Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

5 August 1998


Committee Members Report Worsening Situation in Some Areas

The three-member Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories completed on 31 July 1998 a nine-day field mission to three countries in the region and has reported an impression that matters have not improved and in fact have worsened in several critical areas.

The field mission included interviews with witnesses to human-rights situations in occupied Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Syrian Arab Golan. In reaching its conclusions, the Special Committee also cited communications it had received.

During a trip that began on 21 July to Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the Committee received testimony on Israeli settlement policy, confiscation of land, closures, treatment of prisoners and detainees, revocation of residency permits in Jerusalem, situation of children, water supply for domestic and agricultural use, health conditions in the occupied territories, movement of goods, and the general economic situation in the area. The panel interviewed witnesses from the occupied regions. The particular policies and the implementation of intricate measures and regulations by the Israeli authorities appeared to the Committee to have immeasurably affected the lives and well-being of Palestinians and Syrian Arabs. The effects were such as to call the purpose of the Israeli actions into question, the Committee said. The group focused on developments pertaining to human rights since the adoption by the General Assembly of its 29th report in December 1997.

In Egypt from 24 to 25 July, the Special Committee met in Cairo with two Foreign Ministry officials, Naila Gabr, Head of the Human Rights Department, and Fayez Noseir, Head of the Department for Palestinian Affairs. While in Egypt, the Special Committee also met with a representative of the League of Arab States, Dr. Hitti. The panel heard testimony from witnesses from the West Bank and Gaza.

In Jordan from 26 to 28 July, the Special Committee met in Amman with Ibrahim Badran, Director-General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs, and with Rajab Sugairy, Director of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee heard testimony of witnesses from the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. The Committee made a visit to the King Hussein Bridge where it heard testimony from several Palestinians who had just crossed into Jordan.

In the Syrian Arab Republic from 29 to 31 July, the Special Committee was received in Damascus by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nasser Kaddour, and by Klovis Khoury, Director of International Organizations. The Committee visited Quneitra Province bordering the occupied Syrian Arab Golan and met with the Governor of Quneitra. The Committee heard witnesses who provided information on the current situation in the Syrian Arab Golan. The Special Committee also witnessed an exchange through megaphones of greetings between long-separated relatives near the village of Majdal Shams.

The Special Committee members are: John de Saram, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, as Chairman; Absa Claude Diallo, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva; and Ambassador-at-large Abdul Majid Mohamed of Malaysia.

Under varying membership, the panel has existed since 1968 when it was established by the General Assembly. Its mandate was most recently renewed on 10 December 1997 in a resolution (52/64) referring to the principles of international humanitarian law, in particular to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to international standards of human rights, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights.

The report of the Special Committee's most recent field mission will be submitted to the General Assembly at its 53rd session this year. Before departing on the trip, the group held preliminary meetings in Geneva on 21 July.
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