Press Release

18 October 2000


The Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights this morning continued to hear statements on the violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, hearing further calls for establishment of a commission of inquiry into the clashes and for renewed progress in Middle East peace negotiations.

Commission Chairman Shambu Ram Simkhada began by reading out the remarks of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan following an agreement reached Tuesday by Palestinian and Israeli leaders to push jointly for an end to the violent confrontations. Annan termed 'silencing the guns, ending the violence, is a real achievement', but added that 'language can be violence too' and cautioned all involved to weigh their words carefully to create the best possible atmosphere for resumption of Middle East peace talks.

The recent clashes, which have resulted in more than 100 deaths, are the focus of the Special Session of the Commission which opened on Tuesday. The Special Session, the fifth in the Commission's history, was requested by the League of Arab States and approved by 47 of the Commission's 53 Member States. It is expected to conclude on Thursday.

Addressing the session this morning were representatives of Morocco, Sudan, Ecuador, Tunisia, Niger, Qatar, Brazil, Canada, Botswana, Chile, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Argentina, Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean countries), France (on behalf of the European Union), India, Latvia, Oman, Holy See, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Bahrain, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, Israel, and Palestine.

The Special Session will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue hearing statements.


NACER BENJELLOUN-TOUIMI (Morocco) expressed his country's solidarity with the people of Palestine. His country welcomed the convening of the Special Session of the Commission to discuss the situation in the occupied territories, and took it as a show of international support for the Palestinians.

The horrendous violence that had occurred in Palestine had been provoked by Israel, he said. The demonstrations by Palestinians had been put down with inordinate force by the Israeli security force. No justification was possible to excuse the acts of violence against the civilians of Palestine. The human rights of the Palestinian people had to be defended. The Commission was in a strong position to do this.

A hope of a new future for the region was possible, and there was hope that the agreement at Sharm El Sheikh would bring calm. Yet, human rights standards and agreements to respect those standards were required to prevail for the development of long-term peace and confidence.

IBRAHIM MIRGHANI IBRAHIM (Sudan) said that the situation in the occupied territories was ominous and excessive violence was being used by the Israeli forces against the Palestinians. Israel had deployed its war weapons against stone-throwing Palestinians, thus committing acts amounting to genocide. Human lives in the occupied territories were in danger because of the Israeli practices. Israel continued to be intransigent and continued to defy international norms, particularly in refusing to implement the various peace agreements reached by the two parties.

During the past few days, Israel had continued to persecute the unarmed Palestinian people; it had to be condemned for its actions against innocent people without due respect for international opinion and resolutions aimed at resolving the problem. Israel should respect all pertinent international instruments designed to protect civilian populations, particularly children and women who had been victims of the Israeli repression for many years. The international community should provide the necessary assistance to the Palestinian people and support their cause.

ROBERTO BETANCOURT RUALES (Ecuador) said the situation was complex and related to such matters as land disputes and population displacements that extended back for decades. Reactivation of the peace process was a priority, and the parties were urgently called upon to proceed along those lines.

Political and diplomatic efforts were needed to arrive at specific understandings on specific problems, based on the Oslo Accords and later agreements. The Commission had the responsibility to adopt measures and take positions that would avoid further violations of fundamental rights in the region and prevent a repetition of the recent events. Most international observers concurred that the provocative visit by an Israeli opposition leader to a sensitive religious site was the trigger for the recent violence. The Commission should make sure its actions coordinated with those decided on yesterday at Sharm El Sheikh.

MOHAMAD HALLEM BEN SALEM (Tunisia) said that his delegation endorsed fully the position of the Arab States, and supported the convening of the Special Session of the Commission to discuss the human rights violations in Palestine.

The human rights violations against the Palestinian people by Israel were seen by Tunisia as a deliberate provocative policy. Tunisia always supported those who acted morally and it supported the talks which were held in Sharm El Sheikh. However, long term peace was not going to be achieved until Israel made a true commitment to fulfilling its moral responsibilities.

Tunisia was following with deep concern the dangerous deterioration of the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. It was not surprised to see Israel commit such violations against the Palestinians because they were part of Israel's deliberate oppressive policy against a people defending their land and legal rights. Resolutions adopted by the United Nations had firmly condemned Israel's violations of human rights, but these declarations had been disregarded and ignored by Israel. It was the duty of the Commission to set up an international committee to investigate the facts and pinpoint who was responsible for the crimes which continued against the Palestinian people. Peace will only come in the region when it recognises the human rights of all people in the region.

ADAMOU SEYDOU (Niger) said that when the leaders of Israel and Palestine had signed a peace agreement and declared their intention for a peaceful settlement in various fora, the international community thought that definitive peace was to be achieved. The hope for peace had been great; but now when one saw innocent blood pouring on Palestinian land, the pain of the international community was great. One could not forget the falling of girls and boys under Israel bullets.

Niger expressed its condolences to the families who had lost their children. The blood of the Palestinian child martyrs would open the way to a new dawn in the Middle East. The unequal fight, stone against tanks, fighter jets, and fragmented bullets, had resulted in the death of dozens and the wounding of thousands. Niger condemned those odious acts and would like to invite the Commission to do the same. Niger requested Israel to put an end to its policy of occupation of the territories belonging to Arabs and Palestinians and to stop its harassment and violence against Palestinians.

FAHAD AWAIDA AL-THANI (Qatar) said the agreement to hold the Special Session was evidence that the world opposed the horrendous Israeli violations of the human rights of innocent and defenceless Palestinians. The whole world had seen these violent attacks on television. The provocative visit by the Israeli opposition leader to a sensitive place, an insult to Palestinians, had led to this crisis; and the Israeli reaction to their justifiable anger had been brutally out of proportion. In any case, the Israeli violations were only a continuation of violations of Palestinians' human rights carried out over decades.

The international community had to take up its responsibility and end these offenses. A commission of inquiry must be set up to reveal the particulars of these inhumane crimes and violations perpetrated by the Israeli authorities, and appropriate steps should be taken in response.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) expressed his country's grave concern over the recent violence and deaths in the Middle East region, and the gross violations of international human rights law perpetrated by the Israeli security forces. Amongst many concerns, the worst were the reports on the high number of children wounded and killed during the past two weeks. These actions against children have been carried out by the Israelis.

The delegation welcomed the talks and agreement reached in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, and asked the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to act in full cooperation with the Special Session. The peaceful progress of talks would only be successful when there was a full and unending respect and support for the importance of human rights.

MARIE GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) said the world had watched in consternation as the bright prospects for a just and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians had given way to scenes of conflict and bloodshed. The international community had recoiled in horror before images of violence and human suffering. Images that in no way reflected the deep longing of both Israelis and Palestinians for peace with security and dignity for themselves and their children.

The world should not just look on as years of efforts to build mutual confidence were swept away by senseless conflict. Only the parties themselves could take the difficult decisions necessary to reach a peace with justice and dignity. But the international community had a duty to help create a climate conducive to negotiation rather than violence. Canada firmly believed that the intentional community could best ensure respect for human rights and basic human dignity by encouraging the parties to return to the negotiating table. The deplorable disregard for human rights which the international community witnessed could best be contained and reversed by a speedy return to the negotiating table.

NOBANTU G. KALAKE (Botswana) said the recent events were heart-rending because they were laying to waste prospects for peace and were costing valuable lives. Botswana had always supported the Middle East peace process and appealed that such progress should not be drowned in the blood of both Palestinians and Israelis. Botswana recognized the right of the State of Israel to exist and for Israelis to live in peace within internationally recognized borders. It also believed that the people of Palestine had an inalienable right to self-determination and to a State of their own. Nothing short of acknowledgement of these facts by Israel and its neighbours would lead to lasting peace.

Botswana was hopeful that the efforts of the Secretary-General, coupled with those of regional leaders in the Middle East and the facilitation of the United States, would lead Palestinians and Israelis back onto the courageous path to peace.

JUAN ENRIQUE VEGA PATRI (Chile) expressed frustration at the failure of the past agreements and the reoccurrence of violence in the long-standing Middle East conflict. There had been many human rights violations, especially towards the rights of the Palestinian people, in the past two weeks.

The Commission on Human Rights should defend human rights and help towards the development of a long-lasting peace. The Commission should also work together with other bodies supporting peace in the region. A framework of human rights should be respected by all parties, so that this could form the basis for greater confidence within the region.

Chile supported the call for an inquiry to investigate the violations of human rights. Yet there must be further dialogue between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian authorities; a dialogue that talked of peace and not of the past.

ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) said every caution had to be taken not to obliterate the ongoing negotiating process between Israelis and Palestinians. That meant that all aggressions and violence had to be stopped in the region. A mechanism had to be found to find lasting peace. Guatemala would support any agreement which would lead to the implementation of peace. The negotiations which took place at Sharm El Sheik had to be respected and any measures taken by the Commission should take into consideration those talks.

CHANG MAN SOON (Republic of Korea) said his country condemned acts of violence, particularly the excessive and disproportionate use of force against civilians. The Republic of Korea supported the UN Security Council resolution which called for a mechanism to carry out an objective inquiry into the tragic events with the aim of avoiding their repetition. It called for the scrupulous observance of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Commission should not only look back but also forward, and his country agreed with the High Commissioner's contention that ways should be found to avoid exacerbation of the situation in the future, and a mechanism should be devised to head off potential crises.

The Republic of Korea welcomed yesterday's Sharm El Sheikh agreement which envisaged the setting up of a fact-finding committee on the latest events. It accorded great importance to a negotiated peace between the two sides, believing that was the only realistic option for reaching a just, lasting solution to the problems of the region.

LEANDRO DESPOUY (Argentina) said that peace was linked to the respect of human rights. All guarantees for the protection of civilians should be implemented, and all parties should respect the Geneva Conventions; these agreements signed nearly fifty years ago fulfilled these functions. Human rights and fundamental freedoms should always be paramount in all conflicts.

Argentina hoped that the crisis would be solved by dialogue and understanding. His country had issued a statement before the Special Session met hoping that the situation could be solved quickly, and that all families on both sides of the conflict could live in peace. The Commission should evaluate the situation and propose measures which would end the violence.

VICTOR RODRIGUEZ CEDENO (Venezuela) said it was the collective duty of the Commission to react in the manner it was doing now. In the past, the Commission had contributed to the definitive peace in the Middle East and had been working to establish stability in the region. Following the recent events, the Commission had to encourage the parties to come to the negotiating table. The creation of peace in the region required respect for human rights and the implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions regarding Palestine.

The information obtained by Venezuela showed a grave situation and the use of excessive force affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people. The continuation of the violence in the region would only contribute to instability. In order to carry out its mandate, the Commission should follow up on its resolutions. Considering peace a component of human rights, assistance had to be extended to reconstruct the social fabric of the Palestinian society affected by the violence.

PHILIPPE PETIT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the countries of central and eastern Europe associated with the Union, said it was fortunate that agreement had been reached yesterday at Sharm El Sheikh; it could signal de-escalation, the end of violence, and a return to the path of peace. All, including children, should be able to live in peace, and the rights of all should be respected. The EU had from the start expressed concern and had condemned the violence and the extremist provocations which had toyed cynically with the deepest feelings of the population and had stoked feelings of difference and confrontation. The EU also condemned destruction or desecration of sacred places wherever they occurred. And it opposed escalating violence at a time when peace prospects had seemed to be moving in a positive direction.

There was no other path, no other course, than to resume negotiations. Israelis and Palestinians had overcome so many obstacles that had seemed insurmountable that it would be a tragedy for the recent events to destroy the progress achieved. It could not be allowed to happen. All must continue to focus their efforts and their hearts on the work of peace. The Commission and international community must show that they were determined to act wherever such events occurred.

SAVITRI KUNADI (India) said her country associated itself with the statement made by Indonesia on behalf of the Asia Group. India was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. India was also convinced of the need for dialogue and peaceful negotiations to find a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of all issues between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

The deliberate acts and excessive use of violence had been disturbing, and the international community had been shocked by the number of innocent lives that had been lost. The Government of India supported an impartial and objective assessment of the violent incidents, both with regard to violations of human rights that had occurred and also to learn the lesson for the future.

The events of the past few days should not be allowed to destroy the peace process between the two sides. With the right determination and a commitment to resolve the issues peacefully, no odds were insurmountable and no goals were too far. Diplomacy and statesmanship had to triumph. There was no alternative ways forward to achieve peace.

RAIMONDS JANSONS (Latvia) said his Government was dismayed by the violence and suffering of people in the occupied Palestinian territories. More than two weeks of tragedy had seen over a hundred people killed and many more wounded. Latvia condemned the acts of such violence and urged the two sides to refrain from further use of force aimed at the achievement of political goals. Only negotiations and diplomatic means should be used to resolve the crisis. Latvia welcomed the peace-making efforts, including those of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to contribute to a de-escalation of the violence and the early resumption of a dialogue between the two sides. The key to resolve the current crisis and to achieve a solution was in the hands of the leaders of the two sides and those of the international community.

MOHAMMED OMAR AHMED AIDEED (Oman) said the support of the Commission was appreciated at this grave time, and Oman hoped the Commission's reaction would reflect objectively all the flagrant violations of human rights in the region, as the occupied Palestinian territories continued to experience untold forms of violence as a result of the activities of Israeli forces against unarmed civilians, including children who were attending services at holy sites. There was no question that the actions of Israeli forces had given rise to the condemnation of the international community. International conscience clearly was awakening to the Palestinian cause.

The Commission should adopt measures to avoid the shedding of blood of children, old people, and women; it was necessary to adopt a resolution condemning such Israeli violations of human rights. Palestinians' rights had to be respected, and such offenses as confiscation of land, arbitrary detention, and the isolation of Palestinian areas had to be ended.

GIUSEPPE BERTELLO (the Holy See) said that the events in the Middle East brought forward the importance of increased respect for human rights. Peace would only be true and long lasting if it was based on human rights law. The fundamental rights of free expression and self-determination were missing. Tension and violence fed sentiments of hate and racism. The two people, the Israelis and the Palestinians, needed to have their rights recognized so that each could live in harmony as neighbours.

A strong determination of all in the region was required to bring peace, and leaders within the region should not be discouraged to pursue the path towards peace and justice, which was a right for all people. He quoted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all people are born equal in dignity and with the right to life. It was this communal understanding and principal that should be respected and defended.

MAHMUD ABUSEIF (Libya) said Israel was pursuing a policy of repression against innocent Palestinian children using rockets and other heavy arms. The Intifada was designed to fight the repression and violence of Israel against Palestinian people. The various resolutions adopted by international organizations were not respected by Israel. The fascist acts of that country had to stop; and the Israeli criminals who perpetrated genocidal acts against the Palestinians should be brought to justice. Israeli violence was designed to exterminate the people of Palestine. In addition, the outcome of the Sharm El Sheik negotiations was aimed at protecting the aggressor and it was not aimed at bringing genuine peace to the region through the respect for the legitimate rights of Palestinians.

FAROOQ ABDULLA (Bahrain) said the fact that the Commission was meeting clearly showed that the international community disapproved of and condemned what was happening in areas occupied by Israel, where Palestinians were being killed only because they were Palestinians; it amounted to genocide. Israeli practices in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human-rights instruments must be investigated and brought to light by the international community. The world's conscience was awakening. The language of threats used by Israel against the Arab people could not serve the cause of peace. The Arab side had decided that peace was a strategic option, but Israel had not honoured its obligations.

The principle of land for peace had to be honoured. The current situation also could not be resolved without implementation by Israel of United Nations Security Council resolutions. A halt must be put to the heinous crimes being committed against the Palestinian people.

AMADOU TIDIANE HANE, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the massive violation of human rights by the security forces of Israel was an extreme concern to the OIC. All countries that had supported the convening of the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the violence in the occupied Palestinian territories were to be thanked.

Demolition of Palestinian homes and other human rights abuses were a flagrant abuse of human rights and defied the collective consciousness of humanity. The Israelis should move all security forces away from the troubled areas, and an international inquiry should be set up to investigate the recent violations of human rights, and consider ways to stop future violent events from happening. The OIC strongly supported the right to self- determination of the Palestinians and the declaration of a Palestinian State with its capital in Jerusalem.

SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said that his country believed in lasting peace in the Middle East; and it deplored the violence perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians in their own lands, including in Jerusalem. The extent of the violence had led to the near collapse of the peace process. The illegality of the Israeli occupation should be condemned; the violence should stop and the relevant Security Council resolutions should be respected.

An international fact-finding mission should be constituted and the various special rapporteurs concerned with the situation of the Middle East should visit the region. Israel should stop its mass violations of Palestinian human rights and bring to an end its confiscation of lands. It was hoped that the implementation of the agreement reached at Sharm El Sheik would return the situation to the status quo before the crisis and would pave the way for a continuation of the peace process as soon as possible.

WALID NASR (Lebanon) said a Special Session always indicated that something severe and serious was happening in terms of human-rights violations. This Session was being held because the Palestinian people were being brutally attacked by Israeli authorities and their armed forces -- women, children and the elderly were being attacked by high-tech weapons. These attacks were being mounted against what? Against the throwing of stones. In truth the matter related to the right of Palestinians to self-determination, to their human rights, and to the protection of international law. The arrogant, reckless behaviour of Israel was no surprise, as it had gone on for many years.

The land, air and sea blockade now imposed against Palestinians amounted to collective punishment and must be condemned. The very holding of the Special Session amounted to a condemnation of Israel's offenses. That a third of those killed were children told volumes in itself. The Commission must condemn Israel's provocative actions, its disproportionate use of force, and must establish an international committee of inquiry into these events.

MURAT SUNGAR (Turkey) said that the convening of the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights showed how grave the violations of the human rights of Palestinians were, and urgent action was required in view of the tragic events. The Government of Turkey had followed closely the events and was outraged and concerned about the incidents. Turkey called upon Israel to withdraw its security forces, which would constitute an important step towards normalisation of the situation in the region. It was widely accepted that the excessive use of force and weaponry had led to a loss of innocent lives and the vast destruction of property, in Ramallah and Gaza particularly.

It was high time to restore calm through the exercise of utmost restraint by all the parties and to take necessary actions to stop the violence immediately.

Turkey believed strongly in the establishment of a transparent and impartial investigation into the causes of the recent events with a view to preventing the recurrence of such a tragedy. This investigation may also assist in resolving the issues which remained in dispute. Turkey hoped that the peace process was not dead, and all must continue to do their upmost to help revive this process.

ALI KHORRAM (Iran) said once again the world had witnessed with deep concern and outage the ignominious carnage perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces. Every human being was shocked and horrified by the Israeli forces' attacks and disproportionate use of force including heavy artillery, helicopter gun-ships, tanks and missiles against unarmed Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Palestinian towns. During the past three weeks, more than 100 defenceless Palestinian civilians had been deliberately and systematically killed and thousands had been injured by the occupying forces.

The indiscriminate and excessive use of force was exemplified by the killing of dozens of children, which was a blatant violation of article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The deliberate massacres of Palestinian civilians constituted crimes of genocide, crimes of ethnic cleansing and were a flagrant violation to the right to life.

The violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories dated back to the first days of occupation of those lands by the Zionist regime. A just and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine depended on putting an end to Israeli occupation and the restoration of all rights of Palestinian people, including the return of all Palestinian refugees.

SAEED AL-ATTAR (Yemen) said the convening of the Special Session proved that the Palestinian issue had become a worldwide concern, and that after half a century, it was time for a peaceful and just solution which gave Palestinians self-determination and a State with Jerusalem as its eternal capital. The use of army forces to quench the legitimate uprising of the Palestinian population, the killing of children and women and the elderly since 1948, along with other serious human-rights violations, illustrated a long-standing hostile Israeli policy.

Yemen condemned the recent criminal and atrocious acts committed by the colonial Israeli army; it requested the Commission to assume its responsibilities, apply an international instrument to protect Palestinians' rights, and appoint an international commission of inquiry into the recent serious violations of human rights. Yemen was committed to the Middle East peace process, but could no longer accept a peace based on intimidation and the use of all means of force against innocent, unarmed civilians. Yemen also condemned terrorism wherever it occurred and had always insisted on coordinated international efforts to combat it.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said that words should be used carefully, as the Secretary-General had stated in an earlier statement from Egypt. Today though, both sides in the conflict had committed themselves to lessen points of friction and his Government had ordered the security forces in the territories to do everything within their power to lessen tensions. The supreme test was to see if further talks could be held, building on the confidence of the past few days.

The agreement reached yesterday at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt was an indication of a desire for peace on Israel's behalf, and he expressed the hope that all present would support the current efforts to continue the peace dialogue between his Government and the Palestinian authorities, and that those present at the Special Session of the Commission for Human Rights say nothing that would increase the violence, or try to incite violence, within the Middle East.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said what Israel was saying sounded hopeful, but it was contrary to the reality in the field. Israel was referring to the political sphere; the Commission's concern was human rights.

The agreement at Sharm El Sheikh was provisional and focused on the ending of violence. In spite of the agreement, the Israeli occupying forces had bombarded a Palestinian town yesterday, killing four and wounding dozens. Other attacks had occurred yesterday after Mr. Barak's return to Israel, announcing that the agreement was a 'victory'. It appeared to be a victory for the occupying forces. Israel appeared to be continuing with attacks contrary to the Sharm El Sheikh agreement. Nothing had changed on the ground. All this continued throughout occupied Palestine.

For information media - not an official record