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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS


22 April 2004

COMMISSION ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON RACISM, HEARS PROPOSED STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR OFFICE OF HIGH COMMISSIONER

Speakers Raise Issue of Assassination of New Hamas Leader, Cuba Withdraws Draft Resolution on Guantanamo Bay


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At the top of the meeting, the Commission heard a statement by the Representative of Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who said every fair-minded nation must condemn such acts as the assassinations of Hamas leaders Sheikh Yassin and Abdelaziz Rantissi, without reservation or political consideration. The international community must make earnest and concrete efforts to stop Israel from engaging in deliberate violence and Israel must show respect for the elementary human rights of the Palestinian people. Israel’s latest crimes warranted a special sitting of the Commission, however, the Organization of the Islamic Conference Member States had refrained from calling for that sitting, mindful that the Commission had entered its last phase.

In response, the Representative of Israel said his country had acted in self-defence and that Hamas was a terrorist organization and had been recognized as such by many countries. The Palestinian Authority should have acted against terrorist groups like Hamas, operating from areas under its control. While the Government remained committed to the two-State solution, it also remained determined to defend its citizens and to fight terrorism.

The Representative of Palestine said that despite the Commission’s resolutions, Israel had not ceased, but had continued, its policy of liquidation of the leadership of Palestine. With political support provided by the United States, Israel felt that it could continue its policy. The Commission and the international community must take steps to put an end to Israel’s crimes and to compel Israel to respect international law.

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Statements Under the Organization of Work of the Commission

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, recalled that Israel had, less than one month ago, extrajudicially executed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, an elderly and invalid man in a wheelchair, and the leadership of Israel had congratulated the military team that carried out the assassination for performing an outstanding act of bravery and heroism. The Commission had convened in a special sitting to condemn the assassination and had called upon Israel to respect the principles of international humanitarian law and to cease forthwith human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel’s response had been swift. A few days ago, Israeli forces had killed Sheikh Yassin’s successor, Abdelaziz Rantissi, in a similarly brutal manner. The occupation continued to manifest itself in the spilling of Palestinian blood in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank and daily acts of slaughter had plunged the Palestinians into a state of endless mourning.

Those killings demonstrated a total disregard for all principles of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as Israel’s contempt for the Commission’s resolution, he said. Every fair-minded nation must condemn such acts without reservation or political consideration. Furthermore, the Commission need not be reminded that, since the start of the second intifada, more than 2,755 Palestinians had been killed and 28,000 injured. The Organization of the Islamic Conference called upon the international community yet again to make earnest and concrete efforts to stop Israel from engaging in deliberate violence and to desist from practices contravening all norms of international law. Israel must show respect for the elementary human rights of the Palestinian people.

The international community must prevail upon Israel to give up violence and the path of manslaughter, he concluded. It must return to the negotiating table to advance the cause of peace and to carry out the principles enunciated in the Quartet’s proposals. Israel must recognize that targeted killings and extrajudicial executions fomented anger and hate and diminished rather than enhanced security. Moreover, the erection of walls would not provide security, nor would it stem the impulse for self-determination of a people under occupation. Israel prided itself as a democracy wedded to due process and the rule of law. Yet, by any standard, occupation and assassination did not constitute the hallmarks of a law-abiding State. No durable solution to the Palestinian question or state of peace could return to the Middle East in conditions of half freedom-half bondage. The inheritors of Abraham Lincoln’s noble legacy – that a “republic could not survive half slave and half free” – were expected to implement the precepts of that vision for the people of Palestine as well.

Finally, he wished to stress that although the latest crimes against the Palestinians warranted a special sitting of the Commission, the Organization of the Islamic Conference Member States had refrained from calling for that sitting, mindful that the Commission had entered the last phase of its deliberations and that the demands on its time were intense.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that having conducted the third special sitting in three years on Israel, the Commission had reached its final week with the Organization of the Islamic Conference seizing yet another opportunity to attack Israel. Hamas was a terrorist organization and had been recognized as such not only by Israel but also by many countries. Hamas, headed by Rantisi, had sent over one hundred suicide-bombers into Israel; and 377 Israelis had been killed in suicide-bombings, and thousands had been injured. Hundreds more Israeli civilians had fallen victim to the ruthless terrorism, innocently riding in buses, dining in restaurants, shopping in malls, studying at the university or just walking down the streets in towns and villages in Israel. Rantissi, like Yassin and other Hamas leaders before him, personally approved dozens of major suicide-bombings. Israel had struck back in self-defence at the sources of terror and even when it had sought to defend itself through a defensive mechanism such as an anti-terrorist fence, it had faced criticism.

The Palestinian Authority should have acted against terrorist groups like Hamas operating from the areas under its control, and against the incitement expounded by Rantissi in the media, in schools and in Mosques. In the absence of any such action, Israel had been compelled to defend its citizens against a continuous wave of suicide-bombings. Israel had recently taken a major initiative to disengage from Gaza, to evacuate all settlements in Gaza and several in the West Bank, and continued to promote the Road Map. The hope was that the Palestinians would seize the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to put an end to the wave of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue. The Government remained committed to the two-State solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, as the key to peace in the Middle East. It also remained committed to the Road Map as the only route to achieving the two-State solution. At the same time, Israel was determined to defend its own citizens, to fight terrorism, especially human guided bombs, and the organizations and leaders who condoned, conducted and implemented those abhorrent policies.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said the Commission in its current session had adopted a number of draft resolution related to Israel’s violations of international law, the first of which was related to the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. The Commission had condemned the grave violations of human rights in the occupied territories as well as the assassination, which constituted a contravention of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war. The Commission had noted the liquidation of the leadership of the Palestinians by the Israeli authorities and the impact it would have on the situation there. It had called upon Israel to respect the principles of international humanitarian law, and to put an end to all acts of humanitarian violations. Despite this and all preceding resolutions, Israel had not ceased, indeed it had continued its policy of liquidation of the leadership of Palestine, a policy which was one of extrajudicial killing, exercised in an irresponsible manner.

With the political support of the United States behind Israel in international fora, Israel felt that it could continue its policy. Israel’s history was replete with killings, and had a long list of acts falling under this policy since its establishment, which was a flagrant violation of all international laws that enshrined the right to life and all other fundamental rights. This policy had been blessed by the decision-makers of Israel, and the recent assassination of Abdelaziz Rantissi and his companions was another chapter in this policy, which the Prime Minister announced would continue, and was part of the systematic use of terrorism by Israel. The international community had rejected and condemned these practices which were forbidden by international law and humanitarian law. Israel had extended ever more the extent of its crimes against civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory, exploiting the world’s attention, but realities on the ground showed that Israel was not accountable to the international community for its crimes. The responsibility of Israel for its crimes was daily shown in the occupied territories, with daily bloodletting and assassinations, mistreatment of civilians, destruction of houses and forced displacement. As Israel escalated its practices of violation, the Commission and the international community was called upon to take steps to put an end to Israel’s crimes and to compel that Government to respect the norms and standards of international law.

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