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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/01/18
28 March 2001

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADDRESSES SITUATION
IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES


Dignitaries From Cyprus, Angola Speak About Situation in Their Countries


The Commission on Human Rights this afternoon focused its attention on the occupied Arab territories, particularly the situation in Palestine.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, introducing a report of a visit she made to the region last year, said the human rights situation was bleak. She expressed concern at what she judged to be excessive use of force by Israeli authorities, particularly against youthful protestors, and said the long-running occupation had caused extensive physical and psychological damage to the Palestinians. Urging both sides to return to the path of peace, Mrs. Robinson said she recognized that many Israelis believed their existence was under threat and that Israel had the right, enshrined in numerous United Nations resolutions, to exist in safety within internationally recognized borders.

The Chairman of the commission of inquiry on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, John Dugard, presented the group's report, calling Israel's use of force disproportionate to the threat posed to it. He said it could not be denied that, whereas much of the suffering inflicted on Israelis was the result of the actions of undisciplined individuals and loosely organized groups, the suffering imposed upon the Palestinians had been orchestrated with military precision by a vastly superior force, equipped with the most advanced military technology. The commission of inquiry was formed on the basis of a resolution passed by a special session of the Commission on Human Rights last October.

In a message read out by the Secretariat, Giorgio Giacomelli, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, said that in addition to the grave and excessive use of force in the territories, there had been a serious impact on the Palestinian economic sector, and without decisions that could help further the peace process there was little chance for a lasting peace in the region. Mr. Giacomelli also said he would be resigning as Special Rapporteur.

The Palestinian delegation said Israel was reducing the Palestinian people to enslavement and subjecting them to its power and exploitation in a thorough denial of the fundamental human rights.

Israel called the report of the Special Rapporteur one-sided and prejudicial, claiming among other things it did not refer to Palestinian violence that brought about the deaths of 70 Israelis. Responding to accusations of excessive use of force, Israel said its civilians and armed forces had come under violent attack, frequently from live ammunition fired by persons who did not wear uniforms, and often from within crowded civilian areas. Israel said it had been restrained in its response to Palestinian attacks.

Also addressing the Commission were high Government officials of Angola and Cyprus.

George Chicoti, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, said armed rebels had waged a conflict in Angola for 25 years, producing permanent instability that gave rise to violations of human rights. He asked the Commission to pressure those who funded the offending militias to stop.

Michalis Attalides, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, said human rights violations had been committed by Turkey during its invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and were being committed every day through Turkey's continuing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. Cyprus was disappointed, he said, that this year's report by the UN Secretariat to the Commission turned a blind eye to the violations taking place in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. The true and grave situation ought to have been presented to the Commission, he claimed.

Others addressing the Commission during the session were Representatives of Egypt, the Syrian Arab Republic, Jordan, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Senegal, the United States and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

Speaking in right of reply were Turkey, Cyprus, and Palestine.

The Commission continued its debate on Palestine in an evening session scheduled to conclude at 9.


Human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a report (E/CN.4/2001/121) of the human-rights inquiry commission established pursuant to Commission resolution S-5/1 of 19 October, 2000 which offers a number of conclusions and recommendations on the situation in occupied Palestine. It remarks, among other things, that 'the most worrying aspect of the recent escalation of violence leading to the loss of lives, disabling injuries caused to thousands, and the destruction of property and livelihoods is that the hopes and expectations created by the peace process are for the moment being smothered by mutual perceptions ascribing the worst of motives to each other, thus generating intense distrust and negative and destructive emotions'.

The report concludes, among other things, that a durable peace must come through negotiations that would end the occupation; that an adequate and effective international presence needs to be established on an urgent basis to monitor and regularly report on compliance by all parties with human rights and humanitarian law standards; that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention reconvene in conference, on an urgent basis, to establish an effective international mechanism for ensuring the Convention is applied in the occupied territories; that the Israeli Security Forces (IDF) have used excessive and disproportionate force from the outset of the second intifada; that great care should be taken in future by the IDF not to inflict injury on civilians not directly involved in hostile activities, and to avoid wounding or killing children; that targeted shooting of individuals by the IDF or by settlers or by sharpshooters of either side amounts to extra-judicial execution; that closures, curfews and other restrictions on the movement of goods and people should be immediately ended; that all concerned authorities should refrain from collective punishment; that medical relief and treatment should not be impeded; that compensation should be provided to victims of unlawful use of force; that the Commission on Human Rights should convene on an urgent basis a consultation between leaders of Israeli and Palestinian civil society on a people-to-people basis in Geneva; that the Commission also should convene a round table of representatives of European civil society and Governments to discuss steps to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and to ensure greater respect for human rights by both sides; and that the Commission should establish a 'high profile periodic monitoring and reporting undertaking' to consider the degree to which the recommendations of the report are implemented.

In addition, there is a report (E/CN.4/2001/114) of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan from 8 to 16 November 2000 which concludes, among other things, that 'every effort should be made to explore the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence'; that the only durable resolution will come through peaceful negotiation that will require courage and responsibility on the part of leaders from both sides; that a durable peace requires a framework ensuring respect for human rights; and that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention should 'assume their responsibility under the Convention' as it applies to the situation in occupied Palestine.

Among a series of specific steps recommended by the High Commissioner to stop the escalation of violence are that force be used only under the principle of proportionality and that all measures be taken to avoid loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian property; that construction of new Israeli settlements should cease and those located in heavily populated Palestinian areas should be removed; that all cases of lethal force on both sides should be investigated and subjected to the process of justice; and that compensation should be provided to victims of unlawful use of force.

There is a letter (E/CN.4/2001/7) dated 23 May 2000 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter claims that the Israeli occupation forces persisted on May 19, 20, 21 with their crimes against the Palestinian people by firing live ammunition, rubber-coasted bullets and tear-gas bombs at masses of Palestinians in different parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. There are similar letters dated 8 January 2001 (E/CN.4/2001/130), and 27 February 2001 (E/CN.4/2001/136) raising further complaints about the behaviour of the Israeli Defence Forces and the Israeli occupation authorities.

There is a note by the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/29) listing all United Nations reports, issued between sessions of the Commission, that deal with the conditions in which the citizens of the Palestinian and other occupied territories are living under the Israeli occupation.

There is an update to the mission report on Israel's violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories (E/CN.4/2001/30) submitted by Giorgio Giacomelli, Special Rapporteur, to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifth Special Session. The report indicates, among others, that the Israeli military have continued to use excessive force in the form of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas against civilian demonstrators and bystanders. This disproportionate and unrestrained use of force has increased the Palestinian civilian death toll and injuries dramatically, reportedly killing some 400 Palestinians since 28 September 2000 and injuring as many as 14,000. The report said that since October, radio and print media have reported Israeli military officers admitting that the army has operationalized a policy of extrajudicial executions against Palestinians it suspects of committing attacks against Jewish settlers or Israeli soldiers in the occupied Palestinian territories. The report continues that house and property demolition has emerged as a consistent pattern.

The report notes further that according to United Nations statistics, the poverty rate across the occupied Palestinian territories has increased since the end of September 2000. The Special Rapporteur also takes note of the re-emergence of Israel's practice of administrative detention and the detention of juveniles. Interference with freedom of expression and the press has arisen since the Special Rapporteur's report of March 2000. The report notes that Israel's specific tactics affecting Palestinian economic rights remain as previously reported, with the added consequences of Israel's withholding of tax revenues due to the Palestinian Authority. The effect of human rights violations on children is both disproportionate and cumulative, according to the report. The report notes that amid the prevailing threats to Palestinians' right to life, the Palestinian health system risks collapse. The report also claims that Israel's territorial fragmentation of the occupied territories is significantly more severe now.

There is a note verbale (E/CN.4/2001/108) dated 15 September 2000 from the Permanent Delegation of the League of Arab States to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The note contains a summarized account of Israeli practices during the period from January to July 2000. The note reviews such practices as the demolition of houses, uprooting of trees, acts of aggression by settlers, acts of aggression by the Israeli army and police, Israeli schemes against Jerusalem, torture and detention of children, Israeli measures against Palestinian workers, acts of aggression against religious site and the seizure of water resources.

There is a letter (E/CN.4/2001/109) dated 2 October 2000 from the Palestinian Observer for Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter states that on 28 October September 2000, Ariel Sharon, leader of the Israel-right wing Likud party, made a manifestation, regarded as a provocation to the feelings of Muslims, to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, protected by 3,000 Israeli policemen and border guards, thus prompting acts of violence, during which the Israeli forces used firearms, causing injuries to several civilian youths among the Palestinian people. The note continues that on 29 September, the heavily armed Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and fired live ammunition at thousands of Palestinian worshippers, who were performing their Friday prayers, causing the death of seven Palestinians and injuring hundreds. On 30 September, the Israeli occupation forces continued their shooting at angry Palestinian masses in the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus, Gaza and Ramallah, wounding over 200 Palestinians, some of them seriously. Consequently, the number of victims increased on 30 September 2000 to 17 and over 700 wounded, some of them in critical condition.

There is a letter (E/CN.4/2001/110) from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter states that for the seventh consecutive day, the Israeli occupation forces persisted in their criminal war against the Palestinian people. Thus the Israeli war machinery resulted during the last week in the death of 76 Palestinians and has caused serious injury to over 1,200 Palestinians. The letter claim that the repetitive series of massacres persisting until this day affirm anew that the Government of Israel is implementing a criminal plan against the Palestinian people, in total indifference to its international obligations with regard to the respect of international law and international humanitarian law.

There is a letter (E/CN.4/2001/111) from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter states, inter alia, that on 6 October the Israeli occupation forces continued to open fire against the Palestinian people, killing 11 and wounding 419. On 7 October 2000, the Israeli occupation forces killed four and wounded dozens of others. These same authorities have also attacked 14 ambulances and have fired dozens of missiles at residential buildings in Gaza. On 8 October, the Israeli military occupation forces demolished three buildings to the south of Gaza. They also fired artillery and missiles at a residential district of Hebron, thus killing or wounding many Palestinian civilians. On the same day, two Palestinians were killed and more than 20 others were injured in Gaza.

There is a letter (E/CN.4/2001/112) dated 12 October 2000 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter states that the Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers continue their massacres against Palestinian people, using all forms of killing, including the use of internationally banned weapons. Enclosed to the letter is a list of names of Palestinians killed from 29 September to 7 October 2000.

There are letters (E/CN.4/2001/118) dated 23 November and 13 December 2000 from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letters state, inter alia, that the Israeli occupation forces and settlers continue their war against the Palestinian people, using all kinds of weapons, planes, artillery, rockets and heavy machine guns to kill Palestinians deliberately, thus causing the death until 19 November 2000 of 240 Palestinians and wounding more than 10,000 others. The Israeli occupation forces have also arrested 500 Palestinians whom they took to Israel and nobody knows what has become of them. Enclosed to the letter is a list with the names of the Palestinians who have been shot dead at the hands of Israeli troops and settlers during the period from 20 November to 9 December 2000.

There is a letter from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva (E/CN.4/2001/136) addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. The letter claims, inter alia, that since 28 September 2000 the Israeli occupation authorities have killed 400 Palestinians and injured over 20,000. These crimes, the letter said, are taking place among other crimes perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces in order to kill all aspects of the life of the Palestinians under occupation.


Statements

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In a message read out by the Secretariat, GIORGIO GIACOMELLI, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, wrote that it was important to frequently change observers, otherwise, they ended up becoming integrated into the situation they were observing. So he was giving back his mandate to the Chairman of the Commission. Apart from the grave and excessive use of force in the territories, there was a serious impact on the Palestinian economic sector. The international community had the necessary data concerning the facts in the field, and the different interpretations of the parties on the ground. What was necessary now were decisions that could help further the peace process. Without this, there was little chance for a lasting peace. There was much excellent work being done by the Commission in the face of a very difficult situation, and it was important to continue to persevere. He reiterated that it was important to frequently change observers. Therefore, he was putting his mandate into the hands of the Chairman.

JOHN DUGARD, President of the Commission of Inquiry on violations of human rights by the Israeli occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territories, presented the report of the Commission of Inquiry, saying that the people of Israel had suffered under the second intifada; soldiers and civilians had been killed by Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers. The Palestinians had also suffered, more in terms of loss of life, injuries, destruction of property, and the denial of the most basic human needs. Nor could it be denied that, whereas much of the suffering inflicted on Israelis was the result of the actions of undisciplined individuals and loosely organized groups, the suffering upon the Palestinians had been orchestrated with military precision by a vastly superior force, equipped with the most advanced military technology.

Mr. Dugard said the Commission of Inquiry had carefully considered the Israeli argument that it was engaged in an armed conflict with the Palestinian security forces and that it was therefore exempt from the constraints that applied in the case of ordinary law enforcement or policing operations. However, the Commission believed that the force used by the Israeli Defence Force was disproportionate to the threat posed to its members. The Force was responsible for the excessive use of force against civilians, both demonstrators and bystanders. In particular, it was guilty of the excessive use of force against juveniles. The Commission of Inquiry believed the manner in which Israel had bulldozed property in defence of settlements and its blockade of Palestinian towns could not be persuasively justified on grounds of national security.

Mr. Dugard said the Commission of Inquiry had recommended the establishment of an international presence in the region to monitor compliance with human rights norms and international humanitarian law standards. The Commission had found no justification for the refusal to establish such a presence in a territory that was once under international mandate and it was entitled to international assistance in the achievement of full statehood. In addition, the Commission said it did not accept that a State party to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 could unilaterally categorize a conflict or situation in such a way that the constraints of humanitarian law were abandoned and the resolutions of the Security Council were ignored.

KAMAL HOSSEIN, Member of the Inquiry Commission, said that the blockade imposed by Israel had exacerbated the living conditions of Palestinians. The closure of the territories had severely affected the economy of Palestine, leaving thousands unemployed. The Gross Domestic Product had dramatically plummeted. The national revenue had been eroded. The closure also had affected the educational and sanitary system. Hospitals were no more receiving the necessary medical equipment and medicine needed urgently to treat patients. Students were also prevented from going to school because of the security situation.

MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that since her trip to the occupied territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan last November, the situation on the ground had worsened. It was truly tragic that babies and young children on both sides had been killed and seriously wounded, the latest terrible examples being the killing two days ago of a 10-month-old Israeli baby girl, and yesterday of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy. And now, today, there was news of the killing and wounding of Israeli teenagers waiting for a ride to school. When in the name of humanity was it going to end? Who was going to have the moral courage to break this terrible cycle of violence? This was the fundamental question this Commission must address.

The crisis was of grave concern to all, especially given the historic gains that had been made and the hopes that had been raised, Mrs. Robinson said. There was also concern that, amid the tensions and the rhetoric, a key point was often lost. The international community and the Arab world had every right to criticize Israel for its continued occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory, and for its excessively harsh response to the intifada. But these points could be made more effectively if many Israelis did not believe that their existence was under threat. Israel had a right, enshrined in numerous United Nations resolutions, to exist in safety within internationally-recognized borders.

The High Commissioner urged both sides to return to the path of peace. There was no solution to be found in violence, and no sense in postponing the day when the parties returned to the table. Her visit to Israel last year was one that had been scheduled at an earlier stage, but postponed. It had focused on general cooperation on human rights issues, but, necessarily, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories emerged as the principal concern of all those concerned. The mission had been difficult, complex and politically sensitive.

In the preparation of the report, Mrs. Robinson said that efforts were made to reflect fairly the different views that had surfaced during the mission. Not all conclusions reached would be agreed upon by everyone. But it was drafted by the integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner's office. The report described a bleak human rights situation. It expressed concern at what was judged to be excessive use of force by the Israeli authorities, particularly against youthful protestors. In discussing the violence, the report set it in the broader context of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the physical and psychological affect that it had on the Palestinian population. While acknowledging the insecurity felt by many ordinary Israelis, and noting a worrying increase in drive-by shootings and other violence on the Palestinian side, the report identified the steady expansion of the settlements, the destruction without compensation of Palestinian property, and the devastating economic effect of the closures and travel restrictions as major factors underpinning the present situation.

In conclusion, Mrs. Robinson said that however troubling the present situation, it remained within the power of the main parties to take steps which would begin to reduce the tension and the hardship, and address urgently the current unacceptable level of violence.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said that the successive Governments of Israel had never observed the resolutions of the Commission, nor those of the Security Council and the General Assembly, supported in doing so by the international protection they enjoyed from the United States in the Security Council as well as in other international fora. The international community found itself incapable of dealing with the situation due to the support by the absolute great power to the State which was responsible for occupation, aggression and flagrant violations of international law, human rights and of nonobservance of the will of the international community.

Israel was the unique State in the world disobeying the will of the international community, refusing to fulfill its international commitments and to adhere to the resolutions of the UN bodies. It was also a unique State in the world occupying others' land by force for over thirty-three years, in violation of a vital and capital principle and a jus cogens of international law, the admissibility of the occupation of others' lands by force. Israel was the State which was reducing the Palestinian people to enslavement and subjecting them to its power and exploitation, which constituted a denial of their fundamental human rights.

Israel had also persisted in violating the provisions of the Geneva Convention and it had perpetrated massacres of genocide in Deir Yassin in 1948, Qibia, Semoua, Sabra and Shatila in 1982, breaking bones of Palestinians in 1989, the Al-Aqsa massacre in 1990 and the Ibrahimi shrine massacre in 1994, among other things.

FAYZA ABOULNAGA (Egypt) said the region of the Middle East was going through a grave period in which peace and security were threatened. The deterioration of the situation of Palestinian human rights was beyond all limits. These violations were a daily practice, documented by newspapers. Israel itself had documented this, and it was included in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. UNICEF and non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross had all condemned Israeli human rights violations. There was a consensus that the Israeli human rights violations ran contrary to international and humanitarian law. Israel was targeting children. There were reports of objective bodies and eyewitnesses reports that spoke in detail of Israeli human right violations, so much so that one could not close one's eyes to the state of affairs.

All members of the Commission should shoulder their responsibility. Egypt played a leading role in terms of peace in the Middle East, and now there seemed to be a dangerous slippage. Egypt had withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv. The international community could not stand idly by as these violations were going on. The role of the Commission on Human Rights was clear. It took courage to take the necessary steps. If people thought that steps should not be taken because it could jeopardize the peace process, the questions should be asked: what peace process?

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said that the report of the Special Rapporteur 'to investigate Israel's violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967', was unacceptable to Israel because it lacked any semblance of balance. It was one-sided and prejudicial. The report was lacking integrity since it did not refer to the Palestinian violence that brought about the killing of 70 Israelis. It ignored completely the violence that occurred in the centre of Israel, in its heartland, in its capital and in its major cities. The report was a compilation based on secondary and tertiary points of view. The author attributed it mostly to various media reports thereby raising a simple question: if one had the media reports, what was the added significance of the Special Rapporteur's report?

With regard to the accusation made against Israel of the excessive use of force, the reality of the circumstances under consideration was that Israeli civilians and armed forces had come under violent attacks, frequently involving live fire ammunition, by persons who did not wear uniforms. Often those attacks were initiated from within crowded civilian areas. Israel had been restrained in its response to Palestinian attacks. Israeli troops had acted in self-defence and in the defence of others. Many more attacks had involved the use of Molotov cocktails. That was an armed conflict short of war. Those perpetrating the attacks against Israelis were not civilians; they could not claim immunity from Israeli response.

Where possible, in circumstances in which Israeli troops had not been faced from the outset with lethal attacks, Israel had in fact adopted graduated methods in an attempt to control the violence. It had attempted to control violent assemblies without the use of weapons, by the use of tear gas and by the use of rubber bullets. Sadly, in a significant number of cases, the violent assemblies involved live fire attacks by the Palestinians. The Palestinians who had undertaken those attacks had not operated within any framework of law.

TAHER AL-HUSSAMI (Syrian Arab Republic) said Israel was continuing with human rights violations and it did not comply with the resolution passed by the Commission last year. It had not complied with a single United Nations resolution on this subject since it occupied the territory on 5 June 1967. This was unacceptable in every way. The Syrian Arab Golan, occupied by Israel, was one of its richest territories. There was 250 villages there. Today, the Golan had only five villages left in it which were occupied by Syrians, amounting to only 22,000 people. The Israelis had closed down and cutoff these villages, and expelled many Syrians.

UNESCO was aware of Israel's policies to impose the Hebrew language culture and history on Syrians, as well as a prohibition of Arabic. The health situation was appalling, and there had been the destruction of facilities. Children under 18 had been detained for demonstrating against the occupation. It should be stressed that the Israeli Government had an intense responsibility. These practices against the Palestinian people had gone as far as genocide. The leaders of Israel were resorting to distorting events, and using expressions to belittle the peace process. The time had come for the United States to drop its espousal of Israel. This created tension in the region, and bade evil for the future. The international community should be unified in protecting the Palestinian people. The time had come to impose necessary sanctions against Israel until there was a full withdrawal of all the occupied territories.

SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said that it had been at the forefront of every effort to bring about peace in the Middle East and had called for the resumption of peace talks based on the principle of land for peace and the withdrawal of Israel from all the territories it had occupied in 1967. Jordan was concerned at the escalation of violence in the territories and believed that Israel was responsible for the deadlock in the peace process. Israel must comply immediately with the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions. The Israeli occupation amounted to a flagrant violation of human rights and Jordan did not recognize the policy of fait accompli pursued by Israel. Jordan called upon Israel to put an end to its policy of settlements, collective punishment, economic sanctions, blockades of the territories, the uprooting of trees, the destruction of property and the excessive use of force against the Palestinian population.

Jordan regretted the refusal of Israel to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and praised the reports of the Commission of Inquiry and the High Commissioner for their objectivity. A solution to the plight of the 1948 refugees and their compensation should be given high priority. Jordan also called for investigation of all incidents of violence and the compensation of the victims and believed that international protection of the Palestinian people should continue until such time as the Palestinian people realized their right to self-determination. Finally, Jordan urged Israel to resume peace negotiations from where they had left off.

JOHAN MOLANDER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the countries associated with it, recalled that over the last twelve months, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had deteriorated markedly. Confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians had dramatic implications on the situation regarding human rights and international law in the occupied Palestinian territories, including territories administered by the Palestinian Authority. The Union reaffirmed once more its position that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War was fully applicable to the Palestinian occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and constituted binding international humanitarian law.

The European Union strongly deplored the practice of extra-judicial killings of certain Palestinians carried out by the Israeli security forces. It reiterated its call on the Israeli authorities to immediately halt that practice. Extra-judicial executions were unacceptable for any legal state system which claimed to have as its basis the rule of law. The closure of the Palestinian territories had had disproportionate and detrimental effects on the lives of many Palestinians and it had led to the loss of life. While understanding the Israeli security concerns, the Union called upon the Israeli Government to immediately put an end to the practice of closures. The Union continued to strongly oppose Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.

The human rights situation under the Palestinian Authority continued to be a matter of concern for the Union. Reports of torture and deaths in custody, impunity, cases of detention without trial, among other things, were especially worrisome. It also remained particularly concerned over executions following death sentences pronounced at summary trials with apparent disrespect for the human rights of the accused. It strongly appealed to the authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty. The Union was troubled by the Palestinian Authority imprisoning persons exercising the right to freedom of expression and assembly. It urged them to release all political prisoners detained after peaceful exercise of their civil and political rights.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said year after year the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights approached the issue of the Palestinian people, and in each of these instances, had unmistakably recognized the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, rejecting the illegal Israeli occupation of the Arab territories. They had condemned the massive and flagrant violations of human rights committed by Israel, the occupying power. The solution to the Palestinian question was the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. There would not be peace while there was no independent Palestinian State, established on fair bases, and with East Jerusalem as the capital.

The situation on human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories was grievous. The civil population felt besieged by a stronger power willing to use all its force against children and adolescents throwing stones. In order to smash the Palestinian people's just rebellion, the Israeli armed forces had not hesitated in using rubber bullets, real bullets and even heavy weapons like rockets, shot from armoured vehicles and helicopters. All this mortal machinery had been developed and perfected for years thanks to the military and technological support of the United States, its unconditional ally that acted as a judge and jury in the conflict. The Commission could not remain silent and tolerate impunity. Cuba was convinced that the only way to put an end to so much injustice was by sending a clear message of condemnation to the inhuman actions of the Israeli forces, and by doing an international action in order to obtain the application of all the resolutions adopted, as well as to obtain the immediate implementation of the proposals of the mechanisms of this Commission.

ABSA CLAUDE DIALLO (Senegal) said the question of violations of human rights in the occupied territories was undoubtedly one of the most worrying items on the agenda and recent events gave it emotional charge that could not be ignored. Senegal -- being a member of the international community, the president of the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and member of the Special Committee to investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories -- was well aware of the individual and collective responsibility incumbent on all to contribute to finding a lasting and just solution to the Palestinian question, which lay at the heart of the Middle East conflict.

Developments in the region since the 56th session of the Commission showed that the serious, massive and repeated human rights violations in Palestine and the occupied territories had reached an unprecedented level. Senegal was concerned by the excessive use of military force that had caused numerous deaths among the Palestinian population, in violation of international humanitarian law and in particular the Geneva Conventions. What would happen to the thousands of children who were victims of oppression, terrorized by the occupation forces and deprived of their right to education? The total closure of the occupied territories had plunged the Palestinian people into unbearable poverty. Added to this were the destruction of non-military objectives, including houses and fields and the retention of income taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian people had the legitimate right to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders.

GEORGE E. MOOSE (the United States) said recent developments in the region were exceedingly perilous. Prospects for peace had dimmed dramatically under a seemingly unending cycle of violence. There was a serious risk that peace negotiations could become another casualty of the violence, destroying a decade of careful and patient efforts to build the confidence required for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. It was deeply regrettable that the deliberations of the Commission, as well as the resolutions adopted year after year, had rarely reflected the complexity of the situation, and had been far from fair and impartial. Indeed, of all the countries in the world, only Israel was the subject of a separate agenda item. The US believed that selective treatment within the United Nations in matters of human rights threatened the integrity not merely of the Commission but of human rights themselves.

In the current situation, the continuing cycle of violence stood as the single greatest obstacle to the search for peace. Hopes for a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East could only be fulfilled by the actions and the efforts of the parties themselves. Only they could make the difficult decisions that could lead to peace.

MUSSAH A. ALLAFI (the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said this was a tragedy of a whole people driven out of their land and scattered all over the world. Those who remained under occupation were subjected to the worst forms of terrorism and genocide. If some said what was happening was simply just an act of violence, the facts said this was not so. This was a war of genocide -- a long, vicious war designed to eliminate everything that was Palestinian, and to create a racist, Jewish state that was planned by the Zionist movement many years ago. How could the most sophisticated military equipment be used against defenceless people who only had stones as their weapons?

The international community had not been able to provide even basic protection for the Palestinian people, and that brought into question the effectiveness of the United Nations. The Israelis every day scorned the will of the international community, and derided its resolutions. It was provided with unlimited military and material support by the United States. Last night in the Security Council, the United States vetoed a resolution that was agreed upon by all other members of the council. The report of Mary Robinson detailed Israeli violations, some of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times. Those who support the occupation should stop their support. Libya was with the Palestinians.


Rights of Reply

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A Representative of Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said the Representative of Israel had tried to defend his State speaking of events of the last 48 hours from which Israel had suffered. The Palestinians, however, had suffered for 48 years from Israeli practices. The Israeli Representative had asked the Commission to be sympathetic with Israel, a country which occupied territory by force and perpetrated crimes in violation of international law.

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For information media - not an official record