Since its establishment in December 1968 by the General Assembly, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories has been following developments concerning human rights in the territories occupied by Israel as a result of the hostilities of June 1967. It has reported regularly to the Secretary-General in accordance with its mandate and those reports have been transmitted to the General Assembly. At each session the General Assembly renewed the mandate of the Special Committee, requesting it to continue with its investigations.
Ever since its inception the Special Committee has, directly or through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, requested the co-operation of the Government of Israel in the execution of its mandate. The Government of Israel, for reasons that it has stated in the General Assembly, has refused its co-operation to the Special Committee, including access by the Special Committee to the occupied territories, necessary for on-the-spot examination of the numerous allegations of violations of human rights received by the Special Committee. The members of the Special Committee are Sri Lanka (Chairman), Senegal and Yugoslavia.
The Special Committee, on 22 January 1982, requested the Secretary-General to establish contact with the Israeli authorities and to use his good offices to make another effort aimed at securing their co-operation. On 23 February the Special Committee was informed that the Government of Israel had not changed its position.
At its last series of meetings, from 18 to 22 January 1982, the Special Committee reviewed developments in the occupied territories and, in particular, the evolution of the situation concerning the civilian population in the occupied Golan Heights who were the subject of a decision by the Government of Israel purporting to extend Israeli law to these occupied territories, in other terms, annexation.
The situation of the civilian population in the Golan Heights continues to give cause for serious concern, particularly in light of a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on 19 March 1982, to the effect that the Israeli authorities did not allow the representative of that organization freedom of movement and contact with the local population in the course of the one visit allowed by the authorities to ICRC; it is to be recalled that the blockade in the Golan commenced on 12 February 1982.
Since that time the Special Committee noted a continuing worsening of the situation in other parts of the occupied territories, culminating in the events that took place last week when a number of deaths were reported and violence spread throughout the occupied West Bank and the occupied Gaza Strip.
Following the dismissal on 18 March 1982 of the Mayor and Municipal Council of the town of Ai-Bireh by the occupation authorities, strikes and demonstrations took place in several West Bank towns, provoking clashes with Israeli troops and leading to the death of a number of demonstrators. That was followed on 25 March by the summary dismissal of the Mayor of Nablus (Bassam Shaka'a) and the Mayor of Ramallah (Karim Khalaf), again leading to further resistance by the local population and corresponding intervention by the Israeli army.
The Special Committee notes that the situation at present remains volatile, and the level of determination in the resistance of the civilian population to the occupation clearly reaching limits that would threaten further violence.
The Special Committee considers that the situation in the occupied territories cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further. The civilian population in those territories has been under military occupation for nearly 15 years in the course of which respect for their human rights has eroded steadily.
In each of its reports to the General Assembly the Special Committee has emphasized that aspect and has drawn the attention of the international community to the danger that that situation represents, not only with regard to the non-respect for human rights of the civilian population but also with regard to international peace and security.
The latest developments indicate the gravity of the situation and the Special Committee, in the face of such a serious situation, feels obliged to take the exceptional step (never before in the past) of issuing this communiqué to alert the international community to the danger that it faces and to encourage it to exercise all measures at its disposal to halt and reverse that process.
In view of the foregoing, the Special Commiteee considers that it has become even more imperative that the Committee has access to the occupied territories. The Chairman of the Special Committee met the Secretary-General on 26 March (at the Chairman's request) and urged the Secretary-General to use his good offices to secure access by the Special Committee to the occupied territories.
In the course of the daily press briefing on 29 March 1982 by the official spokesman of the Secretary-General, it was stated that the Chairman of the Special Committee met with the Secretary-General on Friday, 26 March, and expressed to the Secretary-General his concern and that of the Special Committee at the situation and the recent developments in the West Bank.