Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
8 February 1994
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 6th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 3 February 1994, at 10 a.m.
: Mr. van WULFFTEN PALTHE (Netherlands)
Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (
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The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (item 4 of the provisional agenda) (
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (item 9 of the provisional agenda) (
) (E/CN.4/1994/22 and 23; A/48/385)
Mr. ZHANG Yishan
25. His Government welcomed the recent developments in the Middle East peace process, including the signature of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and the subsequent negotiations on the implementation of that Declaration. It hoped that a comprehensive and fair solution could be arrived at rapidly and that the Palestinian people would soon be able to exercise its right to self-determination.
(Australia) said that the signing of the Declaration of Principles and the exchange of letters of mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization represented a historic breakthrough. His Government fully supported the Middle East peace process and called on all parties to adopt moderate and flexible positions.
27. Despite such developments, violence in the occupied Arab territories remained at a disturbingly high level. The transfer of authority in the occupied territories must not be jeopardized by distrust and violence. Respect for human rights by both sides was crucial during the period ahead so that a climate of greater trust and tolerance could be established between Israelis and Palestinians, and amongst the Palestinians themselves.
28. Israel's serious security concerns, while valid, could not justify breaches of international law and internationally accepted human rights standards. Israel must accept the
applicability to the occupied territories of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention) and refrain from measures in violation of the Convention, including the indiscriminate use of live ammunition in other than life-threatening situations, unchecked attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers, and the continued construction of settlements in the occupied territories.
29. His Government also deplored the killing and wounding of Israeli security officials and civilians by Palestinian elements and the killing and torture of alleged Palestinian collaborators by other Palestinians. It urged the Palestine Liberation Organization and those Palestinians responsible for the establishment of civil authority in the occupied territories to ensure that they, too, respected internationally accepted human rights standards. In that connection, it welcomed the moves to establish a Palestinian human rights body.
30. His Government based its Middle East policy on two main premises: a total commitment to Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries; and recognition of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, including its right, if it so chose, to independence and the possibility of an independent State. It thus supported a comprehensive solution to the dispute based on Security Council resolutions
31. While self-determination was a right which applied to all peoples, its application under international law had, in practice, been limited to the context of decolonization. The objectives of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples had largely been achieved and the time had come to contemplate the next phase in the evolution of the concept of self-determination.
32. By virtue of its history and because of its political force and dynamic nature, self-determination defied tight and tidy definitions and had to be considered in a broad context. The realization of the right to self-determination was not limited in time to the process of decolonization, nor was it accomplished in a single act. It entailed the continuing right of all peoples and individuals within each State to participate fully in the political system by which they were governed. Strengthening popular participation in political decision-making was clearly an important factor in realizing the right to self-determination. Even in formally democratic countries, there were sometimes structural, attitudinal and procedural barriers to the full participation of certain groups.
33. The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations offered a means of reconciling the principle of self-determination with that of the territorial integrity of States. According to the Declaration, the right to self-determination should not be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and thus possessed of a Government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction of any kind.
Mr. PEREZ NOVOA
(Cuba) said that he endorsed fully Mr. Arafat's statement to the Commission on 1 February 1994 in which he had denounced the continuing massive and flagrant violations of human rights in Palestine and the occupied territories and had reiterated his request to the Commission to take steps to put an end to them.
35. Cuba was encouraged by the signs of progress in the Middle East peace process. It hoped that a just and lasting solution could be found, which would embrace all the peoples of the region and would allow the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights, including the right to set up its own independent State.
36. Cessation of human rights violations in Jericho and the Gaza Strip would undoubtedly be an important step forward. However, the international community must continue to be vigilant, condemning any such occurrences in the rest of Palestine and the occupied territories. Failure to do so would not help to ensure a comprehensive and lasting peace.
37. Nevertheless some Governments, misusing the favourable climate created by recent developments in the peace process, were endeavouring to exonerate the guilty party, despite the fact that the reports before the Commission revealed that the Government of Israel was still systematically violating all the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.
38. For more than thirty years, resolutions adopted by United Nations bodies had been reiterating that there could be no just and lasting peace in the Middle East without recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence. Cuba was firmly committed to the heroic Palestinian people and its struggle for self-determination, peace and independence and would continue to support any decisions it might take in order to achieve those objectives.
39. As the occupying Power, Israel must comply with the relevant resolutions and cease all violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories and must respect international law, the principles of international humanitarian law and its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.
40. The Commission thus still had reason to condemn Israel's actions against the Palestinian people and should keep that question as a priority item on its agenda. His delegation rejected the efforts of those who, for ideological reasons or out of pure opportunism, wished to reduce the topic to a sub-item.
(Poland) said that the Commission's fiftieth session was taking place in a new atmosphere of hope, inspired by real prospects for just and peaceful solutions to a number of long-standing problems. While aware that Poland had only limited possibilities of making a direct contribution to such efforts, his delegation wished to express its deep appreciation to all those, on either side of the Middle-East conflict, who had courageously chosen the path of tolerance, peace and respect for human rights and also to those who had, through their good offices, opened avenues that had been closed for many years.
42. It was the task of the international community to give all possible support to efforts aimed at establishing a democratic order based on universal human rights. His Government would endorse all such efforts and any resolutions in support of them. Moreover, it hoped that the time was not far off when the Commission would no longer need to consider agenda item 4 and several other items that had been on its agenda for years.
(Cyprus) said that the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories was a matter of grave concern. As Mr. Arafat had observed, in his statement to the Commission, serious human rights violations were still occurring in the occupied territories. Mr. Arafat had also emphasized that there could be no peace under conditions of occupation and, indeed, occupation itself constituted a violation of human rights.
44. Cyprus, itself a victim of occupation, was naturally opposed to occupation wherever it occurred and supported the restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all concerned and the implementation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
45. Her Government endorsed the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination and was committed to a just political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). In that connection, it welcomed the courageous step taken by the leaders of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in signing the Declaration of Principles which, it hoped, would be implemented in the near future, although the present and future difficulties should not be underestimated.
(Japan) said that the question of human rights in the occupied Arab territories was of particular importance at the Commission's current session because of the recent dramatic changes in the Middle East situation. It was to be hoped that the parties to the Middle East conflict would make progress in their negotiations and that a just, lasting and comprehensive peace would be achieved as soon as possible. In the meantime, all parties should refrain from acts of violence and strive to respect human rights, including full application by the Israeli Government of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
47. His Government, which wholeheartedly supported the peace process and had devoted a great deal of energy to confidence-building between the Arab countries and Israel, had participated in the Washington meeting of 46 countries and international organizations in October 1993 to reaffirm their commitment to improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the short term and to establishing a structure for long-term economic growth. It intended to contribute some $200 million in assistance to the Palestinian people over the next two years and, to that end, it had sent a team to the region to examine development needs. Japan was also serving on an ad hoc liaison committee to ensure coordination and cooperation among the donors.
48. Bilateral and multilateral negotiations could not of themselves ensure a lasting solution to the conflict. Broader economic cooperation among the countries of the Middle East was also essential. In that context, Japan would continue to work for stability and prosperity in the region.
(Observer for Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that the Commission's current session was taking place against a backdrop of positive and encouraging developments in the Middle East peace process. The signature of the Declaration of Principles and the mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization had helped to replace the international community's sense of frustration and fear with new expectations and hope. The Nordic countries paid tribute to the parties involved for their outstanding courage and vision.
50. The foundations for a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East, with greater respect for human rights, had thus been laid and both Israel and the Palestinians had important roles to play. The parties involved must do their best to implement the agreements and to overcome any attempts to derail the process. The full support of the international community was called for and, in that connection, the delegations she represented welcomed the almost unanimous support for the resolution on the subject (A/48/58) adopted by the General Assembly at its forty-eighth session.
51. At a recent meeting, the Nordic Ministers for Foreign Affairs had underscored the importance of supporting the peace process by substantial economic assistance to the occupied territories. The international community at large bore a major responsibility with regard to mobilizing the resources needed for the implementation of the agreement, and a promising start in that direction had been made by the Washington donors conference which had resulted in pledges of more than $2 billion. They had also noted that the multilateral process was serving as an indispensable framework for regional cooperation on such vital issues as water, disarmament, refugees, regional economic development and the environment.
52. The recent encouraging developments in the peace process had undoubtedly opened the door to an improvement in the human rights situation in the region in general and in the occupied territories in particular. Following the signing of the Declaration of Principles, many positive initiatives had been taken to improve the human rights situation in the occupied territories which, it was to be hoped, would soon lead to concrete results, such as an improvement in the conditions of detainees and the early release of political prisoners.
53. However, the Governments of the Nordic countries remained concerned at the overall human rights situation in the territories. In that regard, they reiterated their well-known view concerning the
applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. The increase in the number of children injured and killed and the continued closure of schools had a particularly tragic effect on the future generation.
54. The time had come for Israelis and Palestinians alike to take further and decisive action towards peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, since the signature of the Declaration of Principles, there had been an increase in violence in the territories, partly as a result of extremist groups seeking to derail the peace process. Such action must be vigorously condemned.
55. In that context, the delegations she represented stressed the importance of pursuing confidence-building measures, including the freezing of construction of new settlements and cessation of the expansion of existing ones by Israel. On the Arab side, lifting of the trade boycott against Israel and foreign firms dealing with Israel would be an appropriate step. Such measures would make an important contribution to the smooth and speedy implementation of the Declaration of Principles and further progress towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace and observance of human rights in the region.
(Observer for Turkey) said that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement of 13 September 1993 was an historic step towards achieving a lasting solution to the conflict in the region. The determination of the parties and the progress achieved in the talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization with a view to giving effect to the interim agreement gave every reason to be hopeful about the outcome. As a country belonging to the same region, Turkey followed the peace process closely and would not fail to contribute to it if necessary.
(Malaysia) said that, some four months after the historic signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, uncertainty and despair were beginning to set in. The deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jericho area and the Gaza Strip had passed, dashing the hopes of millions. The statement delivered by Mr. Arafat to the Commission clearly illustrated that much remained to be done before a genuine, permanent peace could be achieved.
69. The human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories had deteriorated since the signature of the Declaration of Principles. The Israeli occupying Power had violated all recognized international standards of civilized behaviour and had paid scant heed to the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the international human rights instruments.
70. The most recent report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (A/48/557) contained numerous accounts of Israeli policies and practices which violated the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the civilian population in the occupied territories. The policy of annexation and settlement, pursued since 1967, was estimated by Israeli academicians to have deprived the Palestinians of 60 per cent of their land in the West Bank and 40 per cent of their land in the Gaza Strip. By another account, between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the land in the occupied territories had been taken over by the military occupation forces or by Israeli settlers.
71. Despite the freeze on settlements, announced by the Government of Prime Minister Rabin, construction had actually intensified. There was an alarming number of settlements in the Syrian Golan - 40 already in existence or under construction and, by proposing a referendum, the Israeli authorities seemed to be encouraging public opinion to oppose withdrawal from the area. In addition, the confiscation of lands, the loss of grazing areas, overgrazing, desertification and the seizure and exploitation of water resources in the Syrian Golan had had harmful effects on the environment.
72. Arbitrary detention, administrative detention, long terms of imprisonment and deportation were practised under the Israeli legal system and, in particular, the military legal system. The occupying authorities had also resorted to harassment, physical abuse including killings, beatings and torture, searches, collective punishments - including the imposition of closed military zones and partial curfews - and the demolition of houses. The occupying Power had shown utter disregard for international law in the treatment of some 16,000 prisoners and detainees. Low food rations, insufficient medical care and overcrowded detention camps and prison cells were cited in the report. The passivity of the international community was deplorable in the face of such serious human rights violations.
73. The Declaration of Principles signed in September and other negotiations should help to build mutual confidence that would facilitate a settlement of the Palestinian issue within the framework of the relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Malaysia would fully support any initiative taken by the Palestinian leaders - represented by the PLO - to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy their full and legitimate rights and regain the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.
(Pax Christi International), having paid tribute to the courage of the Israeli leaders and the PLO in taking a giant and almost unimaginable step towards peace by signing the Declaration of Principles, said that a massive education campaign would be necessary to win over the enemies of peace in both camps. The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, had acknowledged that tensions existed between the occupying troops and the populations in the occupied territories. "Tensions", however, was a euphemism for a situation which, unfortunately, had not changed since the signature of the Declaration: brutal repression resulting in deaths and injuries, collective punishment, the demolition of houses, arbitrary arrest, the continued detention of hundreds of persons without charges or trial, torture, mistreatment, etc. The two sides could not be judged equally where one was an occupying force and the other the people under its domination.
79. According to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, both Mr. Peres, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, and Mrs. Hanan Ashrawi, head of the newly established Palestinian Human Rights Commission, had stressed that upgrading the living conditions in the territories was a top priority. The economic and social development of the territories and the enjoyment of human rights by their inhabitants were interdependent. People's support for the peace process in the occupied territories would depend largely on how much their living conditions improved.
80. Currently, 80,000 Palestinian families were deprived of income because the territories were closed off and there were no job opportunities for them in the Israeli-dominated economy. Mr. Peres' vision of a Middle East with huge development potential, where resources once used for armed forces would be channelled into investment for development, was a laudable one, but that vision must be swiftly translated into action in order to remain credible.
81. The continued Israeli settlement of the Palestinian territories, the Golan and South Lebanon was the chief obstacle to the peace process. The incentives offered to those settlers were responsible for the Israeli army's delay in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. The situation in Gaza, in particular, was extremely disturbing. A Palestinian governing authority must be urgently established there to prevent uncontrollable disorder from bringing the peace process to a halt.
82. Pax Christi International noted with satisfaction that the PLO had decided to establish an independent human rights commission in the territories over which it would eventually exercise authority and hoped that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would be able to carry out its mission under the Geneva Conventions. It also reiterated its wish that Israel would recognize the applicability of those Conventions in the occupied territories.
83. Pax Christi International supported the continuation of the Special Rapporteur's mandate but noted with regret that he had been unable to carry out his mission satisfactorily. Although it understood the difficulties, it was disturbed to learn that the Special Rapporteur had been able to visit the territories for three days only in January and only as the personal guest of the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs.
88. The right to self-determination was the keystone of the United Nations. It was a right that was inherent in the concept of freedom and was an organizing principal of democracy. The final vestiges of the colonial era were currently being eliminated and his Government welcomed the positive steps being taken towards multiracial and democratic rule in South Africa and the movement towards a settlement of the Middle East conflict, which, he hoped, would pave the way for the Palestinian people to exercise its right to self-determination.
The meeting rose at 12.55 p.m.