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UNITED
NATIONS
E

Distr.
GENERAL
E/CN.4/2002/SR.15
26 March 2002

Original: ENGLISH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Fifty-eighth session

SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 15th MEETING

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 26 March 2002, at 10 a.m.

Chairperson: Mr. JAKUBOWSKI (Poland)


CONTENTS

QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF COSTA RICA

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF MEXICO

STATEMENT BY THE SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THAILAND

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CUBA

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PAKISTAN

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF FRANCE

STATEMENT BY THE HEAD OF THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF SWITZERLAND

STATEMENT BY THE FEDERAL MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA


The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.

QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 8) (E/CN.4/2002/6, 11, 13, 29-32, 126-129, 131 and 147; E/CN.4/2002/NGO/23, 103, 115, 130 and 165)

(a) Mr. DUGARD (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), introducing his report (E/CN.4/2002/32), said that he had interpreted his mandate as being to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the context of Israel’s military occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories. Since, however, that interpretation had been questioned by the Government of Israel (E/CN.4/2002/129), he requested that the Commission consider the matter so that the scope of his mandate would not be in dispute.

(b) He had visited the occupied Palestinian territories twice since the Commission’s previous session, had travelled widely there and had held extensive discussions with members of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian and Israeli interlocutors. He regretted that, because the Government of Israel objected to his mandate and had withheld cooperation, he had been unable to meet Israeli government officials.

(c) The report catalogued many serious violations of humanitarian law and human rights, including the indiscriminate killing and wounding of civilians by both parties and the failure of both parties to prosecute and publish those responsible for atrocities, the expansion of settlements, the demolition of housing, restrictions on freedom of movement, the disruption of education caused by the closure and bombing of schools and the traumatization of schoolchildren and the interrogation and detention of children. With regard to the last element, he considered that an independent investigation should be held into allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of children, in violation of international law.

(d) The situation had deteriorated radically since his last visit in mid-February 2002. In March, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had launched the most extensive military operations since 1982 in Ramallah and various refugee camps, causing extensive damage to Palestinian homes, particularly in the overcrowded camps of Balata and Jabaliya. Schools operated in the camps, by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) had been taken over by IDF for use as detention centres and a school for the blind had been bombed. More than 2,000 men had been arrested and held for interrogation after being subjected to humiliating treatment. In one month, more than 180 Palestinians, mainly civilians, had been killed bringing the death toll since the start of the second intifada to over 1,200. The Israeli death toll, currently more than 300, had also risen sharply. In addition, aerial photographs taken by a Palestinian non-governmental organization (NGO) and confirmed by a survey carried out by the Israeli Peace Now movement had shown that 34 new Israeli settlements had been built in the past year.

(e) For Palestinians the military occupation of their territory was seen as the principal cause of the crisis while Israelis, considered that it was due to terrorism, directed at the very existence of the State of Israel. However that might be, there could be no doubt that the military occupation bore a heavy responsibility for violations of humanitarian law and human rights by both Israelis and Palestinians. Consequently, only a negotiated settlement leading to termination of the military occupation and realization of the vision contained in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002), of two States - Israel and Palestine - living side by side within secure and recognized borders, could end the violence and restore respect for human rights.

(f) Calls for a ceasefire alone would not suffice to achieve a return to the negotiating table and a state of relative calm while the parties talked. Only an effective international presence with the power to monitor and reduce the use of violence could achieve that goal. While well aware of Israel’s objections to such a proposal and its doubts about the internationalization of the conflict, he firmly believed that the only possible response to the violence in the region was such an international peacekeeping mission, carefully structured and composed to meet the special circumstances of the situation.

[...]

STATEMENT BY THE SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

(kk) Ms. ASHRAWI (Palestine) said it was regrettable that the Israeli authorities’ siege had prevented the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Yasser Arafat, from attending the current meeting of the Commission. However, no siege could silence the voice of the Palestinian people, who looked to the Commission - an assembly that represented the conscience of the world and the guardians of those who were oppressed and marginalized - for support in their struggle for enjoyment of their human rights. She paid tribute to the independence of spirit and unwavering commitment of the indomitable High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had reached the darkest corners of the globe with the promise of succour and hope. She was deeply honoured to have the opportunity to hold a forthright discussion with the Commission on the plight of a tormented Palestinian people yearning for freedom, dignity, independence and peace in their own land and in the Middle East as a whole.

(ll) She expressed appreciation for the High Commissioner’s statement on 13 February on the human rights situation in the Middle East and the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (E/CN.4/2002/32). The recommendations in that report provided a reliable road map for concrete action by the Commission. She recognized the valuable work being done by the local office of OHCHR in the occupied Palestinian territories, more particularly in the Rule of Law programme, and stressed the urgent need to expand the mandate and activities of that office.

(mm) The Palestinian people were deprived of the most basic rights and fundamental freedoms and were bereft of the protection of international law both individually and collectively. Languishing under the last remaining military occupation in history, they were terrorized in every possible way: their lands, homes, infrastructure and economy were all targets of persistent Israeli military assaults. Such unbridled violence, deliberately unleashed on an already captive and besieged nation, exceeded all the bounds of collective punitive measures. The Palestinian people’s rights to life and dignity, shelter, health care, education, freedom of movement and self-determination were all being systematically violated. Bullets and shells invaded every possible space where human beings might seek refuge.

(nn) Reduced to the level of abstract statistics, Palestinians had been systematically dehumanized and their lives devalued. The more than 2,300 murder victims (of whom 836 were children) since 28 September 2000 were all individuals with identities, loved ones, hopes and dreams. Each was unique and irreplaceable. The tens of thousands of wounded (about half of whom were children) were the ones who would bear the scars and disabilities for the rest of their lives, while many would require special care and resources that would tax whole families and communities. All violent deaths were tragic, but the cruelty was compounded by the wanton and needless deaths of the wounded denied medical services, most of whom had bled to death as ambulances and medical staff had been denied access or were deliberately shot at and shelled on their way to provide their vital assistance.

(oo) Eyewitnesses had been silenced. During its latest incursions into Palestinian towns, villages and camps, the Israeli occupation army had targeted members of the press corps (murdering one Italian journalist and wounding several others), while censoring even their own coverage in Israel. Over 50 international and Palestinian journalists had been wounded and 4 killed in the past 18 months. Wilful ignorance and imposed blackouts were the enemies of truth and justice. Ultimately, they perpetuated the conflict, while undermining the prospects for genuine peace.

(pp) The Palestinians were not a “demographic problem”, as the racist ideology in some Israeli circles maintained. They did not threaten the Jewish majority or the purity of the State of Israel; they were the people of the land of Palestine, with a historical, cultural and human continuity that formed the sum total of their collective memory and their future aspirations. Theirs had always been an inclusive and pluralistic society, with a powerful tradition of tolerance and hospitality. The State that they were intent on building would not only maintain those principles but would enhance them to generate a comprehensive, human-based development plan, firmly grounded in the practice of an active democracy and the rule of law as the essential requirements of good governance. Such an independent, sovereign, viable and democratic State of Palestine was not only a right and a redemption for the inequities of the past but also a pledge for and investment in the future. Arab Jerusalem, as its capital, was at the centre of a revitalized human reality, in which all values, cultures, religions and hopes would converge.

(qq) Tragically and ironically, the current Israeli Government seemed to be bent on regression into fundamentalist Zionism. The ethnic cleansing that had been perpetrated against the Palestinian people in 1948, however, must not and would not be repeated. The myth of “a land without a people for a people without a land” had been discredited for ever. It was imperative that the historical compromise of the two-State solution should be recognized, establishing the State of Palestine on 22 per cent of historical Palestine (namely, on the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, the territories occupied by Israel as a result of the 5 June 1967 war). The State of Israel would then have defined boundaries on 78 per cent of historical Palestine or the 1967 lines that would constitute the “secure and recognized boundaries” repeatedly called for by the international community, most recently and compellingly in Security Council resolution No. 1397 (2002), which incorporated Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

(rr) It was no coincidence that the vulnerable and defenceless refugee camps had borne the brunt of Israel’s most recent raids and incursions. Dispossessed, expelled and dispersed, the Palestinian refugees remained the most compelling human embodiment of the grave historical injustice committed against the Palestinian people. Denied even the humblest of shelters in the refugee camps, they had been helpless before the tanks that had demolished their homes, destroyed their meagre infrastructure and brought violent death to their loved ones. It was thus imperative that any peace agreement should include a just and legal solution to the refugee question based on General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and consistent with other precedents pertaining to the forced displacement of populations in times of war and armed conflict.

(ss) The same applied to the issue of the land itself, particularly if the global rule of law, the applicability of international humanitarian law and the de jure applicability of the fourth Geneva Convention were to be upheld for the occupied Palestinian territory. All forms of land confiscation, annexation and settlement activity, on whatever pretext, must cease. Jerusalem, in particular, must be rescued from prejudicial unilateralism, greed and acquisition. The Palestinians had consistently sought the implementation of United Nations resolutions and the upholding of international legality as the basis of any agreement and the framework for an equitable solution.

(tt) Furthermore, since the convening of the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority had welcomed all initiatives and interventions that had attempted to bring about a peaceful and just solution to the conflict, including the latest Saudi initiative currently under discussion at the Arab League summit. They had repeatedly called for international monitors and cooperated with all third-party constructive participation.

(uu) Unfortunately, the fatal and tragic dynamic of the occupation had been allowed to prevail, threatening to spiral out of control and engulf the whole region in yet another period of instability and violence. While the Arab world had made a strategic commitment to peace, an obsolete and anachronistic mentality was still in evidence among hard-line extremists in the Israeli Government, which suffered from the illusion that military superiority was sufficient cause for claiming superior rights. Such a mindset lay at the root of the conflict. All attempts to demonize, humiliate and brutalize the Palestinians - and Arabs as a whole - would not only fail but would also backfire within Israel itself.

(vv) Despite the pain and loss, the Palestinians had never accepted or “normalized” the murder of the innocent. Although their own innocent civilians had been killed with impunity, they had repeatedly deplored all attacks targeting Israeli civilians. As Israeli peace campaigners also maintained, the occupation was killing the whole region. Instead of dealing with the latest violation or atrocity, instead of repeatedly blaming the victims, instead of reducing international efforts to the level of crisis management and damage control, instead of trying to find remedies for the symptoms, she called upon the Commission to deal with the root causes, with the fatal disease itself, which could be summed up as the misguided and immoral notion that one State could dictate its will to another nation by force of arms, that a colonial situation of enslavement could be maintained in the third millennium, that the will of the Palestinian people could be subdued and broken by brutality and bloodshed or that different values could be ascribed to the lives and rights of people on the basis of their religious affiliation, ethnic origin or national identity.

(ww) It was time to speak out on the issue of terrorism. State and non-State actors must be held accountable for their actions in the exercise of all forms of violence or violations against innocent civilians for the purpose of achieving political gains. No individual, group or nation must be held hostage to the violent agenda of another. By the same token, defining terrorism and identifying terrorists could never be the monopoly of the strong. Subjectivity and self-interest had often tainted the drive to protect the innocent by handing out convenient labels and making stereotypical accusations that often served to distort issues and prevent solutions. Objective criteria, reliable evidence and universal instruments must be available to enable a global rule of law to prevail, on the basis of fairness and parity.

(xx) Her people might be held captive by a brutal physical siege, but the human spirit and will could never be besieged or degraded. Palestinians grieved equally for all loss of life and rights. They sought the liberation of both oppressor and oppressed from the occupation. The Commission should not only intervene, dispatch observers, prepare and disseminate accurate facts and assessments, enforce all relevant laws and conventions and adopt its own proactive resolutions, it must also not lose sight of the occupation itself as the most comprehensive and pervasive cause of all the violations and injustices. Ultimately, only a just peace would provide the comprehensive solution and only such a peace could become the genuine expression of the ultimate right of humanity as a whole: the right to a qualitative life nurtured by human security, dignity and freedom.

[...]


STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PAKISTAN

75. Mr. SATTAR (Pakistan) said that ...

[...]

(dddd) The Commission should also intensify its efforts to put an end to the gross violations of Palestinian human rights and the wanton death and destruction perpetrated by the Israeli armed forces against innocent Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian Authority had condemned suicide attacks against Israeli targets. Israel should ponder what compelled individuals to prefer their own death to life under Israeli occupation. The vision affirmed in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) needed to be pursued with urgency. Saudi Arabia’s farsighted suggestion offered a pragmatic formula for a political solution.

[...]


STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF FRANCE

84. Mr. VEDRINE (France) said that ...

[...]


(jjjj) It was by the adoption of such positions that the United Nations could act as guardian of accepted values; and it was through scrupulous compliance with their obligations that States could support the United Nations in that role. He therefore wished to extend a standing invitation to all the Commission mechanisms to visit France. His Government, in turn, expected certain things of friendly countries: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in Chechnya and the occupied Palestinian territories and increasing respect for human rights in China.

[...]

STATEMENT BY THE HEAD OF THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF SWITZERLAND

[...]

(tttt) Mr. DEISS (Switzerland) said that, ...

[...]

(vvvv) International humanitarian law was not a theoretical ideal but the minimum standard below which human dignity was denied and force abused. It formed part of the fundamental core of human rights. Invoking reasons of security to question the validity of the rules of humanitarian law was both illegal and dangerous. On 5 December 2001, the 115 High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention had issued an appeal recalling the obligations of the Parties. The appeal was addressed to the whole of the international community, to the parties to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and, more specifically, to the occupying Power. A just and lasting peace would be achieved only by ending the occupation and, until that was achieved, by applying the law governing the conditions of occupation and the protection of civilians. The contents of that appeal applied to many other conflicts also.

[...]

The meeting rose at 1.30 p.m.

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