human shields.  Nor did he mention the incitement and virulent propaganda with which Palestinian children were indoctrinated through schoolbooks, children’s television, and summer camps that set out to prepare them for martyrdom.  The results of such indoctrination had been painfully clear.

It was not military operations that had led to arrests, it was terrorist actions, suicide bombings in which hundreds of Israelis were indiscriminately killed and thousands wounded, that had led to Israel counter-terrorism measures, including arrests and detentions.  The Special Rapporteur painted a picture of random and arbitrary interruptions to the functioning of health and humanitarian services, without any reference whatsoever to the use of ambulances and humanitarian vehicles by terrorist organizations for smuggling both ammunition and terrorists themselves in blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of conduct in armed conflict.   The terrorists had showed no qualms about hiding ammunition in ambulances, dressing as pregnant women and aid workers, and using children both as fighters and as their front line of defence.  It was stressed that an effective fight against terrorism could not be conducted without risk.  Israel reiterated its previous calls to the Commission to reconsider and revise this mandate, calls that had been supported by several Special Rapporteurs.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said that once again the Commission was examining this issue, regretfully, without the least optimism that this would bring about any improvement in the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  The Israeli military occupation was also meant to provide, through the practices of the military forces of occupation, the atmosphere and essential factors necessary for all forms of flagrant violations of human rights in the occupied territories.  It was interesting to note that the violations of human rights in the region were so comprehensive, various and continued to the extent that they had covered all aspects of everyday life in Palestinian society, be it humanitarian, economic, social, educational, agricultural or political.  Flagrant violations included the crime of willful killing of Palestinians, the infliction of severe corporal and moral harm, deliberately exposing Palestinian civilians to harsh living conditions, military sieges imposed on all Palestinian towns, villages and camps, exposing them to unbearable starvation, denying them access to food and medicine, exposing them for a long period to this day to collective punishments and various other war crimes defined as such in international humanitarian law. 

The Government of Israel and its occupying troops had killed over 2,200 Palestinians, one-third of them children in the past two and a half years, a figure that increased with each passing day.  The Israeli occupation forces had caused severe bodily harm to over 25,000 Palestinians, 8,000 of whom were suffering from permanent disabilities.  The Israeli occupation authorities had detained about 15,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention camps without trial, exposing them to various forms of torture during interrogation.  The Israeli occupation authorities had destroyed over 30,000 homes, stores, factories and other Palestinian property.  Other collective punishments included military sieges and curfews imposed on Palestinian towns, villages and camps, hindering the inhabitants’ liberty of movement and isolating the already dismembered Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from the rest of the world.

The world had condemned old Nazism in the past for perpetrating acts of killing and mass killing during the Second World War, which lasted nearly 6 years.  The world also condemned Zionist Israel for the same crimes it had been perpetrating against the Palestinian people not only for six years but for over 50 years now, starting with the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 in Palestine, not to forget massacres which had taken place in Qibieh, al-Sammoua, Sabra, Shatila, Jenin, Gaza, Jabalia, Khan Yunis and many locations elsewhere. The world could eliminate old Nazism, but had not yet eliminated New Zionist Nazism. 

TOUFIK SALLOUM (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking as a concerned country, said Israel had occupied the lands in question in 1967 and even today it had not implemented a single resolution or decision of any United Nations body, including Security Council resolutions.  The Syrian Golan, an area of 1,000 square kilometres, was one of the richest in water resources in Syria.  When the Golan had been invaded by Israel, there had been about 250 villages and farms and 160,000 Syrian inhabitants.  Nowadays, there were only five remaining villages inhabited only by 25,000 Syrians.  Why?  The reason was that the occupying Israeli forces had destroyed all the other villages and farms as well as expelled the Syrian population and built more than 40 civil and military settlements, summer and winter resorts, ski stations and even air bases.  Israel’s attempts to impose its nationality on the inhabitants of the Golan constituted an attempt to annex it and impose a de facto situation on the international community, which still refused this annexation and considered it null and void. 

While these actions were rendering the life of the Syrian inhabitants intolerable, the long line of Israeli rulers had encouraged settlement operations by providing different facilities to settlers, turning their settlements into modern oases, despite Security Council resolutions 446,452, 465, and 471.  The Commission was referred to the report of the Special Committee in charge of investigating Israeli actions.  It was noteworthy that Israel had refused to receive this Committee and to cooperate with it since it was established.  Concerning the health situation, it was stressed the occupying forces had taken measures leading to great harm for the environment in the Golan due to the burying of toxic wastes, the destruction of religious places, and the stealing of properties and archaeological sites.  The dangerous breaches undertaken by the occupying power had turned the lives of the inhabitants of the Golan into an unbearable hell.

It was time for the United States, which continued to encourage and support Israel, to stop overlooking Israeli policies and to take maximum actions as an honest and non-biased broker to allow for a just and comprehensive peace in the region.  The occupation in itself was a violation of human rights and had led to other violations.  Thus, ending these human rights violations required ending the occupation.  It was high time for the international community to unite in imposing respect for human rights, in imposing on Israel sanctions according to the Charter, until Israel withdrew according to United Nations resolutions and the principle of “land for peace”, an unconditional withdrawal from all the Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and until Israel respected the decisions of the Commission as well as fully implementing them. 

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur

A Representative of Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union had difficulties in implementing humanitarian assistance programmes in occupied Palestine.  What would be the possibility of access to the Israeli-occupied territories?

A Representative of Switzerland said the report did not indicate whether the Special Rapporteur had met with Israeli authorities; what would be the possibility of bringing the authorities into a dialogue with the Rapporteur?

A Representative of the United States asked if the Rapporteur, by omission, meant that Hamas and Islamic Jihad should not be condemned, and if zero tolerance should not be observed in the event of terrorist acts.

A Representative of Syria asked if there existed cooperation between the Special Rapporteur and the Rapporteur who was carrying out studies on Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories.

A Representative of Palestine said the Special Rapporteur had the mandate to study the implementation of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war; and the mandate of the Rapporteur was to study the situation in the Israeli-occupied territory and not that of Israel, which was not occupied by any Arab State.

A Representative of Algeria said his delegation condemned the acts of deliberate destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and the killing of Palestinian politicians by Israeli forces.

Reacting, Special Rapporteur Dugard said there should be a balance between the actions of Palestinians and the responses of Israel.  It was difficult to justify the Israeli action of depriving Palestinians of their fundamental rights as a response to security concerns.  The European Union and other donor countries and organizations had been faced with difficulties in accessing Gaza and Western Bank because of the blockade exercised by the Israel forces.

Mr. Dugard said he had been denied access to Government officials in Israel, although he had spoken to non-governmental organizations.  Among other things, he would have been happy to discuss matters with Israeli Justice officials about the situation of Palestinian children.

Mr. Dugard said the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements should be condemned for their acts of terror.  There should also be zero tolerance shown for terrorism committed by non-state actors.

The Representative of Palestine thanked the Special Rapporteur.  However, his mandate would not end if there was a peace process or not.  The mandate of the Special Rapporteur would end when the occupation ended.   Concerning terrorism, the Unites States had spoken of Palestinian terrorism.  However, far worse was the State terrorism of the Israeli Government.  The United States was advised to add Israel to its roster of terrorists in the world.

Further Statements on the Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation, establishment of a Palestinian State with Al-Quds as its capital, return of all Palestinian refugees to their homeland, restoration of dignity and security of Palestinian life and rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure and property were among the fundamental objectives of the Organization of Islamic Conference.  Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands was acquiring ever more sinister forms.  Israeli atrocities against innocent civilians had risen sharply since the last session of the Commission.  Israeli gunships, combat helicopters and tanks fired missiles and heavy artillery against civilian targets without any fear of accountability.  Since September 2000, over 2,000 Palestinian civilians had been killed and more than 21,000 seriously injured or wounded.  Palestinian homes, agricultural lands and orchards had been destroyed.  The refugee camps had been besieged and the legitimate Palestinian Authority virtually incarcerated.  Israeli settlements continued to be used for attacks against neighbouring communities.

There had been shortages of basic food stuffs, interference with medical services by the denial of access to doctors and hospitals, interruption of family contacts and stoppages of education.  Military operations had led to widespread arrests and detentions.  Israeli territorial expansion had accelerated in the past year as a result of the seizure of Palestinian land to build a security wall and for the continued growth of settlements.  Israel had been using excessive force that disregarded the distinction between civilians and combatants.   Ordinary Palestinians today were completely isolated and marginalized and the international community and its mechanisms had failed to provide them with protection from Israeli terror and repression.

SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI(Bahrain) said the situation in the Arab occupied territories had not improved since last year.  In fact, the situation had deteriorated from a human rights perspective.  Unfortunately, predictions of the situation over the remaining months of the year seemed to be negative, and many believed that the situation would deteriorate further unless serous negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis were resumed.  The report of the Special Rapporteur was clear in depicting the situation of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.  He had stated clearly that the human rights situation there had deteriorated substantially.  The Israeli justification for their practices included Aself-defence and anti-terrorism measures@ but the Special Rapporteur had answered these justifications by asking for limits on the extent to which human rights might be violated in the name of anti-terrorism. 

The suffering of the Palestinian people was immense in all aspects of life.  The Israeli incursions inside Palestinian Authority lands and towns had left physical, political, economic and social devastation.  The Palestinians had suffered greatly from the Israeli occupation forces, who had imposed curfews in major Palestinian cities and who were using checkpoints that obstructed travel between towns and villages.  The suffering had increased further due to the use of inhuman treatment, unlawful detentions and the destruction of property.  Bahrain was sure that if the rights of Palestinians were respected and a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East was achieved, it would lead to stability and security and the end to a cycle of conflict and violence, bringing in its place a cycle of fruitful cooperation.

Rights of Reply

A Representative of Israel, speaking in right of reply, said that ever since its establishment as a democratic State, Israel had consistently been committed to upholding human rights and the rule of law.  Despite continuous threats to its very existence, raging terrorism, and an ongoing state of emergency, Israel had never claimed that its security dilemmas constituted an exceptional circumstance that justified the use of unlawful means.  Israel society had always been self-critical, pluralistic and open, with transparent public discourse and a democratic legacy, whose independent judiciary headed by the Supreme Court had been in the forefront of safeguarding human rights, and whose Chief Justice had been internationally recognized and praised for playing that role.  Israel was no less concerned about human rights than those who criticized her.

A Representative of Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said the Representative of Israel said that bells of alarm must have been rung when Palestine equated Zionism with Nazism.  He also said that Israel promoted human rights. The bells of alarms had rung already in 1948, when Israel was established.  The region had never seen a war before the 1948 war, but since then the region had been ravaged by war.  The war waged by the US and the UK against Iraq today was because of Israel and would be followed by a remapping of the region in accordance with the interests of Israel and in order for Israel to remain stronger than any Arab country in the region.  When Israel was established, it was established on Nazi ideology and its practices were even worse than those used by Nazism.  Israel was using all forms of killings and torture which were worse than the practices of Nazism.


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