Press Release

6 April 2001

Commission on Human Rights
57th session
6 April 2001

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The Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions this afternoon related to self-determination in Western Sahara and occupied Palestine.


In a resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 48 in favour to 2 against, with 2 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed the "inalienable, permanent and unqualified right" of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State. The United States and Guatemala voted against the measure.

A representative of the observer State of Israel said the matter was primarily a political issue that should be left to permanent-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

An observer for Palestine said the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people was at the crux of the problem in the Middle East, and the resolution was the only means of providing peace for Palestinians.


The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m Monday, 9 April, to begin discussion of the human rights of women.

Action on resolutions


In a resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/2001/L.4), adopted by a roll-call vote of 48 in favour to 2 against, with 2 abstentions, 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 requested the Secretary-General to transmit the resolution to the Government of Israel.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (48) : Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zambia.

Against (2) : Guatemala and United States of America,

Abstention (2) : Canada and Romania,

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) urged the Commission to consider carefully its vote on the issue of self-determination for the Palestinians. This was primarily a political issue under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. Certainly, it included elements of human rights, but in essence, it was part of a much broader political context to be determined in the bilateral track of negotiations between the parties. Israel supported the principle of self-determination and the right of people to govern themselves in every region, the Middle East included. With regard to the Palestinians, Israel had recognized more than 20 years ago, in the framework of the Camp David accords, the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and their requirements. Through the Oslo process, Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to recognize their mutual legitimate political rights. All this was to be achieved within the framework of peace negotiations aimed at a permanent solution to the conflict.

Not very long ago, Israel and the Palestinians had been negotiating outstanding permanent-status issues, among them the future status of the territories under dispute. Negotiations broke off as a result of the violence initiated by the Palestinians. Once the violence ended, peace talks were bound to resume. The draft resolution before the Commission preempted the outcome of the permanent-status negotiations and would only undermine attempts at reaching a successful conclusion to the negotiations.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said the subject of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people was at the crux of the problem in the Middle East. This resolution was the only means for providing peace for the people of Palestine. The right to self-determination could not be negotiated or bargained upon. Who ever gained the right to self-determination through negotiations with his enemies?

Negotiations between Palestine and Israel had been about the withdrawal of forces, not about self-determination. Everyone had seen on television the shooting of bullets by the Israeli forces. The resolution was the starting point for solving the problem. When the Palestinian people were freed of Israeli occupation, then they could truly enjoy their rights.

ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) said the country recognized the Palestinians' right to self-determination. But enjoyment of the right required concluding agreements with the Israeli Government. The Jewish people should not be undermined. This could lead to vulnerability of the rights of the Jewish people, and only through the negotiating table could agreements be drawn up. In voting against the resolution, Guatemala was not denying the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, but reaffirming the right to self-determination of the Jewish people.

SHIRIN TAHIR-KHELI (United States) said the US was opposed to resolution L.4 because it attempted to prejudge final-status issues that the two parties had agreed would be reserved for bilateral negotiations. Adoption of the resolution would not help break the tragic cycle of violence under way in the region. The parties themselves must do that. Nor would it bring the just, lasting and comprehensive peace longed for by all. The road to peace would begin with difficult decisions that the parties had to take. In truth, United Nations texts such as the one before the Commission risked diminishing the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Repeated year after year, they simply did not reflect the complexities of the situation.


MARIE GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) said Canada supported Palestine's desire for self-determination, but while the right to a State was implicit, the interest of the Palestinians, and the peoples of the region as a whole, would best be served if this were done through the negotiating process.

JEAN-MARIE NOIRFALISSE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the countries associated with it, said the EU supported resolution L.4. The EU reaffirmed the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. The EU did not believe that the draft resolution prejudged the outcome of permanent-status issues. The creation of a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestinian State would be the best guarantee of Israel's security and its acceptance in the region. The parties were urged to engage in a constructive dialogue. A solution to the conflict could found only through peaceful negotiations based on the principle of land for peace.




NIGEL RODLEY, Special Rapporteur on torture, addressed criticism raised by several delegations, namely that fact that he had not sought to visit the occupied territories of Palestine pursuant to the mandate contained in Special Session resolution 5-5/1. The Rapporteur said that contrary to what some had alleged in the Commission, he had certainly not taken the position that there was no torture committed by Israel, and he invited anyone who was interested to read entries on Israel in his annual reports, including the current one.


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For information media - not an official record