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        Economic and Social Council
13 August 2003

Original: ENGLISH


Substantive session of 2003


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 23 July 2003, at 10 a.m.

President : Ms. RASI (Finland)



In the absence of Mr. Rosenthal (Guatemala), Ms. Rasi (Finland),
Vice-President, took the Chair

The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.


SOCIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS: (agenda item 14) (continued)

(g) HUMAN RIGHTS (E/2003/22, 23 (Part I), 73,78,79 and 92; E/2003/L.31)



The PRESIDENT invited the Council to take action on the draft resolution and draft decisions under sub-item 14 (g) contained in chapter I of the report of the Commission on Human Rights on its fifty-ninth session (E/2003/23 (Part I)), the programme budget implications of which were set out in document E/2003/L.31.


Draft decision on the human rights situation of the Lebanese detainees in Israel (draft decision 1)

Mr. DE LAURENTIS (United States of America) said that the draft decision stemmed from a series of resolutions considered by the Commission on Human Rights aimed at Israel, a nation with a democratic, freely-elected, representative Government. Israel had an independent judiciary that guaranteed due process and was a nation whose citizens enjoyed freedom of worship, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. His delegation could not endorse the draft decision because the Commission on Human Rights resolution on which it was based was imbalanced, factually wrong and inappropriate. His delegation called for a roll-call vote on the draft decision and it would vote against its adoption.

Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon, in accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978), on 24 May 2000. The Security Council and the General Assembly had subsequently confirmed that withdrawal and that resolution 425 (1978) had been complied with. His Government had also handed over maps of the minefields in southern Lebanon to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However, the Government of Lebanon had failed to fulfil its responsibility to maintain control over the minefields on its territory. The absence of decisive Lebanese action to assert its authority in the area, which allowed Hezbollah to continue to mount attacks against Israel, should be taken into account with regard to Israeli counter-actions in southern Lebanon.

There were always glaring omissions in debates and resolutions concerning the Middle East region. The draft decision on the human rights situation of the Lebanese detainees in Israel was no different. He drew attention to the situation of Israeli detainees in Lebanon and elsewhere, which had never been discussed by the Council. On 11 June 1982, three Israeli soldiers had been captured in Lebanon, and remained unaccounted for. In October 2000, Hezbollah had abducted four Israeli citizens, three of whom had died from the injuries sustained during their capture, while the other remained in captivity in southern Lebanon.

By allowing such activities to continue on its territory, the Government of Lebanon was failing to fulfil its obligations under international law. In particular, it had failed to comply with Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), by refusing to freeze the assets or shut down the infrastructure of Hezbollah or other terrorist groups that continued to operate freely in Beirut.

At the same time, all 13 Lebanese citizens previously held under administrative detention in Israel had been released. Five illegal Hezbollah combatants, including three Lebanese citizens, were being detained, with respect for due legal process. The detainees were fully entitled to legal counsel, as well as to visits from delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). No State other than Israel would be singled out for condemnation in relation to the legitimate detention of illegal combatants. He urged members to vote against the draft decision, which constituted an attempt to distort reality.

Mr. SMITH (Australia) said that, while his delegation was concerned about the situation of Lebanese detainees, the draft decision was an unbalanced one, because it failed to take into account Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. He would therefore abstain from voting on it.

Ms. NOUREDDINE (Observer for Lebanon) said that Lebanese citizens had been abducted and detained without trial in Israeli prisons, to be used as hostages in future bargaining. She called upon Israel to respect international humanitarian law, and allow the detainees to be visited regularly by ICRC delegates. One such detainee had recently died in prison at the age of 70 years.

The hundreds of thousands of landmines left by Israel in Lebanese territory caused enormous disruption to the lives of ordinary civilians. She urged Israel to supply all the maps of minefields to assist with mine clearance. In accordance with Security Council resolution 1461 (2003), her Government had deployed its armed forces with a view to enhancing security in southern Lebanon. Her country neither harboured nor supported terrorist organizations.

At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a vote was taken by roll-call on the draft decision.

Uganda, having been drawn by lot by the President, was called upon to vote first.

In favour: Argentina, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

Against: Georgia, United States of America.

Abstaining: Andorra, Australia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The draft decision was adopted by 26 votes to 2, with 24 abstentions.

Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel), speaking in exercise of right of reply, called upon the Government of Lebanon to provide the same access to ICRC delegates to Israeli detainees as Lebanese citizens enjoyed in Israel. He reiterated that the five Hezbollah combatants detained in Israel were fully entitled to lawyers and to visits from the ICRC.

Ms. NOUREDDINE (Observer for Lebanon), speaking in exercise of right of reply, said it was regrettable that the representative of Israel was attempting to hide the truth concerning the Lebanese detainees.


The meeting rose at 1.05 pm.

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