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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS


5 May 2003

COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
HEARS FROM NGOS ON CONDITIONS IN ISRAEL AND BRAZIL


The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon heard statements from a number of non-governmental organizations which focused on the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in Israel and Brazil.

The two countries, which are among the States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, are scheduled to present their periodic reports to the Committee at this session.

Several non-governmental organizations said that economic and social conditions in Brazil had been deteriorating, with more people becoming marginalized and socially excluded. Many speakers were of the view that the current Government should made structural changes to bring the situation back to normal, adding that hunger and poverty were increasing among women, citizens of African descent and indigenous peoples.

Many Committee Experts also expressed their views concerning the high number of street children in Brazil, gender inequality, abortions, and the situation of indigenous peoples, among other things.

Concerning Israel, several speakers decried Israel's violation of Palestinian rights to housing through the demolition of houses and restrictions on the construction of new ones. Israel's restriction of the right of Palestinians to water was also addressed by many speakers.

A Committee Expert said that the situation of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians should also be highlighted while talking about the violations of Palestinian rights in the occupied territories.

The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations delivered statements: Federation of Associations for Social and Educational Assistance; Commission Justice and Peace; FIAN-Brazil; Brazilian Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Platform; International Women's Rights Action Watch; World Organization Against Torture; Latin American Committee for the Rights of Women; Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE); Statistics Centre of the Catholic Bishops Conference; Center for Economic and Social Rights; and the Regional Council for Unrecognised Villages in the Negev.

The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, also spoke.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m., it will take up substantive issues arising in the implementation of the International Covenant.

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Statements on the Situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Israel

MILOON KOTHARI, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to adequate housing, said that his report contained detailed information on the situation of the right to adequate housing in the occupied Palestinian territories. The report had also enumerated facts about how the Israeli forces were violating the rights of Palestinians to adequate housing through their denial of the construction of buildings, their destruction of houses belonging to Palestinians and their destruction of schools and hospitals. The report had also made reference to the escalation of violence since the beginning of the crisis in Iraq as the State of Israel had mounted its violence against Palestinians. His report had demonstrated how the Israeli forces had used the crisis to escalate their violence against people in the occupied territories. In conclusion, he said that it was striking that the "road map to peace" presented to Israel and Palestinian authorities did not contain the words "human rights", and the Committee should consider the situation.

MALCOLM LANGFORD, of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), said that it was vital to recall that when Israel was created in 1948, the majority Palestinian population had owned more than 90 per cent of the land, houses and properties in historic Palestine while Jews possessed less than 10 per cent. Today, that figure was almost reversed, thanks to the massive housing, land and property rights violations and other crimes carried out by Israel against Palestinian refugees. Successive Israeli governments had introduced laws that had sought to give some form of formal legitimacy to the massive property grab by Israel. The law on acquisition of property should be repealed to allow Palestinians to have access to their lands. Land and property belonging to Palestinian refugees should be restituted.

LUCY MAIR, of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, said that the right of Palestinians to water had been violated by the Israeli authorities through a series of military orders which had allowed Israel to control all joint Israeli-Palestinian ground and surface water sources since 1967. Israel had increased the amount of water it pumped from the occupied Palestinian territories for its population inside Israel and for the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Access to water sources had been greatly impacted by attacks from the Israeli military during the current intifida. The Israeli army had damaged the water network in 255 communities. Recently, the Israeli army had destroyed two wells in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, that provided nearly half of the city's drinking water. Drivers of water tankers and water maintenance personnel had been physically attacked and threatened by the Israeli army and illegal settlers.

LUCY MAIR, of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, said that Palestinians had been subjected to Israel's restrictions of their right to freedom of movement, their right to education and their right to housing, among other things. The external closure of the territories had deterred Palestinians from entering the territory from the neighbouring countries. Internally, villages and towns had been isolated with Palestinians unable to move from one place to another. Some places were physically blocked with the use of roadblocks. The Israel army had continued to violate Palestinians' right to housing by destroying their houses and restricting the building of new ones. The military forces were shooting at people, including newborn babies. Patients seeking medical assistance were dying at Israeli checkpoints because they were not given access to hospitals. The Palestinians were also denied access to their agricultural lands.

MAHA QUPTY, of the Regional Council of the Palestinian Bedouin Unrecognised Villages and the Arab Association for Human Rights, updated the Committee on five new developments concerning Israeli practices towards the residents of the unrecognised villages in the Negev, which demonstrated Israel's violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Government was planning the segregation and concentration of the Palestinian Bedouins through laws restricting their movement. Those laws aimed at rendering the Palestinian Bedouin community in Israel internal refugees in their own homeland. Such discriminatory and inhumane policies had continued to guide all planners, decision-makers and institutions in Israel during the last five decades.


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