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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 12th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 19 March 2004, at 10 a.m.
Chairperson : Mr. SMITH (Australia)
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 8) (E/CN.4/2004/6/and Add.1; E/CN.4/2004/G/24)
9. Mr. DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, introducing his report (E/CN.4/2004/6 and Add.1), said that the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had deteriorated over the past year. Israel had made no serious attempt to distinguish between military and civilian targets during military operations, and its imposition of checkpoints, closures and curfews had been disastrous for employment, health and education. In a single attack on a refugee camp on 7 March 2004, 15 Palestinians, including four children, had been killed, and 80 wounded.
10. The main development over the previous year had been the building of the Wall. In the name of security, Israel had built a Wall deep inside Palestinian territory, designating the area between the Wall and the de facto border as a closed zone. The construction of the Wall had resulted in widespread destruction and seizure of Palestinian land. The permit system governing Palestinians’ entry into the closed zone was administered in an arbitrary and humiliating manner. It restricted the Palestinians’ freedom of movement, access to education, health care and a settled family life. Given the resulting anger and anxiety, it was likely to create further insecurity for the occupying power. Furthermore, it was likely to force Palestinians living in the closed zone to abandon their homes and migrate to the West Bank.
11. Neither the legitimacy of Israel’s security concerns, nor its right to take steps to prevent suicide bombers from reaching its territory, were in doubt. However, the Government had failed to provide reasonable justification for building the Wall within Palestinian territory. Consequently, in his view, the Wall constituted an acquisition of territory by forcible means, as well as a violation of human rights and humanitarian law. By reducing the size of a future Palestinian State, it undermined the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.
12. During advisory proceedings before the International Court of Justice, a number of States had suggested that a statement on the legality of the Wall would interfere unnecessarily in the peace process. He urged those States to reconsider their position. An acceptable solution to the problems of the region could only be found by applying universally accepted rules of international law. In reporting on violations of those rules, his intention was to further, rather than hinder, the peace process. Denying the allegations of bias made by Israel in document E/CN.4/2004/G/24, he said his only interest was in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.
13. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that the Commission had scarcely opened its proceedings before the attacks on Israel had began. In his report (E/CN.4/2004/6 and Add.1), the Special Rapporteur continued to use his mission and mandate as a platform for advancing a political agenda. His wholesale rejection of a complex situation in favour of a simplistic picture in which one side of the conflict had a total monopoly on victimhood placed his report well outside the realm of reasonable discourse. He presented a virtual reality in keeping with his political agenda, in which no Israeli action in self-defence was justified, the Palestinian leadership was untainted by its support for terrorism or corruption, and all Palestinian ills were laid at Israel’s doorstep. He thus absolved the terrorists that had taken Palestinian society hostage, the corrupt leadership that had incited and abused the Palestinian people and States that had deliberately sought to fund and inflame terrorism in the region.
14. Since the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September 2000, over 20,000 separate terrorist attacks had been directed against Israelis by Palestinian terrorist groups who showed no regard for the distinction between civilians and combatants. Yet in the report’s perverse calculus of proportionality no mention was made even of the 127 terrorist attacks that had taken place during the Special Rapporteur’s brief visit to the region. Documented cases of Palestinian terrorist groups using ambulances and humanitarian vehicles to smuggle ammunition, suicide bomber belts and terrorists were ignored. Notwithstanding his theoretical recognition of Israel’s legitimate concerns, the Special Rapporteur had not declared a single defensive measure taken by Israel legitimate or proportionate in any of his reports. The manner in which he reached his determination of legitimate proportionality remained a mystery. Given that 945 Israelis had already been murdered by terrorists, the ease with which he made his assertions on issues of life and death left a bitter taste.
15. The report was rife with loaded and misleading terminology. The term “ Wall” to describe Israel’s security fence was wrong. It took the form of a wall for less than 5 per cent of its length and it was neither electric nor electrified. The term “apartheid” was entirely inappropriate since the fence had nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Neither did the conflict.
16. The Special Rapporteur clearly viewed his office as little more than a platform for broadcasting his personal political views. Moreover, he had published a political tirade against Israel in the international media in violation of Article 100 of the Charter of the United Nations. Any attempt to address specific charges was frustrated by the vagueness of his allegations, which were based primarily on rumour and speculation. At times the Special Rapporteur merely stated impressions of his own, with no indication of their basis. He went so far as to suggest that Palestinian obligations did not exist, that the Palestinians could not be held accountable for their undertakings to fight terrorism, to collect weapons and to end incitement, because they had signed them “under duress”. Yet the United States, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union and Norway had all witnessed the signature.
17. For the most part, the report was not a factual document but a presentation of virtual reality in which no Israeli action in defence of its civilian population was justified.
18. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) thanked the Special Rapporteur for submitting an objective and truthful report, which could not, of course, enumerate all the human rights violations that had been perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people. The Special Rapporteur was held in high esteem by both the Commission and the General Assembly and had earned the respect of the entire international community.
19. He intended to speak at greater length on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory when the discussion on agenda item 8 was resumed later in the session.
REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (agenda item 4) (E/CN.4/2004/4, 5 and 12 and Add.1-3; E/CN.4/2004/NGO/15)
25. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), ...
27. Muslims had suffered greatly from the failure to implement human rights standards. Thousands had lost their lives over the past decade in conflict situations. Although Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and OIC countries had made a material contribution to the war against terrorism, Islamophobia, vilification of Islamic values and religious profiling of Muslims and Arabs remained a major concern. The Islamic world was disappointed that the High Commissioner’s report made no mention of the deteriorating human rights situation in Palestine and Israeli practices in the occupied Syrian Golan.
28. The report called for a strengthening of the role of United Nations country teams in order to build stronger foundations for the protection of human rights. United Nations agencies and country teams should operate in accordance with General Assembly resolutions and agreed mandates. They should focus on development and their role should not be undermined by extraneous linkages.
29. While the Islamic countries recognized the useful contribution of special rapporteurs, they considered that there had been a proliferation of mandates, that working methods were flawed and non-transparent, and that proper procedures were not followed for addressing complaints. Moreover, most complaints were directed against developing countries, while human rights violations in developed countries were ignored. The Islamic countries therefore urged the Commission to undertake a thorough review of special procedures.
30. The OIC supported the Acting High Commissioner’s emphasis on human rights education and on providing judges and courts with human rights material in local languages.
31. The Islamic countries firmly believed that membership of the Commission should be reserved for States. Non-governmental actors should continue to make an important contribution in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Commission and the Economic and Social Council.
32. The rules and procedures established over the years should govern the relationship of the Commission with other United Nations bodies. The Acting High Commissioner’s exploration of the possibility of the Commission referring cases of gross human rights violations to the Security Council was fraught with complications and would further aggravate the politicization of the human rights agenda. The Commission should focus on rationalizing its implementation mechanisms in accordance with existing rules and procedures.
33. The objective of international cooperation for the protection of human rights could be achieved by enhancing the role of national institutions and rendering advisory services and technical cooperation to countries on request. Punitive country resolutions and monitoring mechanisms such as the 1503 procedure had proved counterproductive and a source of confrontation. The OIC urged the Commission to adopt an approach based on cooperation, dialogue and interaction.
34. The Commission’s reporting and implementation procedures and mechanisms should be conducted within its own framework. The role of the Expanded Bureau was procedural and could not be extended to substantive issues, including situations, experts and working groups. The idea of periodic reporting by the Commission or the High Commissioner on gross and systematic violations to the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council demanded further reflection.
35. The Islamic countries believed that OHCHR needed to be reformed to ensure greater transparency, openness and compliance with rules and procedures. They also reiterated their call for action to address the underrepresentation of developing and Islamic countries in the Office.
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item 5) (E/CN.4/2004/15)
97. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), ...
98. Although the fundamental right to self-determination had first been conferred on the people of Palestine, as well as Jammu and Kashmir, by the United Nations more than 50 years earlier, Israel continued not only to defy that right but to perpetuate massive human rights abuses, as had been consistently reported by a variety of sources. He referred to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 (E/CN.4/2004/6 and Add.1), which indicated that excessive use of force in the occupied territories had resulted in the killing of 2,755 Palestinians since September 2000 and confirmed the presence of some 6,000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.
99. In defiance of appeals from the international community, Israel had continued its construction of a separation wall on Palestinian territory. The OIC considered the construction of the Wall to be illegal. The Wall was not a security measure but an attempt at de facto annexation of Palestinian land into Israel; he drew attention to the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that the amputation of Palestinian territory by the Wall seriously interfered with the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as it substantially reduced the size of the self-determination unit (already small) within which that right was to be exercised.
102. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that by focusing its attention almost exclusively on one country, the OIC was indulging in discrimination against Israel. One of the most fundamental violations of international law was the failure of the Palestinians to distinguish between Israeli civilians and combatants. Palestinians detained in Israeli jails were there because they had committed crimes, killing and injuring Israelis. The construction of the fence was a defensive measure and not a political act; it was not intended to affect the status of the land on which it had been constructed. The fence had been the most effective means that Israel had found of preventing Palestinian terrorism. He wished to emphasize that the fence was a temporary structure; a fence could be taken down, but the victims of terrorist attacks could not be resurrected. His Government was committed to the peace process; its sole aim in constructing the fence had been to protect the right to life of the Israeli population.
104. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that he wished to refute the suggestion by the observer for Israel that Palestinians were terrorists; Palestinians had a right to resist occupation, including through the use of arms. Israel, however, persisted in perpetrating State terrorism against the Palestinian people. Palestinians had good reason to reject the building of the Wall; the Secretary-General himself had confirmed that its construction was a flagrant violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. If Israel wished to build a wall, it must do so on its own territory.