HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS SPECIAL SESSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES
Council to Vote Tomorrow on Draft Resolution
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held its first special session to consider the latest escalation of the situation in the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories. The Council will vote tomorrow morning on a draft resolution.
The special session was held following a request made by 21 Council members at the end of the first session of the Council, which concluded on Friday, 30 June. The request for the special session, presented by Tunisia, was supported by the following Member States: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.
John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said that he had visited the occupied Palestinian territory in mid-June, shortly before the present crisis erupted, but then, too, the human rights situation had been appalling. In the past week the situation had worsened. In Gaza, people were without water, food was scarce and medicines were running out. Operation “Summer Rains”, as Israel had cynically labelled its siege of Gaza, offended the prohibition on collective punishment. It likewise violated the prohibition on “measures of intimidation and terrorism” contained in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while the arrest of Hamas Cabinet ministers and legislators seemed to constitute the “taking of hostages” prohibited in Article 34.
Speakers expressed deep concern about the continuing deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular as a result of the current Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip, and the use of force by the Israeli troops against the Palestinian civilian population, as well as the devastating air raids on Palestinian vital public infrastructure and utilities. Many recalled that addressing urgent human rights situations promptly was part of the Human Rights Council’s mandate, and called upon the Council to take urgent and effective measures to live up to its responsibility. Several speakers noted that the international community was looking to the Council for its appropriate response to violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, and that if it did not respond not only was it failing its first test, there was also a danger that the violence could escalate into wider conflicts and instability in the region.
Several speakers said the current developments taking place on the ground suggested a systematic pattern of violations of human rights law by Israel, in targeting civilians and civilian infrastructures. Such acts served as collective punishment, war crimes, and a violation under international human rights law.
Many speakers specifically called for the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, as well as the numerous Palestinian ministers and other officials that had been arrested. Some speakers felt the safe release of Corporal Shalit would be the best way to progress towards lasting peace round. Indeed, a return by the parties to the peace process was seen by most speakers as the only option to allow for a durable peace based on a two-State solution.
The overwhelming majority of speakers appeared to favour the call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to send a special mission to investigate the situation on the ground and report back to the Council.
Only two speakers appeared to challenge the need to hold a special session on the situation, the United States and Israel. The United States felt that a special session should not focus only on one aspect of the situation, precipitated by the kidnapping of a young Israeli soldier, while ignoring the role of Hamas in the kidnapping, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority Government to denounce terror, while Israel said the Palestinians themselves had provoked the current situation by abducting an Israeli soldier.
Taking part in the debate were the representatives of Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Tunisia, on behalf of the Arab Group, Algeria, on behalf of the African Group, Mali, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Zambia, Japan, South Africa, the Russian Federation, Morocco, Senegal, India, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Switzerland, Bahrain, Finland, on behalf of the European Union, France, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Israel, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the League of Arab States, New Zealand, Chile, Egypt, Colombia, Norway, Sudan, the United States, Libya, Australia, Yemen, and Nicaragua.
When the Human Rights Council reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 6 July, it will immediately move to take action on the draft resolution on the situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, before adjourning its first special session.
Presentation by Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said that, at the outset he wished to make it clear that he had every sympathy for Corporal Gilad Shalit; and indeed, for all Israel’s young soldiers compelled to serve in the army of the occupying power. He had visited the occupied Palestinian territory in mid-June, shortly before the present crisis erupted, but then, too, the human rights situation had been appalling. Both the West Bank and Gaza were impoverished as a result of Israel’s unlawful withholding of Palestinian tax revenues and the Quartet’s decision to withhold aid. Since 1994 the occupied Palestinian territory had become heavily dependent on foreign aid. Consequently, the withholding of aid, coupled with the prohibition on the transfer of money to the Palestinian Authority, its agencies and projects, imposed by the United States-controlled international banking system, had in effect amounted to economic sanctions. Israel was in violation of countless United Nations resolutions and refused to comply with the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The Quartet had taken no action against Israel and had failed to even remind Israel of its obligations under the Advisory Opinion. But now it had, in effect, imposed economic sanctions – not only on the Palestinian Authority, but on the Palestinian people.
In the past week the situation had worsened, Mr. Dugard said. In Gaza people were without water, food was scarce and medicines were running out. Two hundred thousand households were without electricity due to the destruction of power plants. Over 1,500 rounds of artillery had been showered on Gaza. Operation “Summer Rains”, as Israel had cynically labelled its siege of Gaza, offended the prohibition on collective punishment. It likewise violated the prohibition on “measures of intimidation and terrorism” contained in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while the arrest of Hamas Cabinet ministers and legislators seemed to constitute the “taking of hostages” prohibited in Article 34. Israel portrayed the military offensive against Gaza as a response to Kassam rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. Deplorable as such Palestinian actions might be, they did not warrant the disproportionate retaliation they had prompted. Here, too, Israel was in violation of humanitarian law.
Mr. Dugard had two final points: first, it had to be reiterated that it was not the Hamas Government that was being punished, but the Palestinian people; second, there was a desperate need for a minimum respect for human rights and humanitarian law. That could only be achieved by a resumption of peace talks. There was a need for honest brokers in the present crisis; the European Union and the United Nations were the bodies best qualified for such a task. Whether they could act as honest brokers while remaining members of the Quartet, however, was questionable.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that General Assembly resolution 60/251 gave the Human Rights Council the mandate to respond promptly to emergencies. Such an emergency was unfolding now in Palestine and the Council had to take measures to stop it. The crisis was deepening. The new developments had brought the two sides to the brink of war. The crisis should be averted immediately so that the region did not descend further into an irreversible cycle of violence. The international community should act now to avoid a bigger crisis.
Pakistan said that the Israeli response was overwhelming. Disproportionate force was being used in violation of international law. Complete insensitivity had been shown to human suffering. Collective punishment of the Palestinians broke humanitarian law and targeted unarmed civilians. In the past week, continuous military strikes against the impoverished people, infrastructure, roads, bridges and power stations had left Palestinians devastated. In the interest of peace and stability, should they not preserve and protect Palestinian institutions and infrastructure? Why were they being attacked? The Council’s voice on this issue had to be clear: this was an opportunity for the High Commissioner to urgently visit the region and intercede. The crisis portended to engulf the region in flames. Her visit might save innocent lives, protect human rights and salvage some hope for peace. The Organization for the Islamic Conference called for immediate negotiations to resolve the current crisis.
SAMIR LABIDI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Arab Group had been following the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory as a result of Israel’s persistent attacks against Palestinian infrastructure and the Palestinian people. International humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, had repeatedly expressed their concern on the Israeli attacks that threatened the lives of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli attacks at Palestinian infrastructure, roads, hospitals and other buildings was another concern. The Arab Group had made repeated calls on Israel to refrain from those attacks. The current military operations led by Israel amounted to collective punishment, and had been decried by the Arab Group and international humanitarian organizations alike.
The Israeli occupying forces had stepped up their attacks to unprecedented levels, in defiance of international law. The Israeli occupying forces had carried out attacks against civilian infrastructure, including government buildings and the university. The Arab Group called on the international community to take a firm stance in order to get Israel to respond to international legality and to return to the peace process. They had to avoid attacking civilians. The Palestinian people had to have their rights, in accordance with international humanitarian law and Security Council resolutions. They needed to put an end to these inhuman Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territory.
IDRIS JAZAIRY (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group expressed its deep concern about the continuous deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular as a result of the current Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip, and the use of force by the Israeli troops against the Palestinian civilian population and of their devastating air raids on Palestinian vital public infrastructure and utilities. Those acts constituted serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. The African Group expressed deep indignation and condemned those acts vigorously. The African Group also denounced the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian members of Government and Parliamentarians and of numerous other civlinas imprisoned under the dire conditions. It voiced its urgent demand for their liberation forthwith and called on the Israeli occupation authorities to put an end immediately to their oppressive practices.
The African Group expressed its full support and solidarity with the Palestinian people in the exercise of its inalienable national rights in particular its rights to self-determination, to return to its lands, to recover its belongings and to live in peace and dignity in an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. It reaffirmed its support to the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in compliance with principles of international law and with all the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly. It reiterated the Banjul Summit Declaration of the Executive Council on Palestine and the Middle East.
SEKOU KASSE (Mali) said Mali had already expressed its grave concern at the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory during the first session of the Human Rights Council. The arbitrary arrest of civilians and senior Palestinian dignitaries, and the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure by Israel was also a grave concern. Mali appealed to the parties to the conflict to respect the fundamental freedoms of Palestinian people. Mali called upon the international community, particularly the Quartet, to take all measures to impose a dialogue in order to implement the Roadmap and to find a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
HSU KING BEE (Malaysia) said that, given the rapidly deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, Malaysia had joined the call for the convening of this special session. Malaysia fully associated itself with the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and called upon the Human Rights Council to take urgent and effective measures to live up to its responsibility. The international community was looking to the Council for its appropriate response to the gross and flagrant violations of human rights of the Palestinian people. The ongoing Israeli military aggression, including bombardment and wanton destruction of infrastructure, government buildings, water and power plants in the occupied Palestinian territory, arbitrary arrests and detention of democratically elected Palestinian ministers and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, as well as other Palestinian officials and civilians, were indeed excessive, disproportionate and deplorable.
Malaysia therefore strongly urged the Council to make a clear and unequivocal pronouncement on this grave situation by calling on Israel to immediately cease all violations, in particular its military aggression, and release all those who had been arbitrarily detained. This aggression should be stopped before it could escalate into wider conflicts and instability in the region. In that context, Malaysia supported the draft resolution that had been tabled for adoption by the Council.
ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) said Azerbaijan expressed its serious concern with the latest tragic spiral of violence and serious degradation of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Rejecting all acts of hostage-taking and abduction as unacceptable in principle and harming the already fragile prospects of peace in the region, Azerbaijan was alarmed by the recent instances of that practice, in particular by the arrest of the numerous Palestinian senior officials, including parliamentarians in Gaza, that further deteriorated the situation on the ground. Azerbaijan deplored the destruction of the infrastructure, water networks, power plants and bridges in Palestine.
Civilians should stop being the objects of collateral damage of the present escalation. Azerbaijan supported the peace process, and was in favour to its continuation. It called for the end of military operations on the ground and urged the parties to immediately engage in peaceful talks with the view to doing everything possible to eliminate the consequences of the latest developments.
LOVE MTESA (Zambia) said there was no the time to make speeches; action had to be taken. The Palestinian people were suffering due to the actions of the Israeli military in occupied Palestine. Zambia’s policy was that both Israel and Palestine should live in peace. Both peoples had the same ancestors -- they were the children of Abraham. The voice for reason should prevail in the region – a reason for justice. Zambia would vote for any resolution that would bring a solution to the conflict.
SHIGERU ENDO (Japan) said that the Government of Japan shared the view expressed in the Chairman’s Statement issued on the occasion of the G-8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 29 June, and expressed its deep regret at the deterioration of the situation caused by the recent violence by Palestinian extremist groups and by the military operations of the Israel Defence Force. Japan had called on the Palestinian Authority to bring to an end the violence by Palestinian extremist groups and to make every possible effort to secure the immediate release of the Israeli soldier abducted on 25 June. At the same time, Japan called on the Government of Israel to avoid actions that might cause civilian casualties and damage civilian facilities. The Government of Japan was concerned that Israel had detained elected members of the Palestinian Government and legislature.
Japan had a strong commitment to the human rights situation in the region, and strong sympathy for the Palestinian people. It had also extended a substantial amount of assistance to them. However, the present text being presented for adoption was one-sided and was not constructive. Furthermore, Japan should have been consulted on that draft resolution. The way business had been conducted served neither the newly formed Council nor the finding of a solution to this legitimate issue. For those reasons, Japan could not support the draft resolution.
G.J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said foreign domination and occupation was a denial of the right to self-determination and a curtailment of an individual’s basic rights. The continued occupation of the Palestinian territory by Israel was a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Palestinians, as expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights. The South African Government viewed with deep concern the continuing escalation of violence that had inflicted humanitarian suffering on the Palestinian people and caused extensive destruction of critical physical infrastructure and urged the immediate cessation of that violence. South African condemned the Israeli Government’s policy of collective punishment as a direct violation of international humanitarian law.
VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation was seriously concerned about the worsening situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The military operation by Israel on the Palestinian territories was the major cause of the deteriorating situation. Israel must refrain from the disproportionate use of force. The Palestinians, on the other hand, must cease extremist actions. The Russian Federation urged the release of the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped, as a necessity, as well as the release of the Palestinian ministers and officials.
The Russian Federation was also concerned by the worsening economic and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. It was inadmissible for Israel to target civilians. Collective punishment of the Palestinian people was against international law. The situation was worsening from day to day, hour to hour, and was in danger of spiralling out of control. For that reason it was necessary to take concrete measures now.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said the international community was following closely the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, after the Israeli occupation force stepped up its aggressive campaign against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian infrastructure, targeting innocent civilians and destroying a large number of essential facilities like power and water plants, bridges and main roads. This escalation was a clear and striking violation of international humanitarian law and international treaties and had direct negative effects on the daily life of the Palestinian people and could only further threaten security and peace in the region. Morocco had already condemned the escalation of the violence in the region and particularly the actions taken by the Israel military forces. The situation in the Middle East could not be solved by any military confrontation but only by a just and peaceful solution based on legal international decisions. Morocco stressed the importance of returning to the negotiating table to reach a just solution which would ensure stability and peace in the region and ensure the full rights of the Palestinian people and their State with their capital in Jerusalem.
OUSMANE CAMARA (Senegal) said that Senegal would like to express its grave concern over the recent developments in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Council had to call ultimately on both parties to refrain from continuing the cycle of violence and to exercise restraint. It was also vital for the international community to urgently tackle the ongoing deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Already in January the Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory, John Dugard, had called their attention to the dire situation there. Senegal urged him to continue with his honourable mission.
Today, in convening this first special session, which Senegal unreservedly supported, the Council needed to achieve tangible results. Senegal would continue, as in the past, to support initiatives to achieve peace in the Middle East. In the view of Senegal, the freeing of Palestinian detainees held by Israel would be a vital first step in relaunching the peace process.
SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India) said India condemned all acts of violence and terrorism, provocative statements and actions, as well as threats and intimidation. The volatile and fragile situation in the Middle East demanded careful handling and utmost restraint. It was unfortunate that Israel should have chosen to resort to military actions and threats in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier last week, rather than employ diplomacy to resolve the matter. India was particularly concerned about the targeting of innocent civilians and government officials by the Israeli security forces. India called on all sides to immediately cease acts of violence, observe maximum restraint, and respect human rights.
ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that Saudi Arabia associated itself with the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and by Tunisia, on behalf of the Arab Group. The Council was now facing a new challenge to prove itself and to stand in the face of any attempt to attack its path and its credibility. It could do that by protecting the Palestinian people, its government and its infrastructure. Israel’s arrests of ministers and deputies, as well as innocent civilians, were all violations of international law and international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War and United Nations resolutions on the subject. In doing so, Israel was creating a climate of tension and instability.
Saudi Arabia said that the disregard of the lives of men, women and children and the destruction of infrastructure was the concern of the Council. Today the moral and ethical values of the Council were being tested, to promote and protect human rights whenever and wherever they were violated in the world. There had been attempts, initiatives, the Madrid Agreements, the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap. All of those were being challenged by Israel’s actions. Israel, if it wanted peace and stability in the region, would have to take a constructive, and not a destructive, approach.
TOUFIQ ALI (Bangladesh) said Bangladesh was deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in the region. The targeting of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military forces was unacceptable. Israel had hampered the distribution of medicine to the Palestinian people. Bangladesh supported the position expressed by other delegations with regard to the situation in the Middle East and would support the draft resolution on the situation.
SHA ZUKANG (China) said that recently the Palestinian economic crisis had worsened. The steady escalation of violence between the two parties, in particular the military operation launched by Israel in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, risked further exacerbating the situation. China recognized the positive role of countries, such as Egypt, to work towards a solution, and China was willing to work with the international community to assist in that process. Finally, China welcomed the decision of the Quartet and the international community to provide assistance to the Palestinian people, and would like to see an early solution to the crisis in Palestine.
JORGE A. FERRER RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) said Israel had been launching an indiscriminate campaign of killings of Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian goods, in violation of international laws. All should condemn the brutal violation of human rights by Israel. Israel had been acting with impunity and was doing so as it was supported by a power that was financing its activities. The Israeli army had been committing serious and grave human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. The terrorist acts perpetuated by Israel should be condemned. An energetic resolution should be adopted by the Council against Israel.
I. GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia) said Indonesia would like to register its grave concern in the wake of the latest spate of developments in Gaza. In a recent series of disproportionate attacks by Israel which constituted a serious breach of international humanitarian law, major public facilities had been destroyed. The acts of indiscriminate killings and innumerable civilian casualties, as well as the kidnapping of at least 64 Palestinians, had precipitated the impending human rights and humanitarian crisis. Indonesia appealed to both sides to resolve the issue of the kidnapping through a negotiated solution. This display of excessive military might and collective punishment in the form of the destruction of civilian installations warranted collective action as it caused a grave humanitarian impact, clearly violating international law.
TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said Canada was concerned by the humanitarian implications of current actions in the Gaza and called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to fully respect international humanitarian laws and principles, including ensuring the protection of civilians and facilitating the safe transport of supplied to them by humanitarian agencies. There was a responsibility on the part of the international community, the parties and the governments in the regions to do their utmost to make constructive efforts to move that long-standing conflict to a peaceful solution so as to ensure the rights and well being of all peoples living in the region.
SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil) said that Brazil was one of the countries that had signed the request for this special session of the Human Rights Council. The international community, with the engagement of the United Nations, had to play a relevant role in the context of the resumption of the peace negotiations between the parties. The Human Rights Council could contribute to the debate on constructive and peaceful solutions, with special emphasis on the promotion of dialogue.
Brazil was deeply concerned with the increasing deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinian population. The Brazilian Government deplored the sufferings imposed on the civilian Palestinian population, with no access to electricity and potable water. Hamas, for its part, had to be called upon to give up the use of force, to recognize the right to existence of the State of Israel, to comply with the previous agreements in the framework of the peace process, including the road map, and to promote reconciliation, beginning with the release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. Both parties had to have as their main objective the responsibility to protect civil society and must refrain themselves, in any situation, from resorting to collective punishment.
RICARDO GONZALEZ (Uruguay) said Uruguay was concerned about the resurgence of new violence in the Middle East. It might not be within the Council that the conflict was to be resolved for the conflict had been going on for many years. It was unacceptable that civilians were left without any help. The civilian population should not be dragged into the conflict and used as a target. Israel should secure the population from any armed conflict. Uruguay would emphasise that the debate in the Council should not be converted into a political conflict and that all solutions should be adopted by consensus.
BLAISE GODET (Switzerland) said Switzerland was following with grave concern the dangerous escalation, which had been developing for some time in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. The consequences of such an escalation were dramatic for the civilian population, which was enduring unacceptable suffering. The spiral of violence threatened to render the necessary dialogue more difficult between the two parties. It was the responsibility of the Council to play its role of human rights protection and prevent violations.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) said the report by the Special Rapproteur had given a good picture of the situation in the region. Bahrain was concerned about Israel’s insistence on continuing its violation of the human rights of Palestinians. By killing and arresting Palestinians, Israel was committing grave human rights violations. Because of the Israel practices, hospitals had become poor in medial facilities, and the lack of electricity had exacerbated the situation. Israel should respect the relevant international norms and that of the Geneva Convention on the protection of the civilian population in time of conflict.
VESA HIMANEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union was extremely concerned about the situation that had evolved over the last week between Israelis and Palestinian and called on all parties to abstain from actions that were in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. The European Union reminded all parties of their responsibility to protect civilian lives. It called for the unconditional release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier. The European Union was particularly concerned about the detention of elected members of the Palestinian Government and legislature and called for the initiation of proceedings for their release.
The European Union emphasized the primacy of diplomatic means and reaffirmed its conviction that only a negotiated two-State solution could bring peace and security to the Israeli and Palestinian people. A return to the peace process and to the implementation of the road map was therefore imperative.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France) said the resumption of the peace negotiations was the only solution to promote peace in the region. The destruction of Palestinian infrastructure was unacceptable. The Palestinian Authority should stop launching rockets against the Israeli civilian population. Both sides should accept and implement the conditions enumerated in the Quartet proposals. The arrest by Israel of the members of the Palestinian Government was an attempt to annihilate the political structure of the Palestinian Authority.
GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon) said that Lebanon associated itself with the statements made by Tunisia and Pakistan. The Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories were undergoing collective punishment by Israel, the occupying power. If this situation continued, the world would see war in the Middle East. An urgent and immediate solution was needed as many lives were at stake.
Lebanon wanted to mention a few blatant and deliberate violations by the Israeli Government of the rights of the Palestinian people enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right not to be subject to torture; the right to equal protection under the law; the right not to be subject to arbitrary arrest; the right to a nationality; and the right to health, food, clothing, housing and medical care, among others. Lebanon called on the Human Rights Council to adopt the draft resolution on Palestine and to join in helping to find a solution and to stop the current crisis.
MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine) said the ongoing Israeli military offensive, dubbed as “Summer Rains”, in the occupied Palestinian territory constituted the most abhorrent form of breaches against humanity. Israel claimed that it was undertaking such a military operation in self-defence. Was it self-defence to make an entire population suffer for one Israeli soldier, who was captured from a military base firing missiles against Palestinian civilians? The issue of the capture soldier was but a pretext used to fulfil Israel’s premeditated intent to carry out its aggressions against the Palestinian people and impose collective punishment on them. The ostensible aim of that arrest of the people’s representatives was to undermine the Palestinian Authority and its institutions and create an unstable political climate conducive for Israel to impose its unilateral policies and plans on the Palestinian people. Calls for the release of the Israeli soldier brought to the forefront the plight of thousands of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, including women and children who were being kept under the most inhumane conditions.
The Israeli military attacks were in direct violation of international conventions that called to avoid indiscriminate harm to civilians. Israel had evicted 25,000 civlinas from their homes in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia rendering them homeless. The dire human rights and humanitarian consequences of the Israeli military operations further aggravated the acute crisis arising from the economic siege imposed on the Palestinian people. The list of grave breaches by Israel of international law was endless, including Israel’s unabated confiscation of land, building of settlements, construction of the Wall on Palestinian land, severe restrictions on movement and border closure. He called upon the international community to work towards a negotiated solution to the current crisis.
BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his frankness and his sincerity. It was surprising, Syria said, that acts of destruction and murder, acts of violence being conducted by the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people, were acts that were continuing in defiance of the will of the international community. Indeed, the Council had been able to take a resolution on considering the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, but Syria regretted that that decision had not been taken by consensus.
Syria said that there was a diabolical project to eliminate a whole people, to deprive them of water and electricity. There was an Arab saying, that a massacre of a man in a forest is a crime, but the massacre of a whole people was an even worse one. How could they talk of balance when there were tens of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs languishing in Israeli prisons for decades now? The collective punishment implemented by Israel was the sole example of State terrorism in the world today. They had rejected Nazism and fascism, so why then did the international community not want to protect the victims of the Israeli occupation. An investigative mission was needed to carry out a real inquiry into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. If not, the Member States would be sending out a message that they could do nothing and that the Human Rights Council was just for talking.
ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel) said the request to convene the special session of the Council and at this particular juncture had been deliberately made for political reasons, that request planned and premeditated beforehand formed part of the Arab plan to politicise the Council and to further attempt to put Israel in the dock. He rejected all allegations that were addressed against his country with the aim of denigrating Israel. It was not Israel that was showering rockets into the Israeli civilians. It was not Israel that was auditing and killing children. The Palestinian militants were expressing their joy before their televisions when Israel civilians were killed. It was the Hamas Government that took side with the terrorists when they abducted the Israeli soldier. The right to life of every person in the region should be equally respected.
The Palestinians themselves had provoked the current situation by abducting an Israeli soldier. Israel did not decide to return to Gaza once it left last year. The release of the soldier would end the conflict. It was an absurd situation in which the Council convened into urgent session, ignoring the rights of one side and holding a special meeting to defend the rights of the other side.
ALIREZA MOAIYERI (Iran) said Iran supported the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The current developments taking place on the ground suggested a systematic pattern of violations of human rights law by Israel, in targeting civilians and civilian infrastructures. Such acts served as collective punishment, war crimes, and a violation under international human rights law. At a time when the international community strived for the promotion and protection of human rights, this body had to address the grave and continuing situation of human rights violation in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Council could not turn a blind eye to such a critical situation. Such a failure would only serve to bolster the occupying power’s impunity. The Council should live up to its duty to prevent Israel from continuing to violate human rights by sending an immediate mission to the area and having it report back to the Council.
MOHAMED ABDULLA AL DEHAIMI (Qatar) said Qatar was concerned by the current situation that was committed against Palestinians. Women and children were being traumatized by the continued violation of the human rights. The actions taken by Israel were not commensurate to the pretended demand of the release of the abducted Israeli soldier. In order to activate the situation, the Council should send the Special Rapproteur to the occupied territories.
DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said that Kuwait called on the international community to take effective measures to stop the current Israeli aggression. The Human Rights Council was being accused of excessive politicisation. In that regard, he quoted a passage from an Israeli journalist, who challenged the double standards in the Israeli press and asked by what right Israel was killing innocent civilians.
NAJLA AL QASSIMI (United Arab Emirates) said the deteriorating situation and the suffering of the Palestinian people called for the convening of the current session. The international community could not condone the killing and destructive acts by Israel. The acts committed by Israel had no parallel. It had been massacring the people indiscriminately. The Council should deal the matter with great concern and without double standards.
SAAD ALFARARGI (Arab League) said that the unprecedented worsening of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was the reason they had called this special session. If they accepted the situation and did nothing about it, that was tantamount to abandoning all the international human rights principles, including the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The problem arose from the fact that Israel still occupied the Palestinian territories. The problem arose from Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Israel had risen to the highest level of human rights violations. The Human Rights Council had to live up to the role assigned to it, or else it would lose its reason for existing.
The Arab League called for the release of detainees, including the Palestinian Authority ministers and other Palestinian officials. Israel claimed that it was the only democracy in the region, but what it had done was to arrest democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian Authority. If they did not wish to reap the whirlwind they must not sow the wind.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said New Zealand was concerned about the escalating level of violence between Israel and the Palestinian people; and condemned the loss of innocent civilian lives on both sides and would call on all parties to exercise restraint and abide by international law. He called on those holding the Israeli soldier hostage to facilitate his release. At the same time, New Zealand was deeply concerned at the detention by Israel of democratically elected members of the Palestinian Parliament.
JUAN ANTONIO MARTABIT (Chile) said that Chile wanted to reiterate its grave concern over the spiralling violence that was affecting the region. Chile could only express its deep condemnation of the hostage taking and the use of disproportionate force in the occupied Palestinian territory. Chile rejected the use of violence, which was an obstacle to the efforts of the international community to achieve a durable peace in the Middle East. Chile said that it was only through the strict respect for the norms and principles of international humanitarian law that the parties would find a peaceful solution to the conflict, and it called upon them to fulfil their obligations under United Nations resolutions.
OMAR SHALABY (Egypt) said the convening of this urgent session of the Council was necessary due to the situation in the Middle East and the occupied territories where Israel had been committing human rights violations. The Israeli military had been assassinating and abducting Palestinian civilians and government officials. The acts committed by Israel were unacceptable and should be condemned. It was the role of the Council to protect and promote human rights. The Council should help the Palestinian people to live in peace and security.
CLEMENCIA FORERO UCRÓS (Colombia) said that Colombia would like to express deep concern at the suffering of the Palestinian people and convey its solidarity with them. There was a pressing need to address the basic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population, especially women and children. Colombia called for a halt to the violence and a return to peace negotiations based on a two-State solution and recent General Assembly resolutions.
ASTRID HELLE AJAMAY (Norway) said Norway was deeply concerned about the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Norway called on Israel and the Palestinians to show the utmost restraint and to allow time for negations so that a peaceful solution could be found. The abduction of the Israeli soldier and the killing of a young Israeli settler were unacceptable acts to be deplored. Norway called for the immediate release of the Israeli soldier. Norway deeply deplored the arrest by Israel of lawfully elected Palestinian politicians who should be released immediately.
ELSADIG ALMAGLY(Sudan) said that Sudan associated itself with the statements made by the African Group and the Arab League. Sudan also appreciated the report by John Dugard, which painted a sombre picture of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular the destruction of the civilian infrastructure and the suffering of the Palestinian people. The systematic, flagrant violations of international humanitarian law currently being carried out by Israel constituted war crimes. The Council could not leave the Palestinian people to be a sacrificial lamb. The international community had to make an appeal to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to shoulder her responsibilities to the international community. The Palestinian people had the right to a decent life, fit for human beings.
WARREN W. TICHENOR (United States) said that the Government of the United States did not believe that a special session should focus only on one aspect of the situation, precipitated by the kidnapping of a young Israeli soldier, while ignoring the role of Hamas in the kidnapping, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority Government to denounce terror. This session failed to take into account the continued role of Syria in harbouring and supporting rejectionists. There was a great deal more to this conflict than just concern about “Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine”, the reasons given for this session. Beyond the immediate crisis, Hamas could claim to govern responsibly while simultaneously calling for the destruction of Israel, sending in militants to carry out terrorist attacks, and firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.
NAJAT AL-HAJJAJI (Libya) said that Libya associated itself with the statements made on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Group and the League of Arab States. Libya said that there were 200,000 households that had no electricity in the occupied Palestinian territory. No less than 150,000 families were living on less than $2 a day. Around 88,000 families in the Gaza Strip could not obtain clean drinking water. Thousands were stuck because of the closing of crossing points. Thirty thousand children in the Gaza Strip were suffering from chronic malnutrition and some 120,000 people were suffering from chronic diseases, 90,000 of whom were having trouble getting services. Was that situation in line with international humanitarian law and human rights law, Syria asked?
CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said that Australia was concerned by the one-sided nature of this special session. Australia encouraged the Human Rights Council to act responsibly to promote and protect human rights in a balanced and even-handed way. The singling out of one side only for blame in a complex situation was unhelpful and would do nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East.
Australia condemned the taking of hostages for political purposes and called for the immediate and unconditional release of Corporal Shalit. The safe release of Corporal Shalit would be the best way to progress towards lasting peace. Australia urged all sides to exercise utmost restraint to avoid actions that had an adverse humanitarian effect on the civilian population, or that led to further violence.
ADEL AL-BAKILI (Yemen) said the Government of Yemen hoped that the Council would find a solution to the current situation. Israel did not respect any international humanitarian law. The international community had seen the continued contravention by Israel of such international laws. The Israeli forces had been committing terrorist acts against the Palestinian people. The silence of the international community before such aggression should not be continued. Israel was destructing the occupied territories and had arrested the Palestinian politicians without due regard to any international law.
ALICIA MARTIN GALLEGOS (Nicaragua) said that it was the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to deal with the recent deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Palestine. Nicaragua supported the continuation of all the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms to deal with the situation. Nicaragua also called for a return to negotiations by the parties in order to establish a lasting peace in the region.
Action by the Human Rights Council, Nicaragua stressed, had to be based on non-selectivity and impartiality, regardless of ideological differences or relations among States. The Council had to respond to the mission entrusted to it to promote and protect human rights in all four corners of the world, and to be a Council that promoted dialogue and cooperation.
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For use of the information media; not an official record