UNISPAL Home

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


ESC/0133
17 August 2001

COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
DISCUSSES THE SITUATION IN THE ISRAELI-OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon discussed
the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories under its follow-up procedure.


The Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Tuvia Israeli, told the Committee Experts that while Israel had demonstrated an interest in engaging in a constructive dialogue with the Committee, and had invested considerable efforts in order to provide it with the requested additional information, one was left with the distinct impression that a negative approach towards Israel had become a pattern in the conduct of the Committee.

Mr. Israeli said the Committee's biased practices and blatant disregard for the fundamental principles of due process cast serious doubts as to its alleged objectivity and capacity to engage in a constructive dialogue. He said that the Committee's discriminatory treatment of Israel, lack of bona-fides and the use of double standards stood in marked contrast to its mandate.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Virginia Bonoan-Dandan, as well as most Experts, found the statement of the representative of Israel to be unjust, unfounded and not respectful of the reality. The Experts deeply regretted that the representative accused the Committee of bias. They also regretted that Israel was not aware of the efforts deployed by the Committee to engage in a genuine constructive dialogue with Israel to help the country comply with its obligations under the Covenant. The Experts said that the doubts of Israel concerning the objectivity and impartiality of the Committee were unfounded.

Over the course of the discussion, an Expert said that the additional information provided by Israel contained contradictions regarding the applicability of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Another Expert said that humanitarian law was part of human rights, so the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was applicable to the occupied territories.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 August, it will start its consideration of the report of Ukraine (E/C.12/4/Add.2).

Statement by the Representative of Israel

TUVIA ISRAELI, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that while Israel had demonstrated an interest in engaging in a constructive dialogue with the Committee, and had invested considerable efforts in order to provide it with the requested additional information, one was left with the distinct impression that a negative approach towards Israel had become a pattern in the conduct of the Committee.

Furthermore, Mr. Israeli said that in light of the substantial differences of opinion between Israel and the Committee with regard to the Committee's mandate and the applicability of the Covenant with regard to the territories, it would seem not only appropriate, but imperative, that all controversial aspects be discussed in a comprehensive and thorough manner as part of the consideration of Israel' second periodic report.

Mr. Israeli expressed Israel's dismay at several questionable procedural practices of the Committee to which Israel had been subjected over the past years. They indicated a pattern of applying exceptional procedural practices and double standards towards Israel in contrast to the human rights treaty regime foundation of due process and the rule of law. He said that the trust of the members of the monitoring bodies to conduct themselves as independent Experts operating through the essential principles of transparency, objectivity, due process and equal treatment had been violated by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Mr. Israeli said that the Committee's exceptional focus on Israel was all the more unjustified given the panel's massive backlog of reports, and the numerous States which had failed to report at all. It certainly stood in marked contrast to the Committee's follow-up action with respect to the only similar situation at the time.

Mr. Israeli said that Professor Anne Bayefsky recently had submitted a report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that pointed out that in practice, the so-called 'follow-up' procedures had been used by the Committee simply as a way to place Israel on the agenda at any time it saw fit. He said the Committee's pattern of conduct towards Israel stood in direct contrast to the principles of the treaty system, which were founded on the expectation of a regular and equal consideration of every State party's compliance with the treaty. The representative said that one could only question the true motivation behind the Committee's conduct towards Israel in this regard.

The representative said that having heard only from non-governmental organizations and not from the State party, the Committee's recommendations called for the substantive involvement in July 2001 of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in the matter and ECOSOC's participation in the Committee's condemnation of Israel, despite the fact that the dialogue with the State party had been scheduled for 17 August 2001. He said that by such actions, the Committee was prejudicing its prestige in the human rights treaty system. Its biased practices and blatant disregard for the fundamental principles of due process cast serious doubts as to its alleged objectivity and capacity to engage in a constructive dialogue. Mr. Israeli said that the Committee's discriminatory treatment of Israel, lack of bona-fides and the use of double standards stood in marked contrast to its mandate.

Lastly, the representative concluded by reiterating Israel's reservation with regard to the Committee's handling of events in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It had been Israel's position that consideration of questions of human rights in these territories was not within the mandate of the Committee, as such territories fell within the context of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. He said the overwhelming majority of powers and responsibilities in all civil spheres, including economic, social and cultural rights, as well as a variety of security issues, had been transferred to the Palestinians. Israel, thus, had neither the responsibility nor the capacity for reporting on human rights in these areas.

The representative then said that Israel did not intend to further participate in the present meeting and left the conference room.

Discussion

VIRGINIA BONOAN-DANDAN, Chairperson of the Committee, in response to the various critics of the representative, said that the additional information submitted by Israel to the Committee could only be examined with respect to the initial report and certainly not during consideration of the second periodic report. She said that if the Committee examined the additional information during the consideration of the next periodic report, it would constitute a legal flaw. Furthermore, Mrs. Bonoan-Dandan said that the examination of this additional information had been postponed in order to give time to every Expert to analyse it. Moreover, she said that the remarks of the representative concerning the massive backlog facing the Committee were untrue, as the Committee had undertook this extraordinary session to address the backlog and there was, thus, no more backlog.

Mrs. Bonoan-Dandan also said that Professor Anne Bayefski had certainly not criticized the work of the Committee so sharply. Lastly, she said that the letter sent to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) certainly did not aim to impose on ECOSOC what to say. The letter had only highlighted what was already very well known. The Chairperson concluded by saying that the statement of Israel's representative was unfounded, unjust and discriminatory.

Most Experts found the statement of the representative of Israel to be unjust, unfounded and not respectful of the reality. The Experts deeply regretted that the representative accused the Committee of bias. They also regretted that Israel was not aware of the efforts deployed by the Committee to engage in a genuine constructive dialogue with Israel to help the country comply with its obligations under the Covenant. The Experts said that the doubts of Israel concerning the objectivity and impartiality of the Committee were unfounded.

An Expert said that the additional information provided by Israel contained contradictions regarding the applicability of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, the first paragraph of the additional information mentioned that Israel had consistently maintained that the Covenant did not apply to areas that were not subject to its sovereign territory and jurisdiction. This position was based on the distinction between human rights and humanitarian law under international law. Accordingly, in Israel's view, the Committee's mandate could not relate to events in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, inasmuch as they were part and parcel of the context of armed conflict as distinct from a relationship of human rights. But the Expert pointed out that in paragraph 5 of the additional information, Israel said that it had been willing to cooperate with the Committee and provide relevant information to the extent possible, with regard to the exercise of those powers and responsibilities, which according to the agreements reached with the Palestinians, continued to be exercised by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Another Expert said that humanitarian law was part of human rights, so the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was applicable to the occupied territories.

Several Committee members expressed their concern about the adverse impact of the growing exclusion faced by Palestinians from the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. They deplored the practices of the Government of Israel of home demolitions and its adoption of policies which resulted in substandard housing and living conditions, including the cut of water facilities.

An Expert expressed concern about the State party's expropriation of Palestinian national resources including land and aquifers for exclusive Jewish control. Another Expert expressed deep concern about closures imposed solely on Palestinians, impeding access to health care, education, economic activities pertaining to employment and livelihood.

A Committee member said that Palestinians in East Jerusalem did not enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights.

Lastly, an Expert acknowledged that Israel was ready to collaborate with the Committee, as far as Israel was only concerned, and not concerning the occupied territories.


* *** *
______________________________________________________________________
For information media - not an official record