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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

Fifty-seventh General Assembly
Third Committee
41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/3764
12 November 2003

REPORTS ON RIGHT TO HEALTH, HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, BURUNDI, IRAQ DISCUSSED IN SOCIAL COMMITTEE

Draft Resolutions Introduced on Refugee Issues,
Torture, Migrants, Human Rights Conventions, Israeli Children


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Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) expects to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights, human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, as well as the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

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Also today, the Committee is expected to hear the oral introduction of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

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Introduction of Draft Resolutions

Opening its afternoon meeting, the Committee heard the introduction of seven draft resolutions.

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The representative of Israel introduced a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children (document A.C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1), said the resolution, made necessary by a resolution addressing only the situation of Palestinian children previously approved by the Committee, sought to protect Israeli children from the effects of Palestinian terrorism. 

The representative of Syria said she was opposed to the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children, as the resolution was presented under an incorrect agenda item, the debate on the situation of children.  The debate and essence of this agenda item was not incumbent upon the Third Committee.  She proposed that the resolution be introduced under a different agenda item.

The observer for Palestine said the resolution introduced by Israel copied the text and format of the resolution on Palestinian children, thereby trivializing the suffering of Palestinian children.  Furthermore, the Israeli draft ran contrary to all the arguments Israel had made for rejecting the Palestinian resolution.  The draft reflected the distorted and unacceptable Israeli positions, she continued.  The resolution was unacceptable and was more anti-Palestinian children than it was pro-Israeli children. 

The representative of Lebanon asked the Committee to reject the introduction of the resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children for the reasons presented by the observer for Palestine.

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Occupied Palestinian Territories

JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, stressed the illegality of Israeli settlements and the wall presently being constructed by Israel.  He highlighted the serious consequences the wall and settlements had for the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

He said Israel had the right, in response to very real security concerns, to build a wall along the 1949 Armistice Line, but it had no right to build the wall in Palestinian territory.  The building of such a structure in Palestinian territory could only be seen as de facto annexation, and annexation of occupied territory was prohibited both by the United Nations Charter and by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Furthermore, he continued, Israel had aggravated matters by designating the area between the wall and the 1949 Armistice Line a “closed zone” in which Israelis may travel freely but Palestinians who lived and worked there would require permits.  This would require the more than 13,500 Palestinians residing and working in the “closed zone” to obtain permits to live and work in their own homeland.  Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall would be cut off from their lands, homes, clinics and schools.  An estimated half a million Palestinians in 136 communities would be affected.

He noted that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited the occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupied.  Today, there were some 200 illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza with some 400,000 settlers, and Israel had, in October 2003, approved the building of 600 new housing units in the West Bank.  An estimated 40 per cent of the total land area of the West Bank was effectively under the control of settlements.

The wall and the settlements were both designed to establish facts on the ground that, together, would inevitably redraw the map of Palestine.  This was apparent from the course of the wall, which incorporated illegal settlements into the “closed zone”, a zone effectively annexed to Israel, by Israel.

He stressed that the wall and the settlements had wide, negative implications for human rights.  They would render Palestinian self-determination meaningless, as the Palestinian people would soon have too little land of their own on which to build a State.  Checkpoints established by Israel humiliated the Palestinian people and resulted in the destruction of the fabric of Palestinian social life, the deterioration of health care and education and the economic collapse, which had inflicted poverty on 60 per cent of the population.

Interactive Dialogue

The representative of Israel said he was responding with regret to the report written by Mr. Dugard.  The statement made today by the Special Rapporteur was, unfortunately, no different from statements and reports he had issued in the past.  He continued to use the Rapporteur’s mission and unprecedented mandate as a platform for advancing a political agenda.  Many of the allegations raised by the Rapporteur repeated misleading charges made in his earlier reports. 

Although recognizing Israel’s “legitimate security concerns” or its entitlement to take “strong action” against terrorists, Mr. Dugard made no allowance at all for such actions when they were indeed taken, he said.  Mr. Dugard did not seem to give any consideration to the threat faced by Palestinian terrorism, which had cost hundreds of lives and threatened thousands more.  He did not consider the blowing up of Israeli buses or restaurants by Palestinian terrorists worthy of mention.

A determination of proportionality could not be made instantaneously or from afar, merely by tabulating reports of alleged damages and casualties, he said.  It was necessary to take account of the specific context of the security situation that Israelis were faced with due to the ongoing Palestinian terrorist campaign.  It had become apparent that the current Rapporteur viewed his position and mandate as little more than a platform for broadcasting his personal political views. 

There was clearly a place for serious analysis and debate about humanitarian issues in the territories, he said.  But Mr. Dugard’s statement and recent report showed no interest in such a debate.  By placing the entire blame for the hardships facing Palestinians on Israel, he absolved terrorists that had taken Palestinian society hostage, the corrupt leadership that had incited and abused the Palestinian people, and those Arab States that had deliberately sought to fund and enflame terrorism in the region.  In so doing, his statement and his most recent report were clearly part of the problem and not the solution.

The representative of Syria said the report was yet another evidence of Israel’s brutal practices in the occupied Arab territories.  His delegation agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the purpose of the wall was to annex Palestinian territory.  This proved that Israel was only inclined towards terminating and abolishing the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian State.

He said the policies pursued by Israel in destroying homes and killing Palestinian civilians proved that Israel’s claim to combating terrorism was mendacious because Israel was itself part of international terrorism.  Its actions carried out in so-called self-defence were a defence for occupation and aggression.

The representative of Switzerland asked about the Israeli Government authorizing an independent investigation on allegations of torture and what institutions could carry out that function.

Responding, Mr. DUGARD said he would continue to try to assess aspects of proportionality within the conflict.  Regarding an international ad hoc commission of inquiry, he said that if the Government of Israel did not accept this, the Government could appoint an independent Israeli commission.  He recognized that Israel had real security concerns and stressed that he did not absolve those who had committed terrorist acts against Israel.  His report had aimed to stress that the settlements and the building of the wall had serious consequences on human rights and were illegal.

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The representative of the United States thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq and said he looked forward to the Special Rapporteurs’ visit to Iraq at the earliest opportunity.

Turning to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, he said he would have more to say on the matter at the Commission of Human Rights, where it could be more appropriately examined.  He said that, in his delegation’s view, the report was grossly one-sided and did not contribute to the cause for human rights and peace in the Middle East.  The observations made in the report were one-sided and objectionable and paid no more than lip service to the context in which decisions being criticized were made. 

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The Observer for Palestine thanked the Special Rapporteur for bringing to light the myriad of human rights violations committed in the occupied territories.  She asked about the new Israeli order and how Palestinians were to deal with the application for permits within the areas of the wall.  Yet again, the Israeli delegate had accused, threatened and aimed to silence the Special Rapporteur.  The truth spoke louder than words, she said, and thanked the Special Rapporteur for speaking up for the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The representative of Egypt stressed the importance of the Special Rapporteur continuing his work on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.  The building of the wall was merely a new reflection of the illegality of Israeli actions.  The Egyptian delegation requested that the report of the Special Rapporteur be submitted to the Committee.

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Mr. DUGARD, responding to allegations that he had a political agenda, stressed that he had no political agenda -- that his concern was for human rights.

Regarding accusations by representatives of Israel and the United States that he had been one-sided in his report, he said it was difficult to weigh the actions of Israel on the one hand, and of Palestinians on the other hand, to ascertain whether he had exceeded the bounds of proportionality.  One deplored the attacks of suicide bombers, but Israel’s response was to detain civilians, destroy homes, impose curfews on innocent people and create checkpoints that had resulted in a humanitarian crisis, including poverty among 60 per cent of the population and the deterioration of health care and education services.

The wall encroaching on Palestinian territory would cause half a million Palestinians to experience encroachment upon their basic freedoms.  He asked the United States representative to weigh these factors against each other and to seriously consider whether he has overstated the case against Israel.  He was convinced he had not done so.  Israel had behaved in an excessive manner, and the construction of the wall was the most serious example of this.

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For information media - not an official record