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        Economic and Social Council
29 April 1997

Original: FRENCH


Fifty-third session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 12 March 1997, at 10 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. SOMOL (Czech Republic)






This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva. Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.

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


QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 4) (continued) E/CN.4/1997/13, 14, 15, 16, E/CN.4/1997/107, E/CN.4/1997/109, E/CN.4/1997/111, E/CN.4/1997/116, and E/CN.4/1997/117),


34. Mr. LI Baodong (China) said that his Government welcomed the progress made in the Middle East peace process, but it was seriously concerned about the Israeli Government's recent decision to build new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and regretted that the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people had not yet fully materialized. His Government had always maintained that the issue of the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, should be resolved through peaceful negotiation by all parties concerned on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions.

35. Over the years, the Commission had supported the just cause of the Palestinian people and the population of the other occupied territories. It should give high priority to the consideration and solution of the problem of serious human rights violations as a result of colonialism, racism, and foreign aggression, occupation and rule. China would continue to work towards the restoration of all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the realization of peace in the Middle East.

36. Mr. BENJELLOUN TOUIMI (Observer for Morocco) welcomed the fact that, despite the many obstacles in their way, the parties to the Middle East peace process had been able, on 15 January 1997, to arrive at the Alkhalil agreement, which was an important step towards confidence-building and cooperation for the establishment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region based on the principle of “land for peace”.

37. However, serious inroads were likely to be made on that confidence if the decision to build a new Jewish settlement of 6,500 dwellings in East Jerusalem was maintained. As His Majesty King Hassan II had stated in his speech from the throne on 3 March 1997, peace could not be rebuilt where feelings of frustration, hatred and fear continued to exist. The renewal of loyal and sincere cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis required scrupulous compliance with the Oslo Agreement.

38. The consolidation of the peace process also required massive and concerted aid from the international community as a whole to ensure the economic and social development of the occupied territories. It must go hand in hand with scrupulous respect for human rights and humanitarian law. It was vital that there should be an improvement in the human rights situation in the occupied territories, that the 3,500 prisoners should be released and that the persons responsible for the ill-treatment of detainees should be punished. It was crucial for the parties concerned to demonstrate their firm desire to solve pending problems, with full respect for international legality.

39. In order to ensure a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, the only solution was to approach Syria and Lebanon and restart the negotiations on the basis of the relevant General Assembly and the Security Council resolutions.

40. Mr. FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said it was regrettable that, after the many obstacles it had overcome, the Middle East peace process was going through a new crisis as a result of the Israeli Government's recent decision to build a new Jewish district in the Arab sector of Jabel Abu Ghneim in East Jerusalem. That decision was not only a violation of the Oslo Agreement, but also an unacceptable attempt to change the bases on which the international community had initiated the peace process. It was a scandal that the United States, one of the actors in the peace process, had prevented the Security Council from taking a position on a matter of such great importance.

41. Practices such as the confiscation of Palestinian land and enforced expulsions, whose sole aim was to amend the status quo to the advantage of the occupying power, were to be deplored. They were accompanied by punitive and arbitrary measures which constituted a collective punishment of the inhabitants of the occupied territories. The November 1996 decision by the Israeli High Court to lift the ban on the use of physical force in the interrogation of Palestinian detainees by the internal security services was a matter of concern.

42. There could be no lasting peace in the Middle East without the complete withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied territories, the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon. It was high time for the Palestinian people to be able to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent State.

43. Mr. TARMIDZI (Indonesia), speaking as Chairman of the Group of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), reaffirmed the support of all OIC member countries for the struggle by the Palestine Liberation Organization to put an end to the effects of the Israeli occupation and to build up Palestinian national institutions in Palestine so as to ensure the exercise of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, including its right to return to its homeland, to self-determination and to the creation in its territory of an independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

44. The Israeli Government's recent decision to build a new settlement in Jabel Abu Ghneim in Al-Quds Al-Sharif was Israel's latest attempt to modify the city's demographic structure and legal status. All other measures of that type taken in recent years were contrary not only to the interests of the Palestinian people, but also to those of the peace process itself. They were and would continue to be unacceptable, since they expressly violated the resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, and were also incompatible with the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and subsequent agreements and with the generally accepted principles of international law. His organization once again called on Israel to put an end to all forms of human rights violations in the Palestinian and other occupied territories and to respect all those texts.

45. At its twenty-fourth session in Jakarta in December 1996, the Islamic Conference of Ministers had reaffirmed its support for the Middle East peace process and had stressed the need to implement all the agreements signed by the parties concerned, to respect the commitments made in accordance with United Nations resolutions and to apply the “land for peace” formula, which required Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people. The Middle East had great economic and political potential if peace could be established. The agreements must therefore be implemented consistently and fairly in their entirety, and not selectively, sporadically or conditionally.

46. Mr. DLAMINI (Observer for Swaziland) emphasized that the right of peoples to self-determination must be respected in all regions of the world and not only in the Middle East. The wars and conflicts which raged on the African continent led to interference in the internal affairs of States, in contempt of the Charter of the United Nations. Many African States were subject to measures of coercion that undermined their sovereignty, while acts of interference took place with total disregard for national law, on the pretext of defending human rights and democracy.

47. Since their accession to independence, African countries had been trying gradually to establish a system which would respect human rights, making due allowance for their own history. It might be asked on what grounds some countries were trying to impose models which were thought to be acceptable for all, particularly with regard to human rights. He asked the developed countries to allow the ongoing political and economic processes in the developing countries to continue without abusive interference in their internal affairs and urged the Commission to guarantee respect for the principle of the sovereign equality of all the Members of the United Nations embodied in the Charter.

48. Mr. HASSAN (Observer for Sudan) said that the Commission was holding its fifty-third session at a time when, as all the reports to the Commission or to the General Assembly stated, the situation of the Palestinians was deteriorating as a result of Israel's policy. Israel was still refusing to implement the resolutions of the international community and flouting the peace agreements it had signed with the PLO. It continued to violate the fundamental rights of the Palestinians, to expropriate their land in order to extend its settlements and to try to change the demographic balance of Jerusalem.

49. While supporting the resolutions of the international community, his Government condemned the establishment of new settlements in Jerusalem and the opening of a tunnel under the Great Mosque. The Commission should warn the international community and Israel in particular against the harmful consequences for peace of aggressive practices of that kind. Israel must stop occupying the land and violating the fundamental rights of the Arab peoples of the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon and the occupied territories and recognize their right to self-determination. It must realize that one of the last hopes for a just and comprehensive peace in the region was to adopt the “land for peace” solution. The international community and the Commission in particular should urge it to guarantee the conditions for establishing that much desired peace.

50. Mr. AL-MUSIBLI (Observer for Yemen) said that the opening of the Commission's session had once again been marked by very serious incidents in the occupied Arab territories. The human rights violations taking place there were the direct result of the occupation by Israel, which was reneging on the commitments it had made in the context of the peace process. It was clear, however, that the peace to which all countries in the region aspired first of all required that all parties should fulfil their international obligations. International instruments and agreements were daily trampled underfoot in the occupied territories, as the international community knew full well. He referred to the practice of collective punishments, the sealing off of Palestinian areas, which had disastrous effects on the economic and social situation, including education and health, the settlement expansion policy, the attempts to change the demographic composition of the Arab section of Jerusalem by emptying it of its genuine inhabitants, the violence practised by the Israeli forces against unarmed civilians and the physical and psychological tortures to which Palestinian prisoners were subjected in defiance of international conventions. As was clear from the report of Mr. Hannu Halinen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories (E/CN.4/1997/16), such Israeli practices were contrary not only to the international conventions, but also to the most basic morality. His delegation urged that the Special Rapporteur's mission should continue until the territories occupied by Israel had been totally evacuated.

51. The establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the region would be achieved by the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories, and from Golan and southern Lebanon, and by the recognition of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

52. The Commission should again ask Israel to comply with the international community's decisions and to respect the principles of international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols.

53. Mrs. DIALLO (Observer for Senegal) said that, despite the positive results of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 1993 and 1994, the desire of the international community to reach a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict was still encountering serious obstacles, as could be seen from the tragic events which had occurred in 1996 in Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza after Israel had built a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The decision which the Israeli Government had taken on 26 February 1997 to establish an eleventh Jewish settlement in the Arab sector of East Jerusalem and which, if implemented, would mean completely surrounding the Arab districts of the Holy City and cutting East Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank, heightened the atmosphere of mistrust which characterized relations between Jews and Palestinians. Other factors were the continuing establishment of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, the occupation of the Syrian Golan since 1967, the sealing off of the occupied territories that continued to be imposed by the Israeli army and the painful question of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who still languished in Israeli jails. Only the implementation, in good faith and without delay, of the agreements concluded on the basis of the “land for peace” principle, respecting the security of all States and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, could put the process that had started in Madrid back on track for the building of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

54. She welcomed the efforts being made by the Palestinian Authority to honour its international commitments, despite the sufferings of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. If the credibility of the Palestinian Authority was to be preserved, the economic development of the Palestinian territories had to be ensured and the living conditions of their population had to be improved, particularly in the Gaza Strip. It was also clear that the establishment of peace in the territories necessarily involved respecting human dignity and promoting and safeguarding the human rights of the people of the region. Everything possible must be done to solve the problems of the spread of Israeli settlements, to improve the treatment of prisoners, to combat acts of terrorism and intimidation, from whatever quarter they came, to ensure the protection of the holy places and to put an end to the collective punishments which stirred up emotions, created martyrs and benefited the enemies of peace.

55. Her delegation welcomed the positive contribution of the United Nations General Assembly and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to the peace efforts in Palestine. Senegal, which had chaired the Committee since 1975 and was a member of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, was also in a position to appreciate the efforts made by other actors in the field, particularly the sponsors of the peace process, the specialized agencies and NGOs, which were giving the civilian population reasons to believe that the aim of the peace process was not to wipe out the anguish of the past, but to prevent further suffering.

56. In conclusion, she said that it was for each individual, in the Commission on Human Rights and elsewhere, to work tirelessly to ensure that the enormous efforts and sacrifices being made for peace in Palestine and the Middle East would not be in vain and so that the ideals of peace, justice and solidarity which informed the Madrid negotiations would triumph.

57. Mrs. LESCORNEC (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) said that her organization was deeply concerned about the Israeli Government's recent decision to build a new settlement on Palestinian land at Jabel Abu Ghneim, near Bethlehem. The implementation of the project, which had been condemned by practically the entire international community, would without a doubt jeopardize the ongoing peace negotiations, possibly fatally. The decision was a further attempt by Israel to impose its sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and was part of the Israeli policy of confiscating land and building settlements throughout the West Bank. Since the 1967 war, Israel had confiscated more than half of the occupied territories, or 74 per cent of the West Bank and 26 per cent of the Gaza Strip. Most of the land confiscated was fertile agricultural land which belonged legally to its owners. As land was a source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinians, that policy hampered the development of the Palestinian economy and was contrary to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and totally incompatible with the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

58. The proposed construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem was a grave breach of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement and the declaration of principles according to which the final status of Jerusalem must be the subject of specific talks. For three years, however, the Israelis had imposed the complete economic and military sealing-off of Jerusalem, thus greatly damaging the economic, academic and cultural life of the city. Those measures were an intolerable abuse of human rights, particularly of the right to freedom of movement and freedom of worship, and a denial of the right of the Palestinians to self-determination; they were even more serious in the case of Jerusalem, the cultural and religious centre of the Palestinian community and the future capital of the sovereign State of Palestine.

59. It must be impressed upon the United Nations and the international community at large that current developments in the Middle East, particularly in Jerusalem, could have tragic consequences which must at all costs be prevented. Her organizations requested the Commission on Human Rights to do everything in its power to persuade the Israeli Government to annul its decision and to comply with international law and the many resolutions adopted by the United Nations.

60. Mr. SCHONVELD (World Organization against Torture (OMCT)) said that his organization once again noted with concern that torture continued to be practised in the occupied territories, both by the Palestinians and by the Israelis.

61. On 1 February 1997, a real estate agent in Nablus had died as a result of torture during interrogation by Palestinian military intelligence. Such acts, which did not seem to be motivated by political considerations, were indicative of the current deterioration in the human rights situation in the Palestinian autonomous areas. Even more worrying was the impunity enjoyed by those committing the abuses. Such cases highlighted the need for rules of behaviour and clear terms of reference for the Palestinian security services. His organization appealed to the Commission on Human Rights to urge the Palestinian members of the Legislative Council and ministers to face up to their responsibilities with regard to human rights and to put an end to such violations.

62. On the Israeli side, a man arrested on 6 December 1995 had been interrogated by the security forces for 18 days. The High Court had rejected the petition submitted by his lawyers, and that was tantamount to allowing the General Security Service to use “physical pressure”. In November 1996, the High Court had again rejected two complaints of torture submitted on behalf of Palestinian prisoners. Israel had thus effectively legalized torture. His organization had recently been informed of the case of a prisoner who had been handcuffed, kept in an uncomfortable position, subjected to violent interrogations and denied sleep for long periods. He had been arrested on 7 February 1997, but had not able to meet his lawyer until 4 March.

63. It should be recalled that Israel was a party to the Convention against Torture and it had already been called to order by the Committee against Torture in recommendations made in April 1994. The Committee should take an unequivocal line in considering the case and set a time limit for the implementation of its recommendations. The Commission on Human Rights should insist that Israel should take immediate and appropriate measures to outlaw both the de facto and the de jure use of physical and psychological force, withdraw its reservations on articles 20 and 30 of the Convention and accept the competence of the Committee with regard to articles 21 and 22; implement the recommendations of the Committee and, in particular, take all necessary measures to ensure that conditions of detention, including administrative detention, were brought into conformity with international norms; and take appropriate measures to ensure that legal access was guaranteed in accordance with international provisions.

64. The Commission should also remind Israel of the unequivocal wording of article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention against Torture, which stated that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”. It was the Commission's duty to do everything in its power to prevent departures from that rule.

65. Mrs. NEURY (Centre Europe-Tiers Monde (CETIM)) stressed that the plan to build a new Israeli settlement, Har Homa, on Abu Ghneim hill in East Jerusalem was unacceptable. The plan was part of a general policy to plunder and gag the Palestinians, as CETIM had revealed in its document E/CN.4/1996/NGO/45. The international community was in many respects responsible for the existence and development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It might, indeed, be asked whether the Palestinians could still expect anything from the United Nations, since Israel had been flouting Security Council and General Assembly resolutions with impunity since 1947, while, in the Security Council, the United States resorted to unmentionable pretexts to veto the condemnation of the State of Israel. The system of double standards in force in the Security Council was not to be tolerated any longer, since it had all too often led to catastrophic results for peoples in distress. Her organization therefore encouraged the members of the Commission to reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, whose situation had made no progress whatsoever, as could be seen from what was happening in East Jerusalem.


The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

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