|HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL BEGINS DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES|
Focuses on Follow-Up to Special Session on Recent Israeli Aggression in Gaza Strip
23 March 2009
The Human Rights Council this afternoon took up the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, hearing presentations of reports and holding an interactive dialogue on follow-up to the Council’s Special Session on grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip, as well as beginning its annual interactive debate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk. Presenting reports on these items were Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-Wha Kang, Mr. Falk and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, on behalf of nine Special Procedures mandate holders.
Opening the meeting, Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi noted that the Council had determined to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission to investigate the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip (during its January Special Session) and he hoped as soon as possible to be able to announce the head of the mission.
Ms. Kang, presenting a number of reports, said the brief report on the follow-up to the Council’s resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan was a compilation of the answers received to date. There were also two reports before the Council presented by the Office of the High Commissioner relating to various human rights issues in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The first was a follow-up report on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the high-level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun, in which it was found that none of that mission's recommendations had been implemented to date. There was also a report on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, in which the Office expressed its deep concern that the severe restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank hampered Palestinian women's access to adequate pre-natal, natal and post-natal medical care and their enjoyment of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Mr. Falk, presenting his report on the international law issues related to the Israeli military operations in Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, reported that 1,434 Palestinians had been killed during the 22-day military assault, including 960 civilians. During the same period 13 Israelis were killed and 200 wounded, three of them civilians. The fact that six times more Palestinian civilians than combatants were reportedly killed strongly suggested a failure on the part of Israel to respect the fundamental legal obligation to conduct military operations permitting the distinction between military and civilian targets. The overall ratio of deaths (1,434:13) also provided a basis for challenging the legality of initiating a military assault with modern weaponry against an essentially defenseless society. Coercively confining the Gazan population to the combat zone during the military operations had effectively denied the Palestinians in Gaza a refugee option. Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity and explicitly prohibited.
Mr. de Schutter noted that, although the nine Special Procedures’ report focused on the effects on the human rights of Palestinians of the large-scale Israeli military operation, the general situation of human rights in Gaza had been of serious concern well before those events, and particularly for some 20 months prior to the escalation of the violence, in large part due to the blockade imposed on Gaza. Israel’s continuing occupation of Gaza had been confirmed repeatedly in several international fora, since its 2005 disengagement. Israel’s obligations as the Occupying Power were therefore set out in the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Times of War and the Hague Regulations. According to reports the Israeli Defense Forces had adopted a number of measures destined to shield their officers from potential indictments abroad and to gather evidence that could be used to exonerate them in the event that such procedures were initiated. There was an imperative need for the Israeli authorities and those of Hamas to cooperate fully with international endeavors to establish accountability in relation to this conflict.
Israel, speaking as a concerned country, said the report ignored the reality in the region and failed to address the relentless barrage of mortar attacks against Israel. The Council sought to demonise Israel, while it established equivalence between lawful self-defence and terrorism - but there was no equation, as there was no equation between the Government of Israel which sought to defend its population, and Hamas, the terrorists who used women and children as human shields. There was no equivalence between the efforts of Israel to ensure humanitarian supplies, and Hamas' stealing of these. It would be wrong to remain silent in the face of such selectivity. The report could not claim objectivity when it wilfully ignored facts.
Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that Palestine encouraged the Special Rapporteurs involved in the study to continue their work and to refuse any limitations. The Special Rapporteur had been detained in Tel Aviv and had then been deported to the United States, which proved how disdainful Israel was towards the international community. Israel was the aggressor and the occupier and repeatedly ignored humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention. The report said that the Israeli aggression had left over 7,000 people wounded and killed, including a large number of women and children.
During the interactive dialogue on follow-up to the Council’s January 2009 Special Session on grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip, many speakers expressed support for the work of the Special Rapporteurs and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and welcomed their reports, which were “serious and genuine”. The reports confirmed what was already known about the brutal violation of human rights by the Israeli authorities, whose blockage had resulted in a grave situation where the basic rights of the Palestinian people could not be achieved, grossly violating their fundamental rights. Almost all agreed with the reports’ recommendations, in particular that restrictions on movement of people and goods, as well as humanitarian assistance, had to be lifted. However, many questioned the seriousness of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council in holding Israel accountable to the many resolutions it adopted. It was regretted that the Fact-Finding Mission mentioned in the Council's resolution had yet to be set up. Others called for those guilty of violations to be brought before the International Criminal Court. Many mentioned the Israeli Government’s choice not to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, which undermined the Council and the spirit of dialogue and cooperation in advancing the protection and promotion of human rights. Speakers spoke of “deliberate” human rights violations by Israel. Israel had committed repeated violations of fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, in particular with regard to distinctions between the combatants and the civilians; proportionality in use of force; and obstruction of independent and impartial investigations. One speaker was concerned about what they perceived as the use of the Council as a platform to single out Israel for criticism, and urged the Council to refrain from further unbalanced attacks on Israel.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Yemen, on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela, Tunisia, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Indonesia, Sudan, Egypt on behalf of the African Group, the African Union, the United States, Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, Syria, Czech Republic, on behalf of the European Union, Japan, Senegal, Bangladesh, the Arab League, China, Lebanon, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Kuwait. Representatives of the non-governmental organizations Arab Commission of Jurists, World Vision and Union of Arab Jurists also spoke under this item.
Presenting his annual report, Mr. Falk said an unfortunate effect of recent preoccupations with the plight of Gaza had been to neglect developments adverse to the human rights of the Palestinian people that had been occurring in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Those developments appeared to have serious and perhaps, a decisive negative bearing on the prospects of achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and deliberately obstructed the exercise of the right of self-determination on the part of the Palestinian people. He then set out developments with regard to a pattern of “accelerated expansion” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which, in combination with the construction of the Wall, the settlement road network and the settlements themselves greatly diminished the land available to the Palestinians and made a viable Palestinian State much more difficult to establish.
Speaking as a concerned country, Israel said the report had “no value” and contained significant factual and legal errors, being based on the unsubstantiated premise that the Gaza Strip was an occupied territory. Moreover, Israel had provided a continuous flow of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.
Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a great number of work leaders had said that Israel had conducted flagrant violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Gaza in particular.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization for the Islamic Conference and Egypt on behalf of the African Group.
When the Council opens on Tuesday, 24 March, it is scheduled to hold back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, then hold its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, before turning to a general debate on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Documents on Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories, and on Follow-up to Special Session on Gaza
The Council has before it the combined report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories (A/HRC/10/22), which includes sections submitted by each mandate holder, as well as a joint introduction, legal analysis and set of recommendations. The special report on Gaza and southern Israel prepared by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict is contained in an annex. In recommendations, the mandate holders underline that all parties to the conflict should cease all actions violating international human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, the occupying power should end the blockade on Gaza negatively affecting civilians; allow unimpeded and safe passage and access to Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food aid; allow the unrestricted imports of medical supplies, foodstuffs and agricultural inputs, fuel and construction materials; grant prompt permission for patients with medical referrals for treatment outside Gaza, especially for expectant and nursing mothers; and ensure the free and unimpeded movement of civilians between Gaza and other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. All parties should establish accountability mechanisms providing for independent, impartial, transparent and accessible investigations, which should address, inter alia, violations of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution; targeting of Palestinian civilian police and members of the Hamas political wing; use of human shields and placing civilians at risk; extrajudicial executions by Hamas of Palestinian civilians; and unlawful use of incendiary weapons (white phosphorous artillery shells); attacks on medical personnel and ambulances as well as hospitals and denial of medical treatment and access to treatment offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society; attacks on schools; destruction of vital civilian infrastructure; and interference with the provision of humanitarian aid. The international community should actively promote the implementation of the decisions, resolutions and recommendations of the Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including treaty bodies and Special Procedures.
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk (A/HRC/10/20), which focuses on the main international law and human rights issues raised by Israel’s military operations commencing on 27 December 2008 and ending on 18 January 2009. He challenges the widespread emphasis on whether Israeli force was disproportionate in relation to Palestinian threats to Israeli security, and focuses on the prior question of whether Israeli force was legally justified at all. He concludes that such recourse to force was not legally justified given the circumstances and diplomatic alternatives available and was potentially a crime against peace. The Special Rapporteur also gives relevance to the pre-existing blockade of Gaza, which was in massive violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, suggesting the presence of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. He considers the tactics pursued during the attacks by both sides, condemning the firing of rockets at Israeli civilian targets, and suggests the unlawfulness of disallowing civilians in Gaza to have an option to leave the war zone to become refugees, as well as the charges of unlawful weapons and combat tactics. He recommends that an expert inquiry into these matters be conducted to confirm the status under international law of war crimes allegations and to consider alternative approaches to accountability. Finally, the Special Rapporteur insists that Israeli security and the realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination are fundamentally connected and that the recognition of this aspect of the situation suggests the importance of an intensified diplomatic effort, respect by all parties of relevant international law rights and implementation of the long-deferred Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestine as initially prescribed by the Security Council in its resolution 242 (1967). Until such steps are taken the Palestinian right of resistance within the limits of international humanitarian law and Israeli security policy will inevitably clash, giving rise to ever new cycles of violence. The Special Rapporteur also recommends action in response to the denial by Israel of entry to him on 14 December 2008.
The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/10/15), which reports on replies received on the topic of Human Rights Council resolution 7/30 on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, which was brought to the attention of all Governments, and transmitted to specialized agencies and others. Replies were received from Egypt and South Africa. Egypt regarded the Syrian Golan as an occupied territory, in violation of international law, and did not recognize the annexation of the Golan by Israel or any other Israeli administrative decision to impose Israeli identity on the residents of the Golan. Egypt also denounced the policy of confiscating the land of Syrian citizens and the construction of Israeli settlements. South Africa also stressed that the occupation of the Golan Heights was illegal in terms of international law and could not be justified.
The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on follow-up on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the high-level fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun established under Human Rights Council resolution S-3/1 (A/HRC/10/27), covering the period since 1 September 2008, concludes that, as at January 2009, none of the recommendations made by the high-level mission had been implemented. Indeed, the critical human rights situation in Beit Hanoun described by the mission had significantly worsened since the adoption of Council resolution 9/18 as a result of the 19-month blockade of Gaza by Israel and its large-scale military operation in Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. The victims of the shelling of Beit Hanoun of 8 November 2006 remain without effective protection, meaningful reparation and any independent, impartial and transparent mechanism that could secure accountability. If no action is taken by Israeli authorities or by the international community to demonstrate that human rights are protected by the rule of law, greater numbers in the population are likely to embrace those who resort to militant means of seeking redress. Accountability is not only a legal obligation but also an imperative for peace.
The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints (A/HRC/10/35), which notes that the United Nations does not maintain a systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism on the issue. It provides several accounts of women giving birth at checkpoints from July 2008 to January 2009, and examines the issue of how movement restrictions impact on the lives of Palestinian women. According to the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Women’s Fund, an estimated 2,500 births per year face difficulties en route to a delivery facility. The risks presented by checkpoints, road closures and other obstacles are reported to have led to an increase of 8.2 per cent in home deliveries, further compounding the risk to women’s health and to their babies. The Palestinian Ministry of Health has assessed the proportion of deliveries outside health facilities as high as 13.2 per cent. The critical impact of the closure regime on Palestinian women’s access to adequate prenatal, natal and post-natal medical care remains a matter of serious concern, impairing the fulfilment of the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Israeli policies on closure may also, in certain instances, amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under article 16 of the Convention against Torture.
Presentation on Reports on Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories and Follow-Up to Special Session on Gaza
MARTIN IHOEGHIAN UHOMOIBHI, President of the Human Rights Council, said the Human Rights Council had determined to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission to investigate the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip. After the adoption of the resolution, the President had immediately contacted all parties. He hoped as soon as possible to be able to announce the head of the mission, and that a competent and credible fact-finding mission would be established, and that it would be in a position to assess all human rights violations in the context of the conflict, without distinction of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner.
KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said with regards to the report (A/HRC/10/15) on the follow-up to resolution 7/30 of the Human Rights Council entitled "Human Rights in the occupied Syrian Golan", this resolution was brought to the attention of all Governments, specialised agencies, competent regional inter-Governmental organisations and international humanitarian organisations. The brief report was a compilation of the answers received to date. There were also two reports before the Council presented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights relating to various human rights issues in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The first document (A/HRC/10/27) was a follow-up report on the status of implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the high-level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun. None of that mission's recommendations had been implemented to date.
Further, there was a report on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints (A/HRC/10/35). The Office was deeply concerned that the severe restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank hampered Palestinian women's access to adequate pre-natal, natal and post-natal medical care and their enjoyment of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Since January 2009, the Office had been strengthening its presence in both Gaza and the West Bank in order to provide regular public reports on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and this report would be presented to the next session of the Council. Moreover, as requested by the Council at its January Special Session, the Office had continued to provide all necessary support to the nine thematic mandate holders, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Following the Gaza military operations, the Secretary-General had established a Board of Inquiry, which would review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009. As the High Commissioner had stressed, accountability must be ensured for all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all parties. Reported breaches included both indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel, and strikes by Israeli forces which failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Independent, credible and transparent investigations into alleged breaches must be conducted in order to ascertain the precise nature and circumstances of reported violations, to hold violators into account, and to ensure that victims received adequate reparation. The goal of alleviating civilian suffering, ascertaining responsibility for past abuses, and deterring future violations of international human rights and humanitarian law could not be achieved without accountability and justice. These were not only legal and moral obligations, but also sound foundations on which peace, the rule of law and respect for human rights could be attained and sustained over time.
RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said that the report before the Council was prepared in response to the request contained in Human Rights Council Resolution S-9 for an assessment of the international law issues presented by the Israeli military operations in Gaza covering the period 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. He said that confirmed figures compiled by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights indicated that 1,434 Palestinians were killed during the 22-day military assault, including 960 civilians (288 children, 121 women), 239 police officers, and 235 militants or fighters. Some 5,303 Palestinians were wounded, including 1,606 children and 828 women. In sum, around 1 out of every 225 Gazans were either killed or injured during the 22 days, and this figure, large as it was, did not take account of the widespread trauma experienced by the population exposed to intensive warfare, especially the mental harm to children, constituting 53 per cent of the Gazan population. During the same period 13 Israelis were killed and 200 wounded, both by indiscriminate and unlawful rocket fire across the border into Israeli territory and by fighting and friendly fire incidents inside Gaza. Three of the 13 Israelis killed were civilians who died as a result of rocket fire.
The fact that six times more Palestinian civilians than combatants were reportedly killed strongly suggested a failure on the part of Israel to respect the fundamental legal obligation to conduct military operations permitting the distinction between military and civilian targets. To the extent that the combat zone was so densely populated by civilians, it meant that, with the types of weaponry relied upon, there was no lawful way to carry out the Israeli military operations. The overall ratio of deaths 1,434:13 was suggestive of the one-sidedness of the military encounter, and provided a basis for challenging the legality of initiating a military assault with modern weaponry against an essentially defenseless society.
Mr. Falk said that coercively confining the Gazan civilian population to the combat zone during the Israeli military operations effectively denied the Palestinians in Gaza a refugee option. Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity, and should be formally recognized as such and explicitly prohibited. This had given rise to allegations of an anti-Palestine vindictiveness, which had been reinforced by the widespread eyewitness reports of racist graffiti written on the walls of private dwelling places in Gaza, as well as such hostile acts as urinating and defecating in Palestinian homes where functioning bathrooms were available. Chilling individual testimonies of Israeli soldiers that participated in the Gaza military operations told of the killing of innocent civilians, pointless destruction, expulsions of families from homes seized as temporary outposts, disregard for human life and a tendency towards brutalization. Mr. Falk concluded by saying that as long as Palestinian basic rights continued to be denied, the Palestinian right of resistance to occupation within the confines of international law and in accord with the Palestinian right of self-determination was bound to collide with the pursuit of security by Israel under conditions of prolonged occupation. In this respect, a durable end to violence on both sides required an intensification of diplomacy with a sense of urgency, and far greater resolve by all parties to respect international law.
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, speaking on behalf of the nine thematic mandate-holders reporting under resolution S-9/1, said the Council in resolution S-9/1, invited all relevant Special Procedures mandate-holders and in particular, 10 independent United Nations experts, including himself, to urgently seek and gather information on violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people and submit their reports to the Council at this current session. The report could not, in view of the extremely limited time available, do justice to the large volume of information which had been received. According to the estimates available at the time of drafting the report, 1,453 people were killed and 5,900 wounded during the Israeli military operation which began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January 2009. Those killed included 13 Israelis, three of whom were civilians. 1,440 Palestinians were killed, including 431 children and 114 women.
Although the report focused on the effects on the human rights of Palestinians of the large-scale Israeli military operation launched, in response to rockets fired from the Gaza strip targeting southern Israel, the general situation of human rights in Gaza was of serious concern well before those events, and particularly for some 20 months prior to the escalation of the violence, in large part due to the blockade imposed on Gaza, underscored Mr. De Schutter. In addition to discriminatory legislation and policies of the Occupying Power in, inter alia, access to housing, health care, food and water systems over the past decades, the blockade, which severely restricted movement of people and goods delivery of humanitarian and development assistance, further aggravated the situation of the population of the Gaza Strip. Both human rights and international humanitarian law governed the situation in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Israel remained bound by international human rights instruments to which it was party. The obligation to respect the rights of all individuals subject to its jurisdiction was not affected by Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza: Israel remained bound to the extent that the measures it adopted affected the enjoyment of human rights of the residents of Gaza.
Israel’s continuing occupation of Gaza had been confirmed repeatedly in several international fora, since its 2005 disengagement. Israel’s obligations as the Occupying Power were therefore set out in the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Times of War and The Hague Regulations, stressed Mr. De Schutter. In order to ensure that reconstruction efforts were successful it was imperative to allow the import of reconstruction materials needed to build or repair vital infrastructure and housing. According to reports the Israeli Defense Forces had adopted a number of measures destined to shield their officers from potential indictments abroad and to gather evidence that could be used to exonerate them in the event that such procedures were initiated. There was an imperative need for the Israeli authorities and those of Hamas to cooperate fully with international endeavors to establish accountability in relation to this conflict. No State or other entity was immune from being held accountable by the international community in situations in which serious and compelling evidence seemed to suggest that major violations had occurred.
Statements by Concerned Countries
AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said the report ignored the reality in the region and failed to address the relentless barrage of mortar attacks against Israel. The Council sought to demonise Israel, while it established equivalence between lawful self-defence and terrorism - but there was no equation, as there was no equation between the Government of Israel which sought to defend its population, and Hamas, the terrorists who used women and children as human shields. There was no equivalence between the efforts of Israel to ensure humanitarian supplies, and Hamas' stealing of these. It would be wrong to remain silent in the face of such selectivity. The report could not claim objectivity when it wilfully ignored facts. The report further noted that there was a "surplus of health supplies" – it was selective, with a double-standard against Israel. The Council was consuming its time with reports such as this which selectively manipulated facts in order to arrive at predetermined conclusions that were acceptable to the automatic majority. The Council should support peaceful efforts aimed at creating a permanent solution, but peace in the region would not be achieved by adopting such reports, nor by demonising Israel, but only by direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Council should rekindle the peace process without turning up the fire.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said that Palestine wanted to confirm its request that the Council should be partial to the law. Palestine thanked the Council for its efforts with the aim of setting up an international fact-finding mission and sending it to check out the facts, as per the resolution of the Special Session. It was convinced that the relentless efforts of the Council would eventually succeed. Palestine appreciated the efforts made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Palestine and welcomed the reports of the Special Rapporteur and of the Secretary-General. They were very important and the recommendations that deserved in-depth study. Palestine encouraged the Special Rapporteurs involved in the study to continue their work and to refuse any limitations. The Special Rapporteur had been detained in Tel Aviv then deported to the United States, which proved how disdainful Israel was towards the international community. Israel was the aggressor and the occupier and repeatedly ignored humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention. The report said that the Israeli aggression had left over 7,000 people wounded and killed, including a large number of women and children. The siege against the Gaza Strip for over two years was a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel was contravening all international customs and norms. Palestine asked the Council which measures could be taken to enforce the recommendations of the Human Rights Council. The Palestinian people respected the Council’s efforts and hoped that the people could enjoy freedom and hoped that all international measures could come into effect.
Interactive Debate on Report of Nine Thematic Mandate-Holders under Follow-up to Special Session on Situation in Gaza
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, thanked all the Special Rapporteurs and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for their reports which were serious and genuine. The Arab Group condemned the Israeli war crimes committed, and the killing and wounding of 7,000 people as well as the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, which the international community had invested in. Israel’s continued efforts to annex territories and to destroy the homes of Palestinians were violations of international humanitarian law, international law and international human rights law. The Arab Group questioned the seriousness of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council in holding Israel accountable to the many resolutions it adopted. The Occupying Power had to respect its international obligations toward the Palestinian people. The Arab Group also condemned the actions taken by the Israeli authorities on 14 December 2008, when they held the Special Rapporteur and did not allow him entry into the country, and he was subsequently deported to the United States. Furthermore, the Arab Group said that the aggression against Gaza was a violation of international law.
MARIA OUXILIADORA GUILOSTE (Venezuela) said Venezuela was a peace-loving country, and had deeply condemned the flagrant violations of human rights and international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the use of force against the civilian population, and the taking of the lives of many children and women. There was also deep concern and rejection of the serious and manifold violations of human rights that had had such serious repercussions on human rights in the region arising from Israeli military action. Venezuela was interested in bringing an end to the violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Gaza Strip, and those responsible should be brought to justice.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said that there was no doubt that Israel was the occupying power. The choice of the Israeli Government not to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur was just another proof of the same logic according to which Israel carried out its violations of human rights. The report listed the numerous crimes committed during the military attack in Gaza. Those crimes, highly barbaric and violent in their nature, had specifically targeted civilians. Tunisia repeated its conviction that the occupation of the Palestinian territories was the source of the sad reality of the region. It was an absolute imperative to bring Israel which was the occupying power to assume its obligation towards the populations of the occupied territories. It was vital that the Human Rights Council also took all necessary measures to implement the recommendations made in the report as well as to ensure the follow-up.
IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization for the Islamic Conference, said the massacre of Palestinians in refugee camps, gunning down of worshippers in Ibrahim mosque, Beit Hanoun, and now blatant violations of all human rights of Palestinians in Gaza in December 2008 were the tragedies which characterized Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. All independent assessments of violent incidents in the Occupied Palestinian Territory indicated that Israel’s aggression and the human rights violations that it entailed were usually deliberate; each Israeli attack raised the concerns that war crimes had been committed; Israel had repeatedly violated fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, for example, distinctions between the combatants and the civilians, proportionality in use of force, and precaution to protect civilians; and Israel’s obstruction of independent and impartial investigation of such concerns as long as possible.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said Indonesia was deeply concerned to learn from the report that the Special Rapporteur was prevented from discharging his mandate due to the deliberate contempt and non-cooperation of the Israeli Government. This undermined the Human Rights Council and the spirit of the institutional package which underpinned it, which was based on dialogue and cooperation in advancing the protection and promotion of human rights. If one country systematically ignored its obligations, this paved the way for others to do likewise. The lack of follow-up of the Special Sessions was disappointing, as was the fact that in January 2009 none of the recommendations made by the high-level mission in its September 2008 report had yet been implemented. The victims of the shelling of Beit Hanoun remained without effective protection or reparation, as well as any independent impartial and transparent mechanism capable of securing accountability. Concrete actions by the Israeli authorities and the international community were needed to demonstrate that the human rights of the Palestinians were protected by international law.
ATTIAT MUSTAFA (Sudan) thanked the mandate-holders and said that since the United Nations was set up in 1945 this area was characterized by omissions and failures. There were still countries that occupied territories by the use of weapons. The worst kind of violation was that of occupation by weapons. Other countries were punished by allegations that were spread by the media. The world was still a helpless witness of the Holocaust in Gaza. They did not know how deep was the abyss in which the world was sliding.
HESHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said despite very honest efforts made by the President of the Human Rights Council, the membership of the Committee had not moved forward yet. Once a Chairman was selected, the crimes committed against the Palestinian people would be highlighted. The African Group called for immediate action to be taken and for the Committee to start its work. Once the Committee was established and began its work, it should carry out an investigation into the terrifying massacres that were perpetrated in Gaza by Israel which started in December 2008 and ended in January of 2009, and which killed and wounded over 7,000 people, destroying infrastructure, homes, hospitals, and schools in Gaza. The African Group reaffirmed that time did not change the truth and rights could not be muted forever.
YAKDHAN EL HABIB, of the African Union, said the Special Rapporteur's report pointed out the tragic outcomes of the situation in the Gaza Strip. There was increased tension in the region, and initiatives seeking a solution had been blocked. The views of the Human Rights Council on a fact-finding Commission were shared - there should be a fact-finding mission not only to the Gaza Strip but also into the activities of Israeli soldiers targeting civilians without discrimination. However, the decision, like many other resolutions and decisions of the international community had remained a dead letter. The international community and the Human Rights Council should face up to their obligations and ensure the application of human rights for all. Palestine had a right to exist as an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
MERY ENNIS (United States) said that the United States remained concerned about the use of the Human Rights Council as a platform to single out Israel for criticism; the Special Sessions devoted solely to the human rights situation in Gaza and the Beit Hanoun incident were examples of activities that undermined the credibility and balance that the Human Rights Council should enjoy and exercise. The United States shared the concerns of the European Union that the resolution resulting from the Council’s Special Session only addressed one side of the conflict and made erroneous assertions regarding international law. As for the report of the fact-finding mission on the situation in Beit Hanoun by Reverend Desmond Tutu, the United States noted that the report dismissed Israel’s internal investigation of the events in November 2006. This investigation had concluded that the shelling of civilians was unintentional. The United States urged the Human Rights Council to refrain from further unbalanced attacks on Israel.
MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the continued violations of human rights by Israel, the Occupying Power, against the Palestinian people, had demanded that the Council continue to meet on the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. Since the massacre of Beit Hanuon in November 2006 to the recent criminal and massive attack against Gaza at the end of 2008, nothing had changed for the better. In fact, the Non-Aligned Movement stressed that things had changed for the worst. None of the recommendations of the high-level mission to Beit Hanoun had been implemented by Israel; neither had the various calls by the Human Rights Council. Along with other partners, the Non-Aligned Movement had called for the convening of the ninth Special Session. The Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemned the military aggression, including air strikes and ground invasion, carried out by Israel, the Occupying Power, against the Gaza Strip.
ANIZAN SITI HAJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said Malaysia had studied the reports carefully. The reports confirmed what was already known about the brutal violation of human rights by the Israeli authorities, whose blockage had resulted in a grave situation where the basic rights of the Palestinian people could not be achieved, with a gross violation of their fundamental rights. Precepts of international humanitarian and human rights laws were clearly violated. Much civilian infrastructure had been destroyed during the more recent Israeli intervention in the Gaza Strip. Malaysia fully supported the recommendations of the Special Procedures - those recommendations constituted a good basis for the Council's further deliberation on the illegal actions of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1967.
MUHEEB NIMRAT (Jordan) said that the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, continued to deteriorate due to the ongoing violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law by Israel, the Occupying Power. The recent Israeli onslaught on the occupied Gaza Strip had further exacerbated the already dire economic and humanitarian situation of the civilian population and continued to subject them to a great deal of trauma and suffering. In this regard, Jordan called upon the Government of Israel to fulfill its obligation with respect to the Palestinian people in compliance with international law, particularly human rights law and international humanitarian law. Jordan called on the international community to intensify its efforts and fulfill the pledges made at the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza held recently in Sharm el-Sheikh.
FAISAL ABDULLA AL-HENZAB (Qatar) said Qatar expressed appreciation to all Special Rapporteurs for their joint reports, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for his report. Qatar had listened carefully to presentations and took note of the worsening humanitarian situation and the plight of the Palestinian people. The recent aggression on behalf of Israel in Gaza constituted war crimes, as Israel deliberately killed armless Palestinians. Qatar condemned that recently Israel carried out the destruction of Palestinian homes, which was another violation of Security Council resolutions 252 and 267, on changing the status of east Jerusalem. Israel was continuously behaving in an illegal manner. The Council should take a firm stance towards Israel and to its settlement expansion. Israel was not complying with its obligations as the Occupying Power, and as such Qatar also called on the Council to take necessary measures to ensure that Israel guaranteed and respected the rights of the Palestinian people.
FARIS AL-ANI (Iraq) said the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on follow-up to the high-level mission to Beit Hanoun was welcome, as was the report of the High Commissioner on Palestinian women who had to give birth at Israeli checkpoints, and that of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. What the Palestinians had undergone with regards to crimes against humanity and genocide were a terrible violation of their basic rights. There had been a demolition of infrastructure, homes and places of worship. Israel should halt the violation of human rights, particularly with regards to women and children. These violations, under the pretext of self-defence, were not condoned, as this claim led to the flagrant violation of the rights of women and children before the eyes of the international community, as well as other reprehensible acts. The international community should meet its obligations, as Israel did not, and those guilty of these violations should be brought before the International Criminal Court.
FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria) said that a moment ago the Israeli delegation spoke about what they considered violations of human rights in the occupied territories. However, they refused to discuss Israeli violations of human rights. At the Special Session, the Human Rights Council had adopted certain recommendations but unfortunately, the Occupying Power had chosen to ignore those. Today, the Council had heard further details about the Gaza massacre, but Israel was continuing to fail its international obligations. Syria called for international cooperation.
PETR PRECLIK (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked all the thematic rapporteurs for their contributions to the report. The European Union appreciated that they had been able to collect information and compile the report in the limited period of time between January and March. The European Union followed with particular concern the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza. All of the rapporteurs suggested that numerous obstacles, notably in respect to the enjoyment of the right to food, health, education and housing had been of serious concern long before the conflict began on 27 December. The Israeli military operation clearly exacerbated all of those concerns. The European Union fully agreed with the Special Rapporteurs that unimpeded access to Gaza must be ensured, and restrictions on movement of people and good as well as humanitarian assistance must be lifted, as they seriously hampered all efforts for recovery.
OSAMU YAMANAKA (Japan) said the Government of Japan appreciated the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. It was highly regrettable that the rocket attacks and air raids from late last year to January this year had caused a number of civilian casualties, including women and children. The international community should take concerted action to have humanitarian assistance delivered to the people in need, including securing safe humanitarian corridors. Japan would continue to extend humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and its support, to the greatest extent possible, for the improvement of the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All parties concerned should allow free and safe movement of humanitarian aid and humanitarian aid personnel. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should make every effort to make progress in the peace process. All the parties should abide by the relevant international laws, cooperate with the United Nations system, and address the current situation in a timely manner. The fact-finding mission should commence its investigation in a fair and independent manner at an early date, and submit a report to the Human Rights Council that would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation.
ABDOUF WAHAB HAIDARS (Senegal) thanked the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for his report. It was a follow-up on other reports that the Council had heard. The high number of civilian deaths was simply beyond justification. The Council had voiced its opinion and had also asked for another fact-finding mission to be sent to the field. Senegal said that a good solution had to be found for situations similar to that which the Special Rapporteur had encountered during his trip to Israel. Senegal thanked Richard Falk and hoped the Palestinian people could soon live in peace.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) thanked Mr. De Schutter for his presentation of the joint report. The report painted a picture which was all too familiar. There were no human rights and humanitarian laws that had not been violated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. If this situation did not receive the priority attention of the Council the credibility of the body to uphold its decisions was at stake. There was no balance on the ground with respect to any aspect. The report highlighted, among other things, the principle of distinction and proportionality, and if the Council did not address those points raised, this would be detrimental to the viability of the Human Rights Council.
ABID SALEM AZAABI, of the League of Arab States, said that Israel had attacked civilians and claimed it could not distinguish between military and civilian targets. It was committing a "war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law". The media had recently informed the international community that the military was concerned as to the international community gaining information of the violation of the rights of Palestinian civilians. The Jew-ification of former Palestinian lands was removing Israel further from peace - the occupation was continuing its daily oppression, despite the desires of the population. Calling Israel to account was not just a legal obligation, but was also a sine qua non to achieve peace. As long as Israel continued to deny the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, their compliance with international law remained incomplete. The Council should ask Israel to stop its oppressive policies in the Palestinian territories, and those who were responsible for war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory should be brought to justice, with an end made to this horrible situation.
KE YOUSHENG (China) said that the Human Rights Council had convened several Special Sessions to discuss the situation in Palestine and had passed several resolutions. Regrettably, they had not been implemented. Just recently, a large scale conflict had resulted in heavy casualties. The international community should step up its efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. China recalled that on the basis of the Road Map, the conflict could be resolved for both people to live together in peace. China would continue to support international efforts for a fair, comprehensive and lasting solution in the Middle East conflict.
NAJLA RIACHI ASSAKER (Lebanon) welcomed the report presented by Mr. Falk for his precise description of the violations of human rights and humanitarian law which resulted from the aggression launched on Gaza and which the population was subjected to night and day. Lebanon urged the Council to deploy a rapid fact-finding mission to determine the scope of the serious human rights violations which had occurred, including the killing of women and children, as well as the targeting of medical and education facilities. The Council needed to take this concern seriously in order to apply the necessary pressure on Israel to live in peace with its neighbours, and to implement the relevant resolutions adopted. Lebanon stressed that it would continue to call for this.
CHIBIHI BOUALEM (Algeria) said Algeria thanked the Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner on their reports regarding the human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a result of the Israeli aggression against Gaza, as these revealed the crimes that the Palestinian people were subjected to by Israel. Israel was in flagrant violation of international law and humanitarian law, and the use of internationally prohibited weapons had led to the killing of hundreds of Palestinians, the destruction of infrastructure, and the deprivation of proper medical treatment. Treating the aggressor and aggressed equally was utterly unacceptable - criminal liability lay on the shoulders of the Israelis. Resolutions had been adopted but had not been implemented. Algeria regretted that the Fact-Finding Mission mentioned in the Human Rights Council's resolution was yet to be set up, and the Council should do everything possible to ensure that it was set up in order to investigate all the crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel, and all efforts should be made to protect the Palestinians and allow them to recover their rights.
SAEED AL HABSI (United Arab Emirates) said that the Human Rights Council was examining the report of the Special Rapporteur after the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip in which more than 1,400 Palestinians had died, most of whom were children and women. Israel had perpetrated crimes of war, using internationally prohibited weapons in violation of humanitarian law. All this took place before the very eyes of the world. Israel was disdainful for the Human Rights Council. It had even refused Mr. Falk’s entry into Israel. The United Arab Emirates supported recommendations to take the necessary measures to respond to the Israeli conduct and also supported recommendations regarding the setting up of an expert group to investigate the crimes committed by the Israelis.
MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil), speaking also on behalf of India and South Africa, thanked the Special Rapporteurs for their work. “True reconciliation did not consist in merely forgetting the past”. Indeed, reconciliation involved trust, vision, and the establishment of a joint future of prosperity and mutual respect. The conflict between Israel and Palestine remained essentially political in nature and could not be resolved by force. The use of violence, particularly against innocent civilians was an issue of special concern for the Human Rights Council and had to be condemned. Brazil, India and South Africa urged further easing of restrictions at check-points and road-blocks on humanitarian grounds. Brazil, India and South Africa supported a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine living side by side at peace with Israel, within secured and recognized boundaries, in accordance with United Nations resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515. There was no justification to violence.
DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said all knew exactly what had happened. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had been explained very well - what had happened so far was that beautiful statements had been delivered, good decisions adopted, and then Israel did not abide by any of them. The killing fields in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continued and would continue. There was a breach of international peace and security according to the United Nations Charter. There was a mechanism therein, a road map to reverse the threat to international peace and security. The Geneva Conventions and their Protocols were part of international humanitarian law, and there was a whole system of international safeguards protecting people who did not take part in the fighting, including civilians, medics, chaplains and aid workers. There was a clear flagrant breach of international humanitarian law, and the Council should do something. Israeli officials were saying there was no flagrant violation. The Council had to act, and it had to act now.
ABDEL WAHAB HANI, of Arab Commission for Human Rights, welcomed the Council’s decision to mandate Experts to investigate the situation in Gaza. The Arab Commission of Jurists regretted the attitude of non-cooperation of the Israeli State. The lack of proportion of the Israeli attacks made it impossible for the Palestinian people to live. The report underlined the importance of ensuring the protection of the Gaza population in accordance with international law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention. The people who ordered crimes against civilians had to be brought to justice. The Arab Commission of Jurists called on countries, especially Switzerland that was a depositary of the Geneva Conventions, to carry out investigations of those crimes against humanity by the Israeli State during its attacks on Gaza.
JENNIFER PHILPOT NISSEN, of World Vision International, said that they remained deeply concerned about the lasting impact the most recent conflict had had on affected Palestinian and Israeli populations, especially children who continued to suffer because of violence or the threat of violence. Tens of thousands of children in Gaza remained displaced and homeless, and access to decent food and basic goods remained difficult. Virtually the entire population of Gaza’s one and a half million people relied on international aid for some level of support, whilst humanitarian access for both staff and goods continued to be a major obstacle. Furthermore, air strikes continued to plague Gaza’s residents daily.
ELIAS KHOURI, of Union of Arab Jurists, said the Council needed to take all necessary steps to force Israel to implement the decisions adopted and the recommendations made in order to guarantee the minimum of security to the unarmed Palestinians. There were violations of human rights occurring in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Gaza specifically. Israel had destroyed homes, schools and places of worship, without discriminating between military and civilian targets, and had even used banned weapons, launching them against heavily populated areas. This was tantamount to war crimes. The Israeli authorities were currently doing ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, against all international obligations. The persons responsible should be brought to justice on a national and international level, and Israel should be forced to make reparations.
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, in concluding remarks, welcomed the comments received on the report prepared by the nine mandate holders. The Special Rapporteur was grateful for Israel’s comments on the report. They would have been even more welcome when the report was shared with the Government. The Special Rapporteur noted the concern that the allegations in the report had not been put into context. The Special Rapporteur believed that Israel was fully entitled to have its views heard. It was not for the Special Procedures to make recommendations on how States could exercise pressure as follow-up for the recommendations made by the Human Rights Council. Mr. De Schutter underlined that the main message of the report was a message of accountability. There was a need for a full and impartial investigation. If national mechanisms were not up to the task, international mechanisms would have to be put into place to this end, he added.
Presentation by Special Rapporteur on Situation in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967
RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, in his opening statement, said an unfortunate effect of recent preoccupations with the desperate humanitarian plight of Gaza has been to neglect developments adverse to the human rights of the Palestinian people that had been occurring in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Those developments appeared to have serious and perhaps, a decisive negative bearing on the prospects of achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and deliberately obstructed the exercise of the right of self-determination by the Palestinian people. Since he was denied entry into Israel in December 2008, in addressing these issues, Mr. Falk said he had to rely on reports by other sources concerning the situation as it existed in the West Bank, and hoped that in future he would be able to rely on field visits, including taking into account whatever the Israeli perception had been.
The Israeli NGO Peace Now issued a report in March 2009 that detailed official plans for the extensive expansion of existing settlements including 73,302 housing units of which 5,722 were in East Jerusalem, and the rest in the West Bank. On the basis of calculating four persons per house, the expansion planned would add as many as 300,000 to the settler population, which was now estimated to be between 450,000 and 475,000. This would be a considerable burden to future peace negotiations, underscored Mr. Falk. All settlement activity was in violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Such activity was also inconsistent with pledges made by the Israel Government to the Quartet, and at the Annapolis meeting of December 2007. The outcome of the recent Israeli elections accentuated those concerns as well. Given this background, the trends with respect to the settlements were deeply disturbing, noted Mr. Falk. In 2008 the settler population (not including East Jerusalem) increased by 4.7 per cent (three times faster than the Israeli population increased inside Israel), with the number of new structures in West Bank settlements increasing at a rate of 6.9 per cent beyond the rate of settlement growth in 2007, disclosing a pattern of not only expansion, but one of accelerated expansion. This pattern raised the fundamental question as to how possibly could a viable independent contiguous Palestinian sovereign State be established on the currently occupied Palestinian territories, which had by now been so substantially transformed by the occupying Power. Should not the United Nations express in strong terms its opposition to the settlement process?
The combination of the construction of the Wall, the settlement road network and the settlements themselves greatly diminished the land available to the Palestinians and made a viable Palestinian State much more difficult to establish, stressed Mr. Falk. Also of concern were reports of increasing settler violence directed at the Palestinian population and their property in the West Bank. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, there were 429 incidents of settler violence in 2008, which represented a 75 per cent increase over 2007. There was also continuing concern about the use of excessive force by Israeli Occupying Forces in the West Bank, especially in response to non-violent demonstrations against the construction of the Wall. Furthermore, there were also a variety of concerns about the Palestinian future in East Jerusalem, and allegations that Israel was engaged in a subtle, but cumulatively very efficient process to ensure Jewish demographic dominance of the whole of Jerusalem, said Mr. Falk.
Statements by Concerned Countries
WALID ABU-HAYA (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said Israel initially reviewed the report with an open mind, but found that it had no value. It contained significant factual and legal errors. It was based on the unsubstantiated premise that the Gaza Strip was an occupied territory under international law. Resolution 18/60 never defined the Gaza Strip as occupied territory. The legal status of the Gaza Strip did not meet the requirements for being under occupation. Notwithstanding the legal status of the Gaza Strip, Israel had provided a continuous flow of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip, in collaboration with international humanitarian organizations. The report also failed to mention that while Israel had facilitated the movement of basic humanitarian supplies, Hamas regularly hijacked these, denying them to their own people, thus making the situation worse.
Hamas deliberately and intentionally targeted kindergartens and schools. Israel reserved the right to appeal to the right to self-defence. Incessant rocket and mortar assaults on innocent Israeli citizens never ceased - Israel had the right to ensure the security of its people. Hamas had hid among its people and used civilian infrastructure to launch its campaign. Criminal investigations were opening into incidents. Israel's Supreme Court had made rulings on the supply of fuel and of water, and on the evacuation of civilians. Hamas' goal was the complete destruction of Israel, and this included the murder of civilians. The Special Rapporteur should seek clarification of the term "self-defence", and would like to seek it from those who used it when they murdered arbitrarily. The report was a slap in the face to all those who sought the peaceful two-State solution, living side by side in harmony and the rule of law.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), said that it was quite clear who the occupier was. That party would need hours to justify its crimes. The crimes took place in the territories occupied in 1976: East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, these were the territories agreed upon in the peace agreement. The Occupied Territories constituted one unity. Until this moment, Gaza was still dominated by Israeli authorities. Palestine, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference hoped that they could deal with Israel as with all other countries in the Human Rights Council. But Israel remained an occupying power. They were waiting for the results of the fact-finding mission that had been sent by the Human Rights Council to the region. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a great number of work leaders had said, Israel had conducted flagrant violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Gaza in particular. These violations continued in the West Bank, the Israeli forces had detained members of the Palestinian legislative who had not launched rockets. The Israeli claimed that they were defending themselves. Palestine also noted that the occupying authorities prevented Palestinians from taking part in celebrations in East Jerusalem, a right which was explicitly granted to all peoples.
Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967
IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Organization of the Islamic Conference thanked Mr. Falk for his report and introduction. The Organization of the Islamic Conference reiterated its concerns at the treatment meted out to the Special Rapporteur by the Israeli authorities. Such an attitude, unprecedented thus far, violated international legal norms and decent diplomatic behavior. Israel had to respect its responsibilities and allow unhindered access to the Special Rapporteur to the occupied territories.
The details of Israeli atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory should neither be new nor surprising for the Council. As in the past, the manner in which the Gaza campaign was conducted indicated that the massive human rights violations were pre-planned. The stage was set by ignoring the undertaking to lift the economic blockade of Palestinians as well as resorting to disproportionate use of force which resulted in the killings of several Gazans in early November 2008.
HISHAM BADR, (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the professionalism and dedication of the Special Rapporteur were welcomed. It was alarming that he had been detained for many hours and eventually deported by the Israeli authorities, showing once again Israel's disrespect for the Council and its mechanisms. The reaction of the international community would have been different if it had been a developing country behaving thus. The report shed much-needed light on the tragic results of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza, denying the civilian population the right to take refuge away from the war zone. The deaths of women and children and the wounding of many others, the destruction of homes and displacement of people were of great concern. There should be an independent inquiry of the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and this inquiry should pay attention to reports of deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians, including women and children. The African Group wished to express its unequivocal support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the way he was conducting his duties.
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