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Source: Commission on Human Rights (See > Human Rights Council)
29 March 2001


Press Release


Commission on Human Rights
57th session
29 March 2001

      Debate Continues on Situation in Occupied Arab Territories


      Interspersed between these addresses was continued debate under the Commission's agenda item on the human-rights situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. Five national delegations spoke, followed by the first of a long list of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

      Speakers referred to violations of human rights by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, and there were several calls urging the deployment of an international observer force in the occupied territories.

      Representatives of Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the League of Arab States, Tunisia, and Sudan addressed the meeting, and the following NGOs offered statements: Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination; American Jewish Committee; Pax Christi International; World Young Women's Christian Association; World Organization against Torture (joint statement); International Save the Children Alliance; Organization for the Defense of Victims of Violence; Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos; the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs; and Al Haq, Law in the Service of Man.

      Representatives of Lebanon and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

      The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its debate on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. Over the course of the afternoon, it will probably begin its debate on the next agenda item, the question of the violation of human rights anywhere in the world.



      Secretary-General of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaisons and International Cooperation of Libya, ...

      Mr. Shalgam said that the most glaring examples of denying peoples the right to self-determination, and the most blatant violations of human rights, were committed by the usurping Zionist gangs in the occupied Palestinian territories. With the break of each day, the world was waking up to live scenes of killing, torture, starvation and displacement of Palestinians, for no other reason than their attempt to defend their human dignity. The painful reality was that the Israelis would not have persisted in their obstinacy, bluster and defiance of the entire international community without the encouragement, protection and material and political support of the superpower in the world. That superpower, by virtue of its world standing and influence, should have been the prime protector and guardian of peace, security and the right to self-determination throughout the globe.

      Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, ...


      The European Union had been called upon to play a more active role in trying to end the conflict in occupied Palestine, Ms. Polfer said; she continued to believe that the Madrid process, the instrument for dialogue and cooperation that the EU had carried out along with a number of Arab countries and Israel, would be able to contribute to promoting respect for human rights throughout the Mediterranean region. The Cotonous accords, which marked a new step in cooperation between the EU and countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, were a way of integrating a human-rights dimension into attempts to disperse the shadow of past colonialism. The common goal of improving human rights came into particular focus in the case of the EU initiative to abolish the death penalty worldwide, Ms. Polfer said.


      ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh) said the reports before the Commission only reinforced points that had been made many times before: among other things, that the basic cause of human-rights violations was the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine; that the Israeli response had involved excessive use of force; and that Israeli human-rights violations in the occupied territories amounted to a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. High signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention must convene to respond to this matter.

      The Commission must act, too; it must pass a comprehensive resolution based on the findings of the three reports before it. The only road to lasting and genuine peace and stability in the region was through genuine negotiations; no efforts should be spared to put the stalled negotiations back on track.

      the United Arab Emirates) said the killings and bombardments in the occupied Palestinian territories were a flagrant violation of human rights which demanded the intervention of the international community. The Israeli forces had closed the Palestinian territories, thus incurring suffering to the people, including children. The United Arab Emirates renewed its condemnation of Israel's aggression. Israel should stop its killing of children and innocent Palestinians. The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights rightly had exposed the human rights violations of Palestinians by Israeli forces. If protection was not extended to the Palestinian people, the situation would deteriorate with more victims on the side of children and civilians. Israel had continued its aggression of killing innocent Palestinians even today as the Commission was meeting here in Geneva. The Israeli occupation should end and the relevant international law should be applicable in that regard. The international community should also condemn the Israel aggression and its occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab territories.

      KIM YONG HO (
      the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, was quite contrary to the expectations of the international community, which was deeply concerned at the continuing and escalating violence there. Despite the Commission's Special Session last fall and despite the visits and reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and of the commission of inquiry, Israelis forces continued to perpetrate a bloody tragedy and Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with UN human-rights mechanisms.

      The Democratic People's Republic of Korea reiterated its support for the Palestinians' struggle for their legitimate national rights and urged Israel to halt all acts hindering peace negotiations and advancement of the peace process in the Middle East. The Commission should review implementation of the outcome of the Special Session and adopt practical measures to respond to the current situation.

      the League of Arab States) said Israel had continued to violate all relevant international instruments, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination to which it was a party. And it had continued its cruel practice of collective punishment. Through its policy of collective punishment, Israel was committing the highest form of crime because of the death of children and other civilians due to lack of food. It had also continued to kill Palestinians in their own land. It had been confiscating Palestinian lands and expanding Israeli settlements. The international community should prevent further expansion of the Jewish settlements. The Palestinian victims of the Israeli aggression should be compensated as it was suggested by Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

      Tunisia) said the Israeli occupation forces committed more violations every day against the defenceless Palestinian people who were struggling for their right to self-determination. There had been a terrible massacre even yesterday evening. Everyone knew these violations went beyond arbitrary detentions and destruction of property and agricultural land to outright killing; tanks and helicopters were now being used.

      The reports before the Commission described the deterioration of the situation; Tunisia respected the objectivity of the reports and believed that the recommendations they contained should be put into practice. International protection should be provided for the Palestinian people. Tunisia also wondered why certain Special Rapporteurs ignored the decision of last fall's Special Session calling on them to do their work in the occupied territories -- especially Nigel Rodley, the Special Rapporteur on Torture. He should go, as torture was widely practised by the Israelis and should be investigated.

      Sudan) said the situation in the occupied territories was deteriorating daily, as events yesterday showed. The civilized world must respond. Israeli forces using sophisticated weapons were killing and wounding defenceless Palestinians, including women and children; houses were being destroyed; and an economic blockade was being applied. In addition, torture was being practised.

      Sudan insisted on the Palestinians' right to self-determination. It agreed with the recommendations contained in the High Commissioner for Human Rights' report. The international community, now more than ever, should take specific measures on behalf of the rights of the Palestinian people. The resolution of the Commission's Special Session must be implemented and violence against the Palestinians must be stopped; Israel must comply with Commission and Security Council resolutions.

      Human Rights Watch, said that Israeli security forces had committed by far the most serious and systematic violations. There had been excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force, arbitrary killings, and collective punishment, including wilful destruction of property and severe restrictions on movement. The Israeli Government had refused to investigate alleged violations committed during the "war-like situation" in contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. Soldiers enforcing Israel's closure policy regularly stopped Palestinian cars, beat and humiliated the drivers and passengers, and slashed tires or confiscated keys.

      The Palestinian Authority was also implicated in serious violations. It had failed to prevent Palestinian gunmen from firing on settlements from civilian areas, and did not appear to have investigated or prosecuted cases where Israeli civilians had been killed or seriously injured. Palestinian security forces had detained a large number of Palestinians accused of collaboration with Israel.

      Amnesty International, said more than 100 children had been among the more than 350 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the most recent intifada, and the majority of Palestinians had been killed through excessive use of lethal force during demonstrations when stones were thrown but no lives were in imminent danger. Most of the 60 Israelis killed were victims of unlawful attacks by Palestinian armed groups.

      In addition, Israeli forces had admitted to a policy of extra-judicial executions of those whom they had decided, without charge or trial, had carried out or were planning attacks on Israelis; Palestinian detainees also had been maltreated. Meanwhile Palestinians accused of "collaboration" had been extrajudicially executed by members of the Palestinian security services or killed by Palestinian armed groups, and lack of investigations into these killings suggested they were condoned or even encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, which also had executed two Palestinians accused of "collaborating" with Israel after grossly unfair summary trials. The Security Council should reconsider its recent decision not to deploy an international observer force.

      H. SHARFELDDIN, of the
      International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), said that the State of Israel was established by the United Nations partition resolution in 1947 dividing the land of Palestine between its original Christian and Muslim Palestinians and the migrating Jews from the Diaspora. Although that resolution was wrong because it was issued on a racial basis, and although Palestinians had the right to reject it, it was still considered the legitimate basis for the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel was a legitimate State only with the defined borders which that resolution had set for it. It was unlawful for that State to deviate from those preset borders or it would be invalidating the indispensable conditions to its own legitimate existence.

      DAVID A. HARRIS, of
      the American Jewish Community, said the organization would release in May two books which aimed to familiarize Jews with the beauty and essence of the Islamic heritage and Muslims with the beauty and essence of the Jewish heritage. Meanwhile the abuse of the Commission for transparently political purposes frustrated the defense of human rights and complicated the quest for peace. The Commission's actions were biased: Israel was the only country to be given special examination under a separate agenda item, and the mandate of the relevant Special Rapporteur, unlike others, was open-ended, not subject to review, and presumed that Israel was guilty of violations at the outset. The Special Rapporteur, inexplicably, investigated only Israeli actions, not Palestinian actions.

      Palestinian violations of human rights were plentiful and well-documented; the Palestinian violence that had begun in September had been planned, rather than spontaneous; Jewish religious sites had been desecrated by Palestinian mobs; the Palestinian Authority continued a policy of incitement to violence in the media, in schools, and in some cases in mosques; and terrorist attacks against Israelis continued. The Commission should play a positive rather than a prejudiced role in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

      Pax Christi International, said that settlers' violence against unarmed Palestinian civilians was not a new phenomenon. The Jewish settlers had become more organized and had intensified violent acts against Palestinian civilians. That had resulted in a spiral of violence, with Palestinian acts of violence against settlers as well. Jewish settlers had killed at least 7 Palestinians, injured 39, beaten 98 others, and had attacked 48 properties, including uprooting olive trees. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the occupying power had the duty to protect the civilian population. Israel should ensure the safety of the civilians in the territories it occupied. The Israeli Government should also investigate cases of settlers' violence and punish the settlers for their acts. By not taking the appropriate measures against settlers, the Israeli Government silently approved those violent acts. Pax Christi called on the Government of Israel to abide by international law.

      GHADA S. HADDAD, of
      the World Young Women's Christian Association, said that despite the scrutiny by the Commission of the human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, the situation had not improved. At the root of the violations was the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian and other Arab territories. Ending the occupation was an essential step toward ending the human rights violations the world had been witnessing for decades and the escalation of those violations that the world was witnessing today. Israel had continued its collective punishments that were routinely inflicted on the Palestinian population, such as demolishing homes and uprooting whole orchards of olive and citrus trees. Confiscation of Arab land for so-called security reasons also continued as did arbitrary arrests, the closing down of educational institutions, and preventing access for food, medicine, and medical services even in severe emergency situations. The Commission should recommend to the Security Council the urgent creation of an international body for the physical protection of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

      the World Organization Against Torture, in a joint statement with Pax Romana, said there had been a serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied territories since September 2000, marked by wide-ranging violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The escalation of violence in the region resulting from Israel's violations of human rights and humanitarian law was of concern. An emerging pattern of a return to the use of torture methods during investigation had been observed. The Organization remained deeply concerned as no decisive measure had been taken, since the High Court's ruling, to either persecute those who had abused detainees, or to compensate the victims. Israeli military courts continued to undermine the rule of law in the occupied territories. The military courts did not follow internationally recognized standards of fair trial while the military orders themselves violated human rights standards. The perpetrators of all violations of human rights and humanitarian law had not been properly investigated or persecuted.

      E. THOMAS, of
      the International Save the Children Alliance, said Israeli actions in occupied Palestine had resulted in numerous violations of the rights of Palestinian children, including their right to education. Closures of the territories left schools highly vulnerable, and about 41 had been forced to close; by 17 February, four schools in Hebron had been commandeered by the Israeli Army, five schools had been bombed, and eleven had come under fire. Areas such as Hebron that were under curfew had extremely low school attendance rates, and road closures kept children and teachers from reaching class. In addition, the economic damage caused by the closures severely hindered the ability of the Palestinian Authority to pay for education programmes.

      A small number of Palestinian children had participated in demonstrations, and some 133 had been killed in confrontations with the Israeli Army, with over 2,700 injured and countless others subjected to psychological damage. Responsibility for all this lay with the Israeli forces. The Commission must provide protection for the rights of Palestinian children.

      the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said the conflict between Arabs and Israelis did not belong only to the present time; it had been going on for half a century. The most recent massacres were being carried out by Israel using highly sophisticated weapons against Palestinian civilians, including children. Israel's violations had been documented for decades; since the outbreak of the recent intifada, more than 390 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces or settlers, and 56 of the victims had been children. The Israeli Army also had prevented teachers from reaching their schools.

      The Commission must adopt more practical measures to make the Zionist regime stop its crimes against unarmed Palestinians. The most serious violence against the Palestinian people remained the violation of their right to self-determination, which should be comprehensively realized.

      Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, said the rights of Palestinians to self-determination had been violated by the Israeli forces. The seven-year peace negotiations had not achieved any results because of Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories. Israeli occupation of the territories had been illegal and it had to withdraw from those territories. The international community had been unable to persuade the Israeli authorities to abide by the relevant international instruments which were adopted to end the occupation. The United States, which was taking an active part in the peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, was not being impartial. On the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions, the negotiations of the Madrid Conference, which took place in 1991, had envisaged the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian occupied territories since 1967, including East Jerusalem. The Oslo Agreement had also strengthened that position.

      the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, said the Council was receiving alarming calls from its member churches on the ground detailing a desperate situation for both Muslim and Christian indigenous Palestinians. Continued violence against civilians and repressive forms of collective punishment such as the harsh closures of recent weeks, and continued shelling and bombing of civilian neighbourhoods had resulted in gross and massive violations of numerous human rights. The tragic situation could only end when the underlying causes were dealt with. Israel must comply with relevant UN resolutions.

      The Commission should follow up on the resolution of its Special Session which called on Israel to end the use of force against unarmed civilians and on the international community to put an end to ongoing violations of Palestinians' rights. The Commission should endorse and follow up as well on the recommendations in the reports before it, including the recommendation for establishment of an effective international presence in Palestine to protect human rights there.

      Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, said that throughout the peace process, the Israeli authorities had continued to implement measures and policies in the occupied territories, including occupied East Jerusalem, that were aimed at creating facts on the ground and seriously violated Palestinians' rights. Such violations had included the continued confiscation of land and the expansion of settlements at a record rate. Just last week the Israeli parliament had approved the expansion of the Har Homa settlement even though more than half of its housing units remained empty. Now that Israel faced serious resistance to the occupation, it had abandoned any allusion of restraint and had deliberately targeted the civilian Palestinian population with punitive measures in utter disregard for international law. Israel had responded to protests during the last six months with excessive and indiscriminate force. The intifada had become the occasion for unjustified attacks on the civilian population, which were often unrelated to any confrontation, much less military necessity.

      Rights of Reply

      A Representative of
      Lebanon, speaking in right of reply, said the Representative of Israel had distorted reality over the withdrawal from Lebanon. The withdrawal was not complete; he had said as much himself a few days ago. Meanwhile the daily violation of the situation in South Lebanon by Israel continued, and there were thousands of landmines left behind which had caused many deaths and injuries; the Lebanese Government continued to ask for plans of the minefields, but Israel had yet to supply them. The United Nations did not have the minefield plans yet, either.

      A Representative of
      Israel, speaking in right of reply, said that over the past three days there had been a series of suicide bombings, car bombings, and sniper attacks against Israelis, and three children had been killed as a result, with many others injured, the majority of them children. Last night, in response, Israel had attacked specific military targets related to these terrorist attacks. These attacks were not against civilian areas. Were those responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks against the heart of Israel, and those calling for conflict against Israel for a thousand years, expecting Israel not to respond? Israel had pursued peace negotiations seriously and had offered serious and extensive concessions, only to have these efforts rejected by the Palestinian Authority. It was time to return to good-faith negotiations so that peace could be realized. It should be added that the United Nations had certified that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon was complete; and he had documentation in hand to show that all maps had been provided by Israel as required.

      A Representative of
      Lebanon, in a second right of reply, said the document referred to by the Israeli Representative was dated June 2000.

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