COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON LEBANESE DETAINEES
IN ISRAEL, REJECTS DRAFT ON CHECHNYA
Hears Addresses from National Human Rights Institutions
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 16 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning took action on resolutions under its agenda item on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, and then heard addresses from a series of national human rights institutions on their efforts to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in their countries.
In a resolution on the human rights situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel, adopted by a roll-call vote of 32 in favour, one against and 20 abstentions, the Commission called upon the Government of Israel to refrain from holding the detained Lebanese citizens incarcerated in its prisons as hostages for bargaining purposes and to release them immediately.
A Representative of Lebanon said that according to the Red Cross, there were scores of detainees in Israeli prisons in contravention of international legality. Some of the detainees were held without trial. Others had finished their sentences but were not released. The detainees were also subjected to torture.
A Representative of Israel said that there were detainees but they were Israelis and they were held in Lebanon and elsewhere. Voting in favour of the draft resolution was lending a hand to the distortion of reality, thus not contributing towards peace in the region.
A draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation was rejected by a roll-call vote of 21 against and 15 in favour, with 17 abstentions. If the draft resolution had been adopted, the Commission would have, among other things, called upon the Government to urgently take all necessary steps to stop and prevent violations of human rights and to ensure that all alleged violations were investigated systematically, fully, promptly, and that they were sanctioned.
The Commission also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on cooperation with representatives of the United Nations human rights bodies, in which it condemned all acts of intimidation or reprisal against those who sought to cooperate or had cooperated with representatives of human rights bodies.
At the beginning of the meeting, an extensive discussion was held on a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Cuba, but consideration of the draft was postponed for 24 hours after amendments were proposed by Costa Rica and Cuba.
The Commission also heard statements from a series of national human rights institutions on their efforts to promote and protect human rights in their countries.
Representatives of the following national human rights institutions took the floor: International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Presidential Commission on Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Australia), European Coordinating Committee of National Institutions, Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, Ibero American Federation of Ombudsman, National Human Rights Commission (India), Commission fédérale contre le racisme (Switzerland), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, Danish Institute for Human Rights (Denmark), Defensoría del Pueblo (Venezuela), Islamic Human Rights Commission of Iran, Human Rights Commission (Uganda), National Commission on Human Rights (Mexico), Commission nationale des droits de l’homme et des libertés fondamentales (Niger), Ombudsman of Argentina, Human Rights Commission (New Zealand), Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme (France), Human Rights Commission (Canada), National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (Cameroon), Conseil consultatif des droits de l'homme (Morocco), Commission on Human Rights (Philippines), National Human Rights Commission (Greece), Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (Sweden), Commission nationale des droits de l'homme (Togo), Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Azerbaijan, National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria,Human Rights Commission (Northern Ireland), South African Human Rights Commission, Standing Committee on Human Rights (Kenya), Human Rights Commission (Malawi), Commission Rwandaise des droits de l’homme, National Human Rights Commission (Nepal), Commission nationale consultative de promotion et de protection des droits de l’homme (Algeria), Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (Honduras), and Comité supérieur des droits de l'homme et des libertés fondamentales de Tunisie.
The Commission today is holding an extended meeting from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. After hearing from national human rights institutions, the Commission continued to take action on draft resolutions on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, including the question f human rights in Cyprus, and on economic, social and cultural rights.
Action on Resolutions on the Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World
In a resolution on the human rights situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel (E/CN.4/2003/L.8), adopted by a roll-call vote of 32 in favour, one against and 20 abstentions, the Commission called upon the Government of Israel to comply with the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols thereto; to refrain from holding the detained Lebanese citizens incarcerated in its prisons as hostages for bargaining purposes and to release them immediately; affirmed the obligation of Israel to commit itself to allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the detainees regularly, as well as allowing other international humanitarian organizations to do so and to verify their sanitary and humanitarian conditions and, in particular, the circumstances of their detention; called upon the Government of Israel to submit to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon all the maps of landmine fields laid throughout the civilian villages, fields and farms, causing casualties among civilians, including women and children, and obstructing the resumption of normal life in the area; and requested the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of the Government of Israel.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In favour (32): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Gabon, India, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.
Against (1):United States.
Abstentions (20): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.
A Representative of Syria said the draft resolution was clear proof of Israel's flagrant violation of human rights. Israel had abducted Lebanese people and transferred them to Israel, keeping them as hostages, in total contravention of international norms. Lebanese detainees were kept in horrible conditions and were used as a political pawn for negotiations. To this day, Israel had also refused to provide all information of the locations of anti-personnel land mines, much to the detriment of the Lebanese people who were wounded daily. The highest Israeli court had made it possible, through a ruling, for the Israeli authority to keep Lebanese hostages for purposes of bargaining.
A Representative of Israel said that his country had already withdrawn its forces from Lebanon according to resolution 425 of the Security Council. Israel did so on 24 May 2000. Israel had handed over to UNIFIL maps of the landmines laid in southern Lebanon. The confirmation of the transfer was signed by a senior officer of UNIFIL. The Lebanese Government had the responsibility to maintain the minefields on the territories. The Government had failed to do so for its own reasons. It could not come to the Commission to ask for redress in the form of verbal condemnation of Israel. The Government of Lebanon had never fulfilled its responsibility regarding the maintenance of security in southern Lebanon. The resolution discussed detainees. Yes, there were detainees but they were Israelis and they were held in Lebanon and elsewhere. Voting in favour of the draft resolution was lending a hand to the distortion of reality thus not contributing towards peace in the region.
A Representative of Lebanon said that there was no doubt that the Commission was the most adequate forum to discuss issues relating to human rights. The Commission must demonstrate that it could not remain silent in the face of human rights violations. The draft resolution was based on Israel’s violation of human rights, international law and the Geneva Conventions. Concerning the number of detainees, the information presented by Israel was false and misleading. According to the Red Cross, there were scores of detainees in Israeli prisons, in contravention of international legality. Some of the detainees were held without trial. Others had finished their sentences but were not released. The detainees were also subjected to torture. One of the Lebanese detainees, who was detained in 1986, had died recently. Israel refused to release these prisoners since it wanted to use them as bargaining chips. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon only because of Lebanese resistance, not because Israel respected international law. Israel left thousands of land mines and booby traps in southern Lebanon which had maimed and killed many civilians. Lebanon had been asking for the maps of the mines since Israel’s withdrawal. However, the maps handed over by Israel covered only 65 per cent of the area that was under Israeli occupation.
A Representative of the United States said this draft resolution was the fifth major resolution of the Commission aimed at Israel, a democratic country with an independent judiciary. It was regrettable that many other countries in this room did not grant its citizens such rights. As with the other anti-Israeli draft resolutions, the United States would call for a vote and would vote against the draft.
A Representative of Australia said that the draft was unbalanced and it would not contribute to peace in the region.
A Representative of Canada said that it would abstain on L.8 since the draft resolution was unbalanced in its explanation of the regional context and would not contribute to peace. It also failed to address the issue of Israeli soldiers detained in Lebanon. Furthermore, the resolution contained references to landmines. While Canada was concerned about these landmines, it was of the view that the resolution was not the place to address this issue.
A Representative of Guatemala said that the draft had a great deal of humanitarian content and that efforts to put an end to human rights violations must be one of the priorities of the Commission. However, the draft should have included reference to the end of suicide-bombings and the fair treatment of Israeli prisoners. This would have made the draft more balanced. Guatemala would abstain in the vote.
CLAUDIE BARRAT, of The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, said that the Independent Commission was the first national human rights institution in the Arab world. President Arafat had established it in 1993 and it was independent in its legislation, finances, policy and operation. It complied with the requirements of the Paris Principles and was now requesting full membership in the forums of national institutions. One serious external challenge was the assault by Israeli forces on the occupied Palestinian territories, especially since September 2000. Since then, Israeli forces and settlers had killed more than 2000 Palestinians. The Independent Commission’s main office had been ransacked in April of last year. As a consequence, some activities had to be postponed, and the restriction of movement had prevented the Independent Commission from attending international conferences. However, as a result of its diligent professional activities for more than nine years, the Independent Commission had succeeded in consolidating its presence, independence and standing in Palestinian society.
The Palestinian Authority was urged to abolish the security courts, to combat corruption, to establish a more transparent system, to achieve the separation of powers, to hold municipal, legislative and presidential elections, and should allow Parliament to play a more effective role in monitoring the Executive branch.
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