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Le Rapporteur spécial sur la situation des droits de l’homme dans les territoires palestiniens (Dugard) s’inquiète du rôle de l’ONU au sein du Quatuor - Débat de la 3ème commission de l'AG - Communiqué de presse (extraits) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
General Assembly
24 October 2007

General Assembly

          Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly
Third Committee
22nd & 23rd Meetings (AM & PM)



Quartet Has Paid Little Attention to Human Rights of Palestinians


During the afternoon session, John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the situation in the Territory had worsened since the time of his last report, and he singled out the issues of self-determination, the consequences of prolonged occupation and the role of the United Nations in the promotion of human rights in the Territory for special attention.

He said the Quartet -- consisting of the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United Nations -- had paid little attention to the human rights of the Palestinians.  And its imposition of sanctions against the Palestinians had led to a serious loss of confidence in the United Nations in the Occupied Territory.  In those circumstances, the question must be asked whether the best interests of the United Nations were served by remaining in the Quartet, where the Organization was used to “legitimize the pro-Israeli position of the Quartet?”

In a heated exchange following the Special Rapporteur’s presentation, the representative of Israel took the floor to give a detailed reaction to the report, saying that the narrow perspective of the report ignored the terrorism and violence emerging from Palestinian areas.



The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussion on human rights.


The Committee had before it note of the Secretary-General transmitting a report titled Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (document A/62/275) which has been prepared by John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the matter.  It says the exercise of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination has been threatened by the separation of the West Bank and Gaza due to the seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza in June 2007 and the seizure of power by Fatah in the West Bank.  Every effort must therefore be made by the international community to ensure that Palestinian unity is restored. 

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the occupation of Palestinian Territory, the report notes.  Israel’s obligations have not diminished; on the contrary, they have grown.  The International Court of Justice should be asked to render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of prolonged occupation, the Special Rapporteur suggests.  In Gaza, Israel has violated important norms of international humanitarian and human rights law by undertaking military action against civilian targets and by creating a humanitarian crisis by closing Gaza’s external borders.  By law, it has to cease these actions, the Special Rapporteur says, adding that other States party to the siege of Gaza were also in violation of international humanitarian law.

Addressing the West Bank, the Special Rapporteur says the human rights situation there could improve as a result of rapprochement between the emergency Government led by President Abbas, on the one hand, and Israel, the United States and the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations) on the other.  Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, plus Israel’s refusal to transfer tax revenues and the imposition by the United States of banking restrictions, have had a serious impact on life in the West Bank.  Poverty and unemployment have reached their highest levels; health and education have been undermined by military incursions, the wall and checkpoints; and the entire social fabric of society has come under threat.  Some 10,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, treated in an inhuman and degrading manner, and the extrajudicial killing of suspected militants had continued unabated.

Regarding the Quartet, the Special Rapporteur says that serious questions were being asked about the role of the Secretary-General.  The Quartet -- led in practice by the United States -- is largely responsible for furthering the peace process, but it has shown little regard for promoting human rights or international humanitarian law, and it is indirectly responsible for economic sanctions.  The Special Rapporteur states that if the Quartet cannot be guided by human rights law, international humanitarian law, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and considerations of fairness and even-handedness in its dealing with the Occupied Palestinian Territory, then the United Nations should withdraw from it. 



JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had worsened since his last report.  Gaza was still an imprisoned society, with Israel refusing to recognize it as occupied territory.  The humanitarian crisis continued and over 80 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line.  Some improvements in the West Bank had been offset by a number of issues, including the continued construction of the wall and the continued expansion of settlements.

Today he wanted to address three issues, he said:  self-determination; the consequences of prolonged occupation and the role of the United Nations in the promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was seriously threatened by the dispute between Fatah and Hamas, and unfortunately the Quartet –- consisting of the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United Nations –- had further divided the Palestinian people by supporting one faction against the other.

The prolonged occupation contained elements of apartheid, he said, with a host of laws and practices that discriminated against Palestinians in favor of settlers.  It was suggested that the International Court of Justice be asked for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences for Israel, the occupied Palestinian people and third States due to the prolonged occupation.

Turning to the role of the United Nations, he said it was his responsibility to address the issue of the role of the United Nations in the peace process conducted by the Quartet directly within the United Nations family.  Serious questions had been asked about the compatibility of the United Nations role in the Quartet with its responsibility to be the principal protector of human rights.  The Quartet, which reported to the Security Council, had not been established by a resolution of either the Security Council or the General Assembly, but despite its dubious legal foundation, it had assumed primary responsibility for the management of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, he said, the Quartet paid little attention to the human rights of the Palestinians.  The imposition of sanctions against the Palestinians by the Quartet had led to a serious loss of confidence in the United Nations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said.  In those circumstances, the question must be asked whether the best interests of the United Nations were served by remaining in the Quartet, where it was used to “legitimize the pro-Israeli position of the Quartet”.

If the Secretary-General were unable to persuade the Quartet to adopt an even-handed and impartial approach to the Israel/Palestine dispute, he suggested that the Secretary-General should consider withdrawing the United Nations from the Quartet.  This, however, was not an appeal to the Organization to withdraw from the Quartet, he clarified.  Instead, it was an appeal to the Secretary-General and his senior staff to consider the United Nations role in the Quartet with special regard to the human rights situation.


The Committee then engaged in a discussion with the Special Rapporteur, with some delegations directly concerned by the topic taking the opportunity to make statements.

RIYAD MANSOUR ( Palestine) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report.

ADY SCHONMANN (ISRAEL) said the report viewed a complex situation through the simplest of prisms.  In its narrow perspective, terrorism and violence emerging from Palestinian areas simply did not exist.  Any measure taken by Israel to protect its citizens was categorically condemned as inadmissible or disproportionate.  Moreover, the report brought into clear focus the personal agenda of the current Rapporteur, who had been advancing the view that terrorism was “a relative concept”.  The Special Rapporteur’s staunch opposition to the Quartet far exceeded his mandate, and his report’s use of inflammatory language did nothing to contribute to constructive dialogue.  At a time when Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were preparing to discuss the complex issues in dispute, the report undermined any such efforts, and reflected an approach that was potentially more damaging than previous reports.

The representative of Palestine, on a point of order, said the floor had been opened to questions and comments for the Special Rapporteur, and that a three-page statement by Israel could not be accepted.  The Chair appealed to delegations to be brief.  The representative of Israel said it was the custom of the Committee to allow those parties most directly affected by a Special Rapporteur’s report to comment at greater length.

The representative of South Africa asked how the United Nations could play a role in the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, and also what the role of the United Nations should be with regard to human rights violations.  Also, how might a further legal opinion help the Palestinian people express their rights to self-determination?  She expressed worry about the arbitrary detention of Palestinians, and asked how the international community could ensure that Israel abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The representative of Portugal asked what could be done to improve the situation.  While Portugal was aware of the limits to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, Portugal wanted to know what could be done about impunity, and also asked for more information on the situation regarding the West Bank.

The representative of Kuwait asked what was the best way to end the occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The representative of Egypt said the report of the Special Rapporteur spoke for itself, and asked him to elaborate more on the settlements in the territories.

The Special Rapporteur, JOHN DUGARD, began his response by addressing Israel, noting that he had been criticized for not giving more attention to terrorism, and for suggesting that terrorism was a relative concept.  “I’m a South African”, he said, “and grew up in apartheid South Africa”.  Opponents of the apartheid government were initially labelled communists and then became terrorists, he said.  Nelson Mandela was accused of being a terrorist, but today he was seen as a “saintly icon”.  He said two Israeli terrorists –- people who had committed acts of terrorism against the British occupation –- had become prime ministers of Israel.  Even in Israeli history, terrorism was a relative concept.  This did not mean that he wished to minimize the savage nature of terrorism, but there was a tendency in Israel to concentrate so much on terrorism that the real issues were ignored.  He urged the Israeli Government to consider the issues he raised, such as the legality of the wall, as well as issues such as the ongoing arrest of Palestinian prisoners, the humanitarian crisis and the check points.  He urged the Israeli delegation to address the real issues and not focus too much on terrorism, as it did not help to find a solution to the problem.

He said the delegate of South Africa had raised a number of questions, including how the Quartet could play a more meaningful role.  This could be done by paying more attention to human rights.  A legal advisory opinion might help by providing clarity to the issues.  At present, Israel argued that it was not occupying Gaza.  An advisory opinion could clear up the issue and other legal issues.  Regarding treatment of prisoners, he said there was much that State parties to the fourth Geneva Convention should do.  Under humanitarian law, Israel was required to hold prisoners within the occupied territories and not within Israel, as was the current policy.  It would be helpful if States could carry out their obligation by bringing pressure on Israel to comply with international obligations.

In response to Portugal’s question about what was most urgent, he said that a host of issues such as the wall, the increased checkpoints and the border crossings needed to be addressed.  As for how national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah could be effected, he said the international community should be playing the role of mediator, in trying to bring the two sides together.  At present, there were serious accusations of human rights violations by Hamas in Gaza and by Fatah in the West Bank, but this fell outside his mandate.  It still required the attention of the international community.

Kuwait had asked about an advisory opinion and how it might be secured.  Mr. Dugard explained the procedure.

Noting that the representative of Egypt had asked about settlements, he responded that the Israeli Government said it was freezing settlement activity, but the Government continued to fund and support settlements.

Yemen had raised the question of how United Nations resolutions might be implemented.  This was an issue for the Quartet, said the Special Rapporteur.  Most of the Quartet’s statements were highly critical of Palestine, and no account was taken of the fact that Israel was in serious violation of international law.

JOSEPH REES ( United States) said his country strongly disagreed with the criticism levelled by the Special Rapporteur against the Quartet; it was unhelpful and deeply irresponsible to suggest that the United Nations should consider withdrawing from the Quartet.  The superficial treatment of the complicated and illegitimate situation in Gaza, where Hamas had violently seized power in June, was troubling; the fact of the matter was that President Abbas was the elected leader of all the Palestinian people.  No more than a passing reference had been given to acts of terror directed towards Israeli citizens; the Special Rapporteur’s implication that terrorism could be justified was irresponsible and deeply disturbing.  The United States did not support seeking a further International Court of Justice advisory opinion on issues related to occupation, colonization and apartheid, as mentioned by the Special Rapporteur.

The representative of Syria said her delegation fully shared the opinions contained in the report.  As a native of South Africa, the Special Rapporteur was the best representative of a dialogue on the Arab/Israeli conflict.

The representative of Libyasaid the report was clear, transparent and bold.  It had noted the negative consequences of the situation in the Palestinian Territories after construction of the wall.

The representative of Nicaragua said that an end must be put to the violation of the rights of Palestinian people.

The representative of Palestine said the prism that the Special Rapporteur had used had been the international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.  Such instruments were applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and had been breached by Israel.  The same prism had been used by other United Nations agencies.  Mr. Dugard’s report had been factual and honest, and he was to be commended for that.

Responding to questions from Lebanon and Indonesia on a further advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, the Special Rapporteur explained that the 2004 advisory opinion had been a very narrow one, dealing with the legality or illegality of the wall.  A host of other issues needed to be addressed; thus it might be helpful to look at the whole spectrum of the nature of the occupation.  As the occupation had been accompanied by colonialism, with half a million settlers on the West Bank, it might help to confirm that it was still an occupied territory.  It would be a helpful exercise that would not only give legitimacy to United Nations on the subject, but also provide further clarity.

On a question from Indonesia on what the Quartet could be doing, the Special Rapporteur said his complaint was that the Quartet did not take the human rights context of the situation sufficiently seriously.  He explained that he was a human rights Special Rapporteur; he could not trespass too much onto political terrain, but there had to be a human rights approach.

Responding to Libya on how to end the occupation, he said the best solution would be a peaceful settlement.  He noted that there was a possibility of a conference in the United States in November towards that goal.  He hoped it would succeed, but it was important that it be conducted with due regard to the human rights context, and the need for the protection of the human rights of the Palestinians to be included in any settlement.

On what could be done by the United Nations and civil society, he said civil society had been very active in creating public awareness of human rights violations.  States could be more pro-active.  For instance, there were still serious suggestions that States had been buying produce from illegal Israeli settlements, blissfully unaware that such produce was tainted with illegality.

Responding to the comments made by the United States, he said he had been interested to hear the representative say that the Quartet was concerned by the normative parameters of any peaceful settlement.  That was essential, but such parameters had to have regard to human rights norms and the opinion of the International Court of Justice, whose 2004 advisory opinion had been neglected by the international community.  While the United States was not legally bound to accept an advisory opinion, it had imposed its will on the other members of the Quartet, which had indicated that they were prepared to accept the advisory opinion.

On terrorism, the Special Rapporteur said that while he did not wish to underestimate terrorism, it could be used as a “red herring” and a distraction from the real issues.  Many human rights violations could not be justified as actions taken to curb terrorism.  It was not necessary to have checkpoints throughout the West Bank to prevent terrorism, now that the wall was being built as a security wall.  It was clear that its purpose was to enclose Israeli settlements within Israel.  Regarding apartheid, it was politically incorrect to suggest that Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories were akin to apartheid.  However, while it was a very delicate issue, many of Israel’s practices on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem discriminated on racial grounds against Palestinians.


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For information media • not an official record

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