Press Release

28 March 2003


Commission on Human Rights Continues
Debate on Occupied Arab Territories

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 28 March (UN Information Service) -- Special Rapporteurs and a Special Representative summarized situations in the Sudan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro, and Afghanistan this afternoon as the Commission on Human Rights briefly took up its agenda item on the question of human rights violations anywhere in the world.

The subject was opened to allow these Commission experts, who were scheduled to leave Geneva, to speak.  General debate on the matter will follow the conclusion of the Commission's discussion of the situation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.


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

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 31 March, to continue discussion of the situation in the occupied Arab territories.

Question of Violation of Human Rights
And Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World


Statements on Question of Violation
Of Human Rights in Occupied Arab Territories

TASSOS KRIEKOUKIS(Greece), on behalf of the European Union, said over the past year, again, violence and violations of human rights committed by the two parties to the conflict had persisted, leading to a vicious circle of pain and suffering.  The Israeli presence and military operations in the Occupied Territories, including the illegal presence of Jewish settlers in those territories, had led to repeated human rights violations and the killing and injuring of many innocent civilians.  Notwithstanding its right to fight terrorism, Israel bore the full responsibility for preventing, investigating and sanctioning such violations.  At the same time, terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups, indiscriminately killing and injuring innocent civilians, had continued.  The European Union reiterated its strong and unequivocal condemnation of Palestinian terrorist acts.  As the legitimate authority, the Palestinian Authority bore the full responsibility for fighting terrorism with all the legitimate means at its disposal.

The European Union continued to believe that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur must be brought into line with other special mechanisms created by the Commission, -- notably it should be made subject to regular renewal.  Nevertheless, the European Union regretted the failure of the Israeli Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, as well as other relevant thematic rapporteurs, and called on Israel to do so.  The European Union expressed concern about the Israeli settlement policy; called for the immediate cessation of the construction of a so-called security fence within the Palestinian Territories and other illegal activities such as the confiscation of land and the demolition of houses; stressed that numerous checkpoints and blockades of cities had suppressed the free movement of the Palestinian people; emphasized the need for the provision of essential services, such as education and health assistance; condemned extrajudicial killings carried out openly by Israel; and the disproportionate and indiscriminate recourse to force, as well as the use of human shields.  The European Union also expressed concern for the overall human rights situation under the Palestinian Authority, including arbitrary arrests, the absence of due process, cases of torture against detainees, the unexplained deaths of detainees, and the death sentences pronounced pursuant to unfair and summary processes by the State Security Courts.  Freedom of expression had been breached by the Palestinian Authority and there was still censorship that prevented journalists from freely carrying out their work.  The European Union deemed necessary a rapid advance in the Palestinian reform process that would enhance democracy and respect for human rights.  The European Union reiterated its conviction that there could be no military solution to the conflict.  Peace and security could only be achieved through negotiations.

CHRISTOPHER WESTDAL(Canada) said resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a necessary condition for ensuring stability across the region. It was hoped that the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the first Palestinian Prime Minister would help to rebuild the trust and confidence necessary to resume the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis.  While member States of the Commission had an obligation to nurture such positive constitutional reforms, the Commission should focus on its task of protecting and promoting human rights.  Declarations singling out one party to the conflict did not contribute to its resolution.  Moreover, the past tendency to allocate so much time to the consideration of one specific regional conflict had detracted from critical international consideration of other issues and areas in need of attention, in which context Canada welcomed effort to promote the reform of the Commission.

Unequivocally condemning terrorist attacks and calling on all parties to condemn them, Canada stressed that there were no "legitimate" targets for actions in violation of the standards of international law.  While the Palestinian Authority's record on human rights was a matter of serious concern, non-State actors also had an obligation to uphold the norms of international humanitarian law.  In preventing or responding to suicide and other attacks against civilians, Israel needed to conform to the standards of international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality.  In accordance with its obligations under international law, Israel needed to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and to ensure the Palestinians' unhindered access to basic needs such as food, water and medical supplies.  Moreover, Israeli settlements were contrary to international law and unproductive for the peace process.  A durable, just solution to the conflict would not come at the expense of either side's fundamental needs.

HUANG HE (China) said that over the past three years, the international community had witnessed ever-escalating militant actions and incessant vicious terrorist attacks, causing a large number of casualties of innocent civilians.  The prolonged bloodshed had brought about innumerable losses of lives and properties to both Palestinians and Israelis and had inflicted irremediable psychological trauma.  The key to a lasting peace in the Middle East lay in an early end to the conflict, the restoration of all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to national self-determination, and a just and fair settlement of the Palestinian question.  The Chinese Government believed that the use of force could not resolve any problem and that to counter violence with violence would only end up with deepening mutual hatred and distrust. 

The most urgent task was to stop immediately all violence and to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestine-controlled territory so as to create conditions for the resumption of peace talks.  It was China’s hope that the new Israeli Government would immediately end its military action and economic blockade in the Palestine-controlled area so that the two parties could settle their disputes through political negotiations on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace.

PITSO D. MONTWEDI (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Group was deeply concerned at the continued destruction and devastation of Palestinian society and of the Palestinian Authority by the Israeli occupying forces since 29 September 2000.  The African Group also condemned the systematic human rights violations and reported war crimes that had been committed by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people.  These violations included the willful killing of Palestinian civilians, including extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, excessive and indiscriminate use of force resulting in extensive loss of life and mass injury of civilians, humanitarian workers, women and children, the wanton destruction of homes, infrastructure and agricultural lands, detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians without trial and the imposition of collective punishment on the entire Palestinian population, including severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, resulting in the socio-economic debilitation of the Palestinian people.

The African Group was concerned that the policies and practices of the Israeli Government had undermined the Oslo Agreements, halted the peace process and obstructed efforts to end the tragic situation on the ground.  The implementation of the Mitchell recommendations had not been successful largely because of the non-cooperation of the Israeli authorities.  The African Group reiterated its support for the right of the Palestinian people to national independence and their exercise of sovereignty in their own State, namely Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The restriction of the movement of President Arafat was deeply regretted.  The Israeli Government was urged to treat President Arafat humanely and with the respect and dignity he deserved as an elected leader of his people.  The African Group believed in the importance of an international presence in the occupied territories in order to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian civilian population and to help the parties to implement all agreements reached previously.

HUSSAIN RAJMAH (Malaysia) said Malaysia was deeply concerned with the continuing deteriorating human rights situation faced by the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.  It was indeed frustrating that for over 50 years the international community had been ineffective in addressing this problem.  The injustice and indignities perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israel had been repeatedly voiced in the Commission and other United Nations bodies.  Countless resolutions had been passed and reports issued.  The media continued to report the atrocities of the Israelis against the Palestinians and the sad state the Palestinians were living in resulting from these atrocities.  Still, the persecution and humiliation of the Palestinian people continued unabated.

The Palestinian people had suffered enough.  They had been killed, driven out of their homes, humiliated, harassed and continuously deprived of their basic human rights.  Since September 2000, nearly 2,200 Palestinians had been killed, including 384 children.  More than 40,000 had been wounded.  The Palestinian problem had been with the international community for far too long and it remained the root cause of instability in the Middle East.  The international community must endeavour to find a final solution to end, once and for all, this grave injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.  It was necessary to approach the problem with a greater sense of urgency and commitment.  In this regard, Malaysia called on President Bush to make good his recent announcement to unveil a road map for peace in the Middle East, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian State by 2005. 

Right of Reply

A Representative of Israel, speaking in right of reply, said that, yesterday, allegations and insults and references to racist Zionist movements had been heard.  These statements had not been withdrawn and not addressed by the Chairperson.  Some delegations had raised the issue of the security fence being built by Israel.  Israel was compelled to consider various ways to defend herself against the onslaught of terrorism and the attempt by Palestinian terrorist groups to infiltrate suicide-bombers into Israel, taking the lives of innocent civilians, as well as their own.  In Israel’s view, this represented the best preventive measure to stop would-be terrorists in the absence of effective undertakings by the Palestinian Authority to limit the ability of would-be suicide bombers to enter into Israel proper.  Preventing suicide bombers was actually a way to reduce the tension between Israel and Palestine as there would be no casualties on either side and dialogue could resume.  Were the speakers who condemned the fence so concerned about its being erected that they would contribute, perhaps in a meaningful way, to the elimination of the phenomenon of suicide bombings?  Arab delegations could call upon would-be suicide bombers and upon those who sent them to cease their murderous activities and they could label suicide bombings murder.  Other concerned delegations could appeal, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to those who sent suicide bombers and to those who initiated these massacres, stating that such actions contradicted every tenet and moral principle which the OIC stood for.

A Representative of Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said he had indeed made an appeal to the world to put an end to the racist Zionist movement, during which the Zionist movement had been compared to Nazism.  The Zionist movement in Israel had, for decades, gone beyond the acts of the Nazis.  For this reason, Zionism should be brought to an end.  The Palestinians were the first victims of Zionist crimes.  No one in the world knew the effects of Zionist crimes like the Palestinians.  Palestine was opposed to the erection of Israel's "protective" fence on their land, which had been stolen by Israel. 

The Representative of Israel, in a second right of reply, reproached the Chairperson for not interrupting the Palestinian Representative when he had called for an end to the "racist Zionist movement", that is, to the State of Israel and its national movement.  That was what had been said in the Commission, and both the Chair and the Commission had remained silent.  Would the Commission have remained silent if such a statement had been made against another State?  The Commission should reflect on what the representative of the Palestine had said.  This was the kind of violent language that could lead to suicide bombings of the sort Israel faced daily. 

The Representative of Palestine, in a second right of reply, defended the comparison of Zionist Israel and the Nazis, saying that Palestinian blood was as red as Jewish blood.  Both the Nazis and Israel had burned people, committed massacres and conducted terror attacks against humankind.  Zionism was racist and had been so since its creation.  The father of Zionism, Theodore Herzel, had stated the desire to create a clean Jewish State with no non-Jewish individuals in it.


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For information media - not an official record