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        General Assembly
2 February 2010

Original: French

Sixty-fourth session
Official Records

Third Committee

Summary record of the 24th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Thursday, 22 October 2009, at 10 a.m.

Chairperson: Mr. Penke ............................................................................. (Latvia)


Agenda item 69: Promotion and protection of human rights (continued)

(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms ( continued)

(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives ( continued)

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

Agenda item 69: Promotion and protection of human rights (continued ) (A/64/81)

(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued) (A/64/159, A/64/160, A/64/170, A/64/171, A/64/175, A/64/181, A/64/186, A/64/187, A/64/188, A/64/209, A/64/211, A/64/211/Corr.1, A/64/213, A/64/213/Corr.1, A/64/214, A/64/216, A/64/219, A/64/226, A/64/255, A/64/256, A/64/265, A/64/272, A/64/273, A/64/279, A/64/289, A/64/290, A/64/293, A/64/304, A/64/320 and A/64/333)

(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued ) (A/64/224, A/64/318, A/64/319, A/64/328, A/64/334 and A/64/357)


59. Mr. Falk (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967), presenting his report (A/64/328), deplored the lack of cooperation by Israel, which continued to deny him access to the occupied Palestinian territories and to refuse to cooperate with the fact-finding mission led by Judge Goldstone. In consequence, the report relied on information supplied by various independent organizations and actors within the United Nations system. The General Assembly or the Human Rights Council should request clarification of the legal consequences of that lack of cooperation, by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion.

60. The Goldstone report was of particular importance from the point of view of protection of human rights in occupied Gaza, and he challenged the United Nations to implement fully-documented findings on the commission of war crimes by Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead. His own report contained proposals for measures to ensure accountability through the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and through recourse to universal jurisdiction, and thereby to put an end to the Israel’s impunity with respect to the administration of the occupied Palestinian territories. He suggested, furthermore, that the General Assembly should ensure that victims were compensated and should promote a legal discussion on the weapons and tactics used in the invasion of Gaza.

61. Although the ceasefire was more or less holding, the situation in Gaza had continued to deteriorate in a manner that disclosed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and violations of international humanitarian law. The population lacked basic necessities, health conditions had further worsened and damaged buildings had not been repaired or rebuilt, since the entry of building material was prohibited by Israel. Several authoritative reports had also confirmed the allegations of war crimes, culminating in the Goldstone report. Civil society groups and certain governments had protested against perceived violations of international humanitarian law by Israel.

62. The fifth anniversary of the advisory opinion on the construction of a security wall by Israel called attention to several points: despite the opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice, construction of the wall was two thirds complete; Israel’s defiance of the Court’s ruling was a violation of its obligations as a Member of the United Nations and as a sovereign State; the failure of the United Nations system to implement the Court’s decision was another indication that Palestinians’ rights were not respected and that Israel enjoyed de facto impunity; and Israeli security forces had brutally repressed non-violent Palestinian demonstrations.

63. In addition, despite the calls for a settlement freeze by the General Assembly, President Obama and the Quartet, settlement expansion continued in East Jerusalem and Gaza, although it had been made clear that there would be no progress on the “road map” under those conditions. It had been widely assumed that the exercise of the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination would be brought about by bilateral negotiations, with the participation of the United States and the Quartet and the encouragement of the international community. However, because the exercise of that right had been so long deferred, finding a peaceful solution and ending Israeli occupation had become an urgent matter. Two negative elements bearing on the right to self-determination were the Israeli Government’s refusal to endorse the international consensus on a Palestinian State comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the inability on the Palestinian side to achieve unified and legitimate representation and therefore to engage in meaningful negotiations.

64. On the other hand, the clear articulations that ending Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian State were important to advancing self-determination and that Israeli-Arab peace and a Palestinian State were in the interest of the international community were two positive developments. Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) clearly called on the parties and the international community to renew their efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace based on two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, with secure and recognized borders.

65. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and recent military operations had revealed three gaps in international humanitarian law that deserved to be noted. First, the civilian population in Gaza had been denied the right to depart from the combat zone, although it was the occupier’s duty to protect civilians, as described in Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. Second, blocking reconstruction aid could be treated as prohibited collective punishment. As international humanitarian law did not explicitly address that problem, it could be handled by the adoption of a further protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Third, the dislocation of families as a result of the prolonged occupation of the occupied Palestinian Territory, coupled with the restrictions on mobility imposed by the occupying power, was an unacceptable practice from an international human rights perspective.

66. Mr. Mansour (Observer for Palestine) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report and presentation. He was pleased that those matters were being addressed, as they were of great importance not only to the Palestinian people, but also to all States that had regard for the rule of law. He endorsed the resolution recently adopted by the Human Rights Council, which condemned Israel’s policy of obstruction. By preventing those who had violated international law from being held accountable for their actions, Israel was perpetuating a culture of impunity. He called on Member States to do everything possible to implement the recommendations in the report and ensure justice for the Palestinian people, who had endured such terrible suffering as a result of Israel’s policy of aggression, particularly in Gaza. He highlighted States’ responsibility to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by Israel and to bring the criminals to justice.

67. Ms. Plaisted (United States of America) said that since taking office, President Obama had been strongly committed to comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to the existence of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security. The United States of America remained fully dedicated to the prompt resumption of meaningful negotiations in pursuit of those goals. Her delegation had frequently urged the United Nations to demonstrate balance and objectivity and to work constructively on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories and regretted that the Special Rapporteur had focused only on Israel’s violations of international law. She noted that the Special Rapporteur’s report documented serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Gaza by Hamas as well as Israel. Her delegation took those allegations very seriously, as the United States was committed to the universal application of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, and expected the same of the two parties. However, a moral equivalence should not be drawn between Israel, a democratic State with a right to self-defence, and Hamas, a terrorist group that had responded to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza by terrorizing civilian populations in southern Israel. Israel had the institutions and necessary means to adequately investigate the accusations levelled against it, and it had been doing so. Her delegation encouraged Israel to investigate all of the credible allegations of misconduct and violations of international law and to punish those responsible. Her Government also demanded that the Palestinian Authority conduct its own investigations of the violations of international law committed by Hamas, a terrorist group which had taken Gaza from the Palestinian Authority’s legitimate Government by force and which could not and would not examine its own violations. President Obama had made it clear that he rejected the legitimacy of Israel’s settlement expansion. Her delegation was troubled by the recommendations and suggestions in the Special Rapporteur’s report tha t the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of Israel’s non-cooperation with the United Nations and its representatives. The statements and conclusions on international law matters contained in the report and its suggestion that the General Assembly should establish an international criminal tribunal did not contribute either to the principle of accountability or to the protection of the human rights of all parties to the conflict. Her delegation urged all Member States of the United Nations to contribute to the larger, essential goal of establishing just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

68. Mr. Mamdouhi (Islamic Republic of Iran) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his comprehensive and informative report on the serious human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Although the report covered some cases of systematic human rights violations, including the continuing blockade, the war crimes committed during “Operation Cast Lead” and the establishment of illegal settlements, many other violations committed by the occupying power had not been mentioned. The report examined the issue of the occupying Power’s accountability for the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people for over 60 years; Operation Cast Lead should not be considered an isolated case. The recent Gaza War had plunged 1.5 million people into a state of despair. Excessive and indiscriminate use of force had killed and wounded thousands of Palestinian civilians, including women and children. The War had also resulted in extrajudicial executions and the destruction of homes, property, infrastructure and agricultural land. His delegation was surprised that despite the broad consensus reached regarding the various means of redressing war crimes committed by an occupying regime, the report did not include any recommendations on employing a competent mechanism to examine the accountability of the perpetrators of those crimes.

69. Ms. Måwe (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union was gravely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. She urged the two parties to strictly observe international humanitarian law and human rights law. They had a responsibility to prevent, investigate and remedy violations. The European Union regretted that the Special Rapporteur had not been able to visit Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories and called on all States to cooperate and allow him free access to their territory. She asked the Special Rapporteur what practical measures the United Nations system could take, in cooperation with the Israeli and Palestinian parties, to improve the humanitarian and human rights situation.

70. Ms. Gendi (Egypt), concurring with the representative of Sweden, also asked what the United Nations system could do to improve the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and to contribute to the full implementation of resolutions that had been adopted but that, to date, existed only on paper. Her delegation also wondered what the international community could do to prevent any form of selectivity when determining priorities for resolving diverse conflicts.

71. Mr. Mohamed (Maldives) welcomed the comprehensive scope of the Special Rapporteur’s report. His delegation expressed regret that Israel, the occupying Power, had refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in preparing the report. Given the Maldives’ firm commitment to the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, his delegation was shocked by the continued suffering of the Palestinian people due to the denial of their most basic rights: the right to self-determination and the right to live in peace and security in their own State and homeland. His delegation also supported the Israeli people’s right to live in peace and security beside a sovereign and independent Palestinian State. In the interest of justice, accountability for the violations of human rights law and humanitarian law in Gaza must be pursued. He asked the Special Rapporteur to provide details on the role international organizations could play in ensuring respect for international law, considering the gaps in international humanitarian law that enabled the culture of impunity and the continued suffering of people in the occupied Palestinian territories. He also asked what the Special Rapporteur was doing to address the situation of Palestinian women and children, who were enduring challenges and hardships that were particularly troublesome.

72. Ms. Halabi (Syrian Arab Republic) recognized the Special Rapporteur’s courage at a time when human rights issues were subject to double standards and selectivity. His report, as well as the Goldstone report, underscored the international community’s unwillingness to make Israel respect its commitments and adhere to international law. That was a worrisome situation, in that it resulted in impunity, as the Special Rapporteur had pointed out frankly. Some of the States that positioned themselves as ardent defenders of human rights and demanded that commitments be respected, for example in the case of Myanmar or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, showed a disregard for human rights violations in the occupied territories. For that reason, her delegation wished to reiterate its thanks to the Special Rapporteur for his recommendations, and wondered if those recommendations could be employed to find the just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine that the international community called for.

73. Mr. Falk (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) said that it was important to note that the three special rapporteurs who had made presentations during the meeting faced the same problem of non-cooperation from the countries under their human rights mandate. The General Assembly and the United Nations system had a responsibility to take that refusal to cooperate very seriously and respond in a non-discriminatory manner. The question should not be one of politics, but rather of principles, and Israel should face the same criticism and censure for its non-cooperation as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or Myanmar. In the interest of peace and human rights, such dialogue and unrestricted investigations into human rights questions should be facilitated. All of the special rapporteurs endeavoured to carry out their role in the most objective and impartial way possible, with concern for accuracy and truth in their communication with Governments and their representatives. He called attention to the opening remarks by the Observer for Palestine, in which he had implicitly been asking why, after 42 years of occupation, nothing had been done to stop a Member State from violating the rights, under international humanitarian law, of an entire people. As the Observer for Palestine had noted, it was a matter of both bringing justice to the victims of violations and ending the impunity of the State committing those violations.

74. In response to the remarks made by the delegation of the United States, he said that while it was all well and good to speak abstractly about a commitment to peace, nothing concrete had been done in the course of 42 years to bring the occupation in line with international humanitarian law. In the context of its very important role in the conflict, the Government of the United States did not seek to fulfil the principle of accountability; it was non-compliance with that principle that had led to the hardship and suffering endured by the Palestinian people. Requesting the International Court of Justice to demand Member States’ cooperation with representatives of the United Nations was a constructive measure. He wondered how his mandate, which required access to the occupied territories, could be effective while Israel continued to deny him entry.

75. He welcomed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s interest in the long history of the occupation. Two types of consistent violations by the occupier, which entailed the Special Rapporteur’s responsibility, had characterized the occupation: excessive use of force and various forms of collective punishment. It was the time for the international community to become seriously engaged in the situation. He welcomed the European Union’s call on all parties to cooperate with representatives of the United Nations. In response to the representatives of Sweden and Egypt, he said that the first practical measure to implement at the current stage would be to take the recommendations in the Goldstone report seriously. Ignoring those recommendations would be tantamount to declaring that international criminal law was important only when it coincided with the geopolitical priorities of dominant countries. That was certainly not the message to send if there was to be faith in the rule of law above the rule of the strongest. That was a very significant issue. The unprecedented prolonged occupation — an occupation of 42 years — characterized by systematic violations was a situation that deserved greater interest. He wondered what threats such a situation posed to international peace and security.

76. He thanked the representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic and Maldives, in particular for highlighting the lack of protection for women and children during the Gaza operation, an exceptional situation in the history of modern war. Not enough attention had been paid, furthermore, to the trauma suffered by nearly 90 per cent of children in Gaza, who made up nearly 53 per cent of the population.

77. In conclusion, he emphasized the need to implement concretely and take seriously the recommendations in his report and the Goldstone report and thus vindicate the role of the United Nations.

The meeting rose at 12.55 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.

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