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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


ESC/0047
13 November 2000



NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS BRIEF COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS ON SITUATION IN FINLAND, BELGIUM AND ISRAEL


The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon heard statements from non-governmental organizations which provided it with their own account of the situation in Finland, Belgium and Israel. The reports of those three countries are scheduled to be considered by the Committee during this session.

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The representative of Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) urged the Committee to condemn the grave Israeli violations of Palestinians' economic, social and cultural rights, and to call for an immediate lifting of the military siege of Palestinian cities and towns in the occupied Palestinian territories. CESR also urged the Committee to express grave concern over Israel's failure to respect the right of Palestinians to self-determination.

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Statements

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The representative of Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, speaking about the role of the Committee, said that the Committee's declaration that the Dominican Republic had not complied with the provisions of the Covenant in 1990 had helped the population and the effect had been felt. The Committee's advocacy for the right to clean drinking water had improved the health situation of people in many regions. The violation of the provisions of the Covenant continued to exist despite the Committee's endeavours to reverse the situation. At present, a lot could be done, within the existing resources, to follow-up the Committee's concluding observations on country reports.

The representative said that the situation in the Solomon Islands had improved with the end of the civil war which had badly affected the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by the population. In addition, concerning Israel, the representative said that 5 million Palestinian refugees still wanted to return home. The return of the 5 million people and the restitution of their houses and properties should be given high priority.

The representative of the Federation Internationale des Droits de l'Homme said Israel had not changed its policy concerning the occupied Palestinian territories. It had increased its efforts in settling people in the occupied Palestinian lands; and the number of settlements had increased by 12.5 per cent in recent years. Since September, the military action by Israel had been devastating. It had killed 150 Palestinians and wounded many more, including ambulance workers. Missiles launched by the Israeli army had also damaged lives and properties.

A representative of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) said while international attention had focused on Israel's use of excessive force in killing almost 200 Palestinians, most of them unarmed demonstrators, little attention had been paid to equally grave violations of economic, social and cultural rights resulting from the strict Israeli military blockade. Israel had deliberately destroyed Palestinian agricultural land in the occupied territories, including over 3,000 acres in Gaza alone, and had prevented farmers from harvesting their crops.

Israeli policies of occupation, expropriation and blockade were deliberate acts of state that discriminated against Palestinians and regressively impacted their enjoyment of the full range of economic, social and cultural rights, the representative said. CESR urged the Committee to condemn those grave Israeli violations of Palestinians' economic, social and cultural rights, and to call for an immediate lifting of the military siege of Palestinian cities and towns in the occupied Palestinian territories. CESR also urged the Committee to express grave concern over Israel's failure to respect the right of Palestinians to self-determination.

The representative of Habitat International Coalition, Housing and Land Rights Committee said there had been remarkably little progress on the ground in Israel concerning the shifts in Israel's jurisdiction and control since the Committee's examination of the situation two years ago. Nor had the status of the Covenant changed within the domestic legal system. Examples of cases concerning the right to housing and evictions indicated how tremendously far the State party had yet to go before demonstrating domestic applicability of the provisions of the Covenant.

Israel continued to evict entire Palestinian villages under a variety of pretexts, the representative said. For the stated reason that they were living in a closed military zone, some 600 indigenous villagers in the eastern Hebron District were forcibly evicted under Israeli military order and their belongings were confiscated in September and October 1999.

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