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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

Commission on Human Rights
Fifth Special Session
HR/CN/983
19 October 2000





Resolution Urges High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs,
to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories


A Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights condemned this evening by a margin of three roll-call votes what it said were "grave and massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel", and decided to establish a "human rights inquiry commission" to gather information with the aim of preventing similar occurrences.

A resolution to that effect was adopted by a vote of 19 in favour and 16 opposed, with 17 abstaining.

The resolution also requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel to take stock of the situation after what it called "disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force" by Israel in the course of confrontations beginning on 28 September that had led to the deaths of 120 civilians, including children. The High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, was also asked to facilitate the activities of Commission mechanisms in response to the events.

In addition, the measure requested Commission Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; torture; violence against women; religious intolerance; racial discrimination; and right to housing; its Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and the Representative of the Secretary-General for internally displaced persons to carry out immediate missions to the occupied Palestinian territories and to report their findings to the Commission at its fifty-seventh session and, on an interim basis, to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all parties to refrain from words or actions that could exacerbate the current dangerous and sensitive situation. She hoped all parties could soon succeed in halting all the violence and would soon resume progress towards achieving lasting peace.

Shambu Ram Simhkada, the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said that the only way forward was through the process of dialogue and discussion. He believed that in that sense, the session had made a contribution.

A representative of Palestine said passage of the resolution had "saved the reputation of human rights", which had been "repressed, suppressed, trampled upon, even killed, in Palestine".

A representative of Israel said the resolution was inflammatory, was divorced from reality, used violent language, and could be injurious to the peace process.

The Special Session -- the Commission's fifth -- opened Tuesday. Adoption of the resolution followed two days of debate by countries and non-governmental organizations.

The Special Session was requested by Algeria on behalf of the League of Arab States and was convened after consenting signatures were obtained from 47 of the Commission's 53 Member States.

Today's meeting extended from late afternoon until 10 p.m., and was suspended several times to allow for consultations; in the end, representatives of Tunisia and Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the resolution's co-sponsors and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said efforts at achieving a consensus resolution had failed.

Resolution


In a resolution (
E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev.1) on grave and massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the Commission strongly condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in violation of international law by the Israeli occupying power against innocent unarmed Palestinian civilians, causing the deaths of 120 civilians, including many children, in the occupied territories, which constituted a war crime and a crime against humanity; called upon Israel to put an immediate end to any use of force against unarmed civilians; and called upon the international community to take immediate effective measures to secure the cessation of violence by Israel and to put an end to the ongoing violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

The resolution affirmed that the Israeli occupation in itself constituted a grave violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people; also affirmed that the deliberate and systematic killing of civilians and children by Israel constituted a flagrant and grave violation of the right to life and a crime against humanity; and decided to establish a human rights inquiry commission whose membership should be based on the principles of independence and objectivity, to gather and compile information on the violation of human rights by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories and to provide the Commission with its conclusions and recommendations, with the aim of preventing a repetition of such violations.

In favour
:- Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia and Venezuela.

Against
:- Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions
:- Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, and Zambia.

The Special Session decided to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake an urgent visit to the occupied Palestinian territories to take stock of the violations, to facilitate the activities of the mechanisms of the Commission in implementation of the present resolution, and to keep the Commission informed of developments; and requested the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Representative of the Secretary-General for internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination, the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to carry out immediate missions to the occupied Palestinian territories and to report their findings to the Commission at its fifty-seventh session and, on an interim basis, to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session.

Statements


The representative of
Tunisia said that the co-sponsors had held consultations and tried everything with the aim of reaching a consensus. However, they did not succeed in convincing the other parties. The co-sponsors had offered concession after concession, but they were unable to convince the other parties, especially the Europeans, to rise to the event.

The representative of
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said the OIC had been open and ready to negotiate. Unfortunately, despite the gravity of the situation, the OIC did not get any positive indication that they could succeed if they continued to pursue a consensus. He regretted to inform the Special Session that there was no agreement, in particular because of the attitude of the European Union.

Explanations of the Vote After the Vote


The representative of
Guatemala said that the resolution did not contain mechanisms to move the peace process forward, and would hamper any further talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The representative of
India said his country had voted in favour of the resolution in keeping with its firm commitment to protect and promote human rights throughout the world. At the same time, it hoped that all involved could end the cycle of violence; and hoped yesterday's agreement at Sharm El Sheikh would lead to such a cessation of violence and would lead to a climate that would allow a resumption of negotiations that could end with a just and lasting solution to the matter.

The representative of
France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the events in the occupied Palestinian territories had required the convening of the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights. However, the European Union had hoped that the session would move to help other mechanisms bring peace to the region. Provisions in the draft went beyond the role of the Commission, and threatened the realisation of agreements signed lately between the two sides.

The representative of
Canada said his country had voted against the resolution because it was unbalanced and did not assist in creating an atmosphere conducive to a return to the negotiating table.

The representative of
Congo said that while his country was aware of the seriousness of the conflict and its threat to world peace, and while it had always been supportive of the Palestinians' plight, it felt that a lasting peace required the two parties to come together in peace and mutual trust, which the resolution did not accomplish.

The representative of
Mauritius said his country would have preferred a consensus on the resolution. It had nonetheless voted in favour in an effort to prevent such problems in the future. Its primary motivation was to send a clear signal in respect of the violations which had taken place. Mauritius hoped the two sides could live side by side and favoured a peaceful resolution to the problems in the Middle East; it called on both sides to exercise restraint so that an environment of mutual trust could be developed; it further called for both sides to constrain elements of extremism.

The representative of
the United States had opposed the convening of the Special Session as it believed it would undermine international efforts underway to bring peace back to the region. The course of the debate and the resolution had validated the fears of the United States that the session would not bring the parties to the path of peace. Both sides had issued statements calling for an end to violence and had taken positive steps. And the United States understood the anger of the parties who had suffered in this tragic situation. Yet all nations in the international community must act in a responsible way to maximise chances of ending the violence.

The representative of
Chile said his country had felt the Commission had to pronounce itself on the tragic events of the past few weeks, and it deplored the excessive use of force and violations of international human-rights law that had occurred. Chile had tried to reach consensus on a resolution but had found it impossible given the extreme sensitivities involved; the resolution, in the end, had certain elements which Chile could not agree with, and so it had abstained.

The representative of
Japan said that his country's vote against the resolution was because it might in fact hinder the end of hostilities. Japan had given very serious consideration to this draft.

The representative of
Argentina said the country had abstained for the same reasons given by Chile.

The representative of
Burundi said that while his country supported the Palestinian people, it had had to abstain because it was unable to agree to all the changes that had been suggested in the negotiations during the Special Session.

The representative of
Nepal said his country regretted that consensus was not possible on such an important issue. Such violent acts as had occurred had to be denounced. An immediate end to violence and a return to the negotiating table was essential. Nepal had abstained on the resolution believing that implementation of the Sharm El Sheikh agreement offered the best opportunity for resumption of negotiations.

The representative of
Norway wanted to disassociate his country from some of the words used in the resolution. Norway deeply regretted the loss of life and suffering that had been caused. It deplored all acts of violence and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli Defense Force. It strongly urged the effective implementation of the of the Sharm El Sheikh agreement and the establishment of a fact-finding mission.

Concluding Statements


NABIL RAMLAWI (
Palestine) said Israeli massacres continued even as he was talking; he thanked those who had supported the resolution because they had saved the distinguished Commission in its capacity as the reflection of the conscience of the world. They had saved the reputation of human rights, which had been repressed, suppressed, trampled upon, even killed, in Palestine. As for those who had voted against, they had done so while the Israeli massacres continued; today Israel had shelled another city with rockets, three days after the Sharm El Sheikh agreement.

Palestinians were not fighting only for themselves; they were defending international legitimacy as well; they were defending the principles of the Commission. There had been a difference of three votes only between the sacred will of the Commission and those who sought to obliterate the Commission's honour.

YAAKOV LEVY (
Israel) said that at the recent summit in Egypt, all parties had worked together to bring peace, while the work of the Special Session had been at the very least, counterproductive. The resolution was partisan, one-sided and inflammatory. It was divorced from the realities on the ground.

Israel regretted the loss of life during the past two weeks, but had heard no sorrow expressed for the deaths of Israeli people during the Special Session or in the resolution. Deaths could have been avoided if the Palestinian authorities had stopped forcing innocent people into the streets.

The resolution used inflammatory language, and as the Secretary-General had said, words could cause violence. The use of violent language was bound to further tensions on the ground. The resolution was injurious to the peace process, and supreme diplomatic efforts and not biased deliberations were needed to take us beyond the violence; the resolution could aggravate the violence and threaten future peace talks.

MARY ROBINSON,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the passing by a narrow vote of this resolution reflected the grave concerns expressed, particularly by Arab nations, at the high number of deaths of Palestinians and at excessive use of force. She believed that embedding a culture of respect for human rights for everyone in the region, whoever they were, was the best way to achieve peace in the region -- and she meant economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development, as well as civil and political rights.

She urged all parties to refrain from words or actions that could exacerbate the current dangerous and sensitive situation. She hoped all parties could soon succeed in halting all the violence and would soon resume progress towards achieving lasting peace.

SHAMBU RAM SIMKHADA,
Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said that three points had been paramount in his mind when preparing for the Special Session. They were a deep sense of sadness for the suffering of the people on the ground; secondly, must these peoples who had suffered so much, suffer more; and thirdly, did the Israelis and Palestinians have any option but to learn to live together?

Each time the Commission met, participants asked what had been achieved, and the answer was if these two peoples realized the need to live together, that was something. The only way forward was through the process of dialogue and discussion. He believed that in that sense, the session had made a contribution.

The Chairman expressed his gratitude to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for her attendance, which showed the great importance of the issue, and expressed the hope that the Holy city of Jerusalem could become a beacon of peace in the near future.

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