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26 March 2003



UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS HEARS STATEMENTS BY HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS FROM COUNCIL OF EUROPE, OSCE, SUDAN AND RED CROSS
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Commission on Human Rights
58th session
26 March 2002
Afternoon


      Continues Debate on Question of Violation of Human Rights
      in Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine

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The Commission also continued with its debate on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. Statements were made by the representatives of Palestine, Israel, and Syria in response to the statement this morning by the Special Rapporteur on the situation in occupied Palestine, John Dugard. Mr. Dugard also took the floor briefly, as did the representative of Cuba.

The representatives of Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, China, Switzerland, and Syria exercised their right of reply.

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Statements

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ALI AHMED KARTI, State Minister at the Ministry for Justice of Sudan, ...

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The situation in the Palestinian and Arab occupied territories represented a matter of high concern to the Sudan. The level of violence mounted by the Israeli occupying forces had reached unacceptable proportions. The Palestinian and other Arab people in occupied territories were subject to flagrant and systematic violations of their human rights by Israel. Assassinations and liquidation of Palestinians were rampant, the policy of collective punishment by the Israeli forces continued unabated, destruction of property and infrastructure had become the normal way of action by the Israelis against the Palestinians. It was imperative, however, to look at the intifada of the Palestinian people in its proper perspective, it was a genuine struggle for self-defence against foreign occupation.

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

NABIL RAMLAWI (
Palestine) recalled that the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, had been an item on the agenda of the Commission for over 30 years because of the continued occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel during all those years. The Palestinian territory was exposed not only to the Israeli aggression but also to usurpation and annexation, contrary to the nature of other forms of occupation or any conventional colonial form which took place in a particular country for a limited period of time.

The history of Israel since its creation had been based on the disobedience of international law; the rejection of the principles of the United Nations; the violation of human rights; and the perpetration of all forms of crimes qualified by international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 together with its First Additional Protocol as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mr. Ramlawi said that since 28 September 2000 to this day, the Israeli army forces had used all kinds and means of warfare, F-16 fighter bombers, military helicopters, artillery, tanks, surface-to-surface missiles and naval battleships to shell Palestinian towns and villages. They had been demolishing houses and had turned the families who used to live in them into homeless persons. They had also destroyed civil institutions such as schools, hospitals, police posts, and industrial firms, among other things. So far, 1,200 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli armed arsenals, in addition to 90 assassinated, 25,000 wounded, and 1,900 arrested; and the total number of Palestinians currently detained in Israeli jails had reached 4,000. Palestinians were deprived of any army or weapons, contrary to the Israeli Nuclear State.

YAAKOV LEVY (
Israel) said that the equation by the Special Rapporteur between occupation and terrorism was not only objectionable, it was also dangerous. This shocking thesis seemed to argue that the main explanation for terrorist attacks was not the terrorists who decided to blow up scores of innocent civilians but rather Israel's presence in the territories in the face of decades of Arab hostility and refusal to negotiate. It also ignored the fact that the Palestinian terrorism had been at its most prevalent precisely at those times when Israel had demonstrated its most far-reaching willingness at the negotiating table. This had been the case throughout the years of negotiations, but had never been more evident than in the case of the current wave of Palestinian violence which was instigated not as a response to Israeli policies, but rather to try to camouflage the Palestinian refusal to respond to the most generous Israeli peace offer to date. Moreover, the Rapporteur's assertion that it was occupation that was the real cause of Palestinian terrorism also ignored the historical fact that the adoption of terrorism as the prime Palestinian strategy predated Israel's entry into the territories in 1967.

Mr. Levy said that perhaps most striking of all, in terms of the Report's treatment of the issue of terrorism, was the absence of any reference at all to the Palestinian Authority's direct and active role in instigating, planning and participating in violence. This double standard was also evident in the language and tone adopted by the Report. While Israel's security measures, taken in response to Palestinian violence, were vilified in the strongest language, attacks by Palestinian militarized groups were staggeringly described as displaying new determination, daring and success.

The Rapporteur devoted some considerable attention to the restriction of freedom of movement, yet made no reference whatsoever to the repeated terrorist attacks, Mr. Levy said. He also failed to mention the numerous instances throughout this conflict of the abuse by Palestinian terrorists of protective symbols and accepted principles relating to the relief of the wounded. One would have expected that the tragic reality in which terrorists placed themselves in ambulances, disguising themselves as paramedics, would be at least mentioned in the Special Rapporteur's Report. Another striking indication of bias was that whereas the Report drew attention to regrettable incidents of deaths and injuries of Palestinian children, describing the effects of the present conflict on them, it failed to mention any similar injuries to which the children of Israel were exposed on a daily basis. It made no mention of the tragic impact of terrorism on Israeli children, who were savagely murdered by suicide terrorists. Furthermore, the Report lacked any presentation of the role played by the calculated use of Palestinian children in perpetrating violence.

TOUFIQ SALLOUM (
Syria) reminded the Commission that Israel's belligerent policy did not start with its attacks on the Arab countries in 1967, it was preceded by an overpowering attack on Egypt in 1956. The attacks on Egypt had been preceded, followed and concomitant with the various attacks on the Syrian Golan. The Syrian Golan, occupied by Israel, represented an area of 1,000 square kilometres and its soil was one of the richest in water resources in Syria. When the Golan Heights were invaded by Israel, there were about 250 villages and farms and 160,000 Syrian inhabitants. In the capital of the Golan, the Israeli forces purposefully destroyed four churches, four mosques and a large hospital as well as a number of schools during their withdrawal. Nowadays, in the occupied Golan, there were only five remaining villages inhabited 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. There were also Israeli restrictions on the Syrians under occupation to communicate with their relatives who had been chased out of their houses and lands when Israel occupied the Golan.

Mr. Salloum said the Israeli settlements were rendering the life of Syrian inhabitants intolerable. Furthermore, Israeli policies tended to impose the Hebrew language, culture and history on the Syrian Arab inhabitants of the Golan, while not allowing them to use their Arabic language and imposing on them school books that distorted the Arab history and culture. The Commission was urged to impose on Israel its acceptance of a committee that would investigate the truth so it may present a true report on the different human rights violations committed by Israel, and the actions of the settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan, which had reached the point of collective massacres. It was time for the United States to stop overlooking Israeli policies and to take maximum action as an honest and non-biased mediator to allow for a fair and complete peace in the region.

JOHN DUGARD,
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, said that as opposed to Israel's accusation of bias, his only concern was human rights violations in the region. Israel was a State that was committed to the rule of law, and he believed that it should be expected of such a State to respond to the observations and merits of his report.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (
Cuba) said that the main cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its current aggravation that had reached extremely dangerous levels over the last weeks and months was the illegal occupation of the Arab and Palestinian territories. The second intifada had been the spontaneous and unavoidable reaction of a people who were rebelling against a perpetuated occupation through force and terror. The situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories was desolate.

Mr. Fernandez Palacios said the continuation of the expanding settlements policies, the expropriation of Palestinian land, the construction of secondary roads for the exclusive use of settlers, the forceful dislodgment and the destruction of Palestinian dwellings were a deliberate attempt to modify by force and in benefit of the occupying power the existing status quo. These practices had been accompanied by other punitive and arbitrary measures such as the creation of contention zones and control points, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and violations of the freedom of movement, religion and beliefs by the occupying power. A just, lasting and global peace could not be achieved in the Middle East until the Palestinian people exercised their legitimate right to establish an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Nor could it be achieved while the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Arab Golan, were not returned.

Rights of Reply


A Representative of
Israel, exercising his right of reply at the beginning of the meeting, said the listing of suffering of one side should not distract from the main cause of the current wave of violence and terrorism. It was not occupation, as certain delegations would like Israel to believe. Rather it was the conscious decision of the Palestinian Authority not to pursue the very policy that Ms. Ashrawi espoused. Israel had suffered continuous violent attacks. It had been compelled to act in self-defence and would continue to defend herself and her citizens against that kind of unprecedented wave of terror and violence. Israelis too, were entitled to the right to life.

A Representative of
Palestine, also speaking in right of reply at the beginning of the meeting, said that the Israeli representative had said that Israel was suffering from the worst form of attacks and that Israelis were defending themselves. The representative asked where the Israeli army was defending itself. The Israelis were occupying Palestinian land, killing, demolishing houses, and destroying ambulances. The Palestinians were the ones who were defending themselves and their own land. If Israel wanted to live in peace it must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.

A Representative of
India, exercising his right of reply at the end of the meeting, said in response to the Pakistani Foreign Minister's speech this morning that Pakistan had in fact created and promoted the Taliban and associated terrorist networks through its intelligence and security services. Pakistan must be recognized as the epicentre of terrorism on a global stage. Terrorist links persisted between the Pakistan Government and terrorist organizations, even after the events of 11 September. The root cause of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was in fact the result of the Pakistani promotion of terrorists. Pakistan's calls for dialogue were hollow. This morning's attempt to exploit the unfortunate situation in Gujarat was intolerable, particularly as the tragedy had been unequivocally condemned by all sectors of society and Government in India.

A Representative of
Pakistan, speaking in right of reply, said that India pretended to be the largest democracy. Quoting a newspaper report, he gave an account of incidents that took place in India, including the incidents related to the killing of Muslim believers. The Government was pursuing the interests of the Hindu party. He utterly rejected the accusation directed against his country.

A Representative of
China, speaking in right of reply, said that Tibet was an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times and this was recognized by international covenants. In his statement this morning, the Swiss foreign Minister had tried to instigate the independence of Tibet and went against the principles of neutrality of the Swiss government.

A representative of
Israel, speaking in a second right to reply, assured the Special Rapporteur that Israel was concerned with human rights, in Israel and in the region as a whole. However, according to the Special Rapporteur it seemed the region was comprised of Israel alone. In many of the States of the region, there was absolutely no semblance of human rights, no free expression or free press. In Syria a parliamentarian had recently been jailed for five years because of his political opinion. By focusing on one country alone, the Special Rapporteur had compounded his singling out even further. Thus, had his mandate been focusing on the whole region, including the Palestinian Authority, Israel would have responded to his remarks.

A Representative of
Switzerland, speaking in a right of reply, said that the policy of his country on Tibet did not change. It believed in dialogue and it considered that the problem in the region could be settled peacefully through dialogue. As the Swiss Minister affirmed this morning, it was essential to guarantee the freedom of religion for Tibetans.

A Representative of
Syria, speaking in right of reply, said that Israel refused the return of Palestinians on the grounds that this would upset the ethnic purity of Israel. If that was not racism, what was. Israeli leaders and the vast majority of Israelis were in favour of the transfer of Palestinians. This would amount to ethnic cleansing.

A representative of
India, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Pakistan's ambassador had been selectively reading a text. India had its own quotes, in fact from today's International Herald Tribune, which clearly showed that Pakistan had been ruled by dictatorships for several decades and that the government still had clear links with militant groups. Pakistan's military government had used the events of 11 September to ingratiate itself with the west and maintain its stronghold in the region.

A Representative of
Pakistan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that India had a 700,000 strong-army in Kashmir and requested India to liberate the land it occupied.

A Representative of
Palestine, speaking in a second right of reply, said that he did not intend to comment on the statement by Israel.



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