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        Economic and Social Council
1 May 1997

Original: FRENCH


Fifty-third session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 13 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 10.10 a.m.


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

15. Mr. PELL (United States of America) said that the protection of human rights was not only a question of preparing and adopting legal texts but also of measuring achievements against the standards set. The Commission, which had been assigned that noble task 50 years previously, should rededicate itself to the ambitious objectives set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

16. Everyone had agreed for years that the Commission's heavy agenda should be reorganized. In his view, item 4 should be removed from the agenda since it was no longer justified, given the peace process under way in the Middle East. Considerable progress had been made in the situation since 1991 and he failed to see why Israel should be singled out for special treatment. Israel, a functioning democracy, had already embraced peace with Egypt and Jordan and had engaged in a political process with the Palestinians which was enabling them gradually to gain control over their lives. Israel should not be immune to the Commission's scrutiny any more than any country, but neither should it be given special treatment as the Commission was doing. After seeing the same old anti-Israeli resolutions come to the floor, he wondered whether their sponsors had heard of the peace process, of the ties Israel was building with countries throughout the region, of the drastic drop in the level of confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians and the fact that most Palestinians were currently in charge of their daily lives. Respect for human rights was certainly not perfect in the West Bank and Gaza, but neither was it perfect in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The Commission's task was to encourage progress rather than impede it through unhelpful resolutions which ran counter to the facts.

17. The United States was firmly committed to the Middle East peace process, which had already borne fruit. The Israelis and Palestinians were approaching the most difficult set of issues - the permanent status negotiations - but it was for the parties themselves to come to a decision and the international community should not interfere. At a time when a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East might be within reach, the Commission should not be an obstacle on the road to peace.

18. Mr. HISHAMMUDIN (Malaysia) said that, despite numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Commission, the reports of the Special Rapporteur and the findings of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, Israel had been showing complete disregard for the views of the international community for 30 years and had recently decided to begin building a new settlement in East f in an attempt to modify the city's demographic composition and pre-empt the outcome of negotiations on its final status. That was not the way to advance the peace process.

19. Certain indications, such as the signing of the Hebron Protocol, gave rise to cautious optimism regarding the process, but the mutual trust and cooperation needed for it to be considered on the right track were lacking. The question that the Commission had to ask itself, therefore, was whether it had the will to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to it as the conscience of the international community on the human rights issue and to ensure that some countries, acting on geopolitical and economic considerations as recently seen in the Security Council, did not jeopardize its credibility.

20. His Government could not accept the illegal measures adopted by Israel in occupied East Jerusalem, for Jerusalem was of great spiritual importance not only to the Jews but also to the Islamic and Christian communities, and must not be monopolized by a single political or religious camp.

21. His delegation took the view that the pursuit of a political agenda alone would not guarantee peace and security for the people of the occupied Arab territories. As the Special Rapporteur had said, economic and social development was critical for improving the human rights situation in the region. Human rights could not be put on hold pending the outcome of the peace negotiations. It was time to end the violence inflicted on the population: brutal treatment of detainees during interrogation - legitimized by the Israeli High Court, the policy of enforcing collective punishment through the destruction of houses, closure of the occupied territories and closure of educational and social organizations.

22. His delegation was saddened by the fact that certain influential governments had responded to the persistent and serious violations in the region by using a double standard, which had resulted in a certain cynicism regarding the international community's will to find a lasting solution. It hoped that the Commission on Human Rights and others, including the non-governmental organizations, would redress that perception.

23. Mr. HYNES (Canada) congratulated the Special Rapporteur on his report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (E/CN.4/1997/16), but maintained the view that, given the development of the situation, the question should no longer be treated as a separate, permanent item of the Commission's agenda.

24. Canada encouraged the efforts of various organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNRWA, to improve the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its own development assistance programmes specifically targeted good governance, democracy-building and human rights. They had, for example, made it possible to bring together Israeli and Palestinian human rights lawyers and activists. A delegation from the Palestinian Legislative Council would shortly be visiting the Canadian Parliament to learn more about the Canadian experience in democracy and human rights. His Government had supported the efforts of both Israel and the Palestinians towards achieving peace and noted with satisfaction the progress made, especially the Oslo Agreements and the Protocol concerning the Redeployment in Hebron.

25. Since a lasting peace depended on enduring respect for human rights, his delegation believed that the complexity of the task of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority was not a justification for flouting the rights of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. The provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention should be applied to the occupied territories until a comprehensive peace accord was concluded on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973); the accelerated construction of Jewish settlements, especially in East Jerusalem, must end; and the many restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents must be lifted, as they undermined the trust that was the very foundation of the peace process. The ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons must be brought to an end. Such treatment, endorsed by the High Court of Israel through its decision to lift the interim injunctions prohibiting the use of physical force during interrogation, was illegal under international law and did nothing to advance the cause of peace. He urged Israel to abide by the Convention against Torture, which it had ratified in 1991.

26. The Palestinians, like the Israelis, must work towards peace while respecting human rights, but the Palestinian Authority, too, had a poor human rights record: murder by torture of at least one political prisoner, deaths of detainees in Palestinian police custody, arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention of hundreds of political prisoners, secret and summary trials and attempts to intimidate the Palestinian judiciary and leading human rights activists by the Palestinian security forces. In view of that sad record, he welcomed the vote by the Palestinian Legislative Council to establish civilian oversight over the Palestinian security forces.

27. His delegation believed that the best guarantee for respect of human rights lay in the establishment of responsible, democratic government and normal peaceful relations. The day was long past when human rights could be regarded as internal affairs, beyond the scrutiny of the international community. It was the duty of the international community, avoiding unfounded allegations and acting in a constructive spirit, to denounce violations of human rights wherever they occurred and to hold the concerned authorities accountable.

28. Mr. KOEZUKA (Japan) said he welcomed the progress made in the Middle East since the Madrid Conference in October 1991 and particularly the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements adopted by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

29. The road to peace was not a smooth one, however. The redeployment of Israeli troops, the status of Jerusalem, the refugee situation, the demarcation of borders and the threat of terrorism were difficult issues that could be resolved only if all the parties concerned refrained from any action that would harm the prospects for peace. The role of the international community was to give the parties all the help it could.

30. His Government had endeavoured to help restore peace in the region, which was vital to international peace. It had directly encouraged the leaders of the parties concerned to promote the peace process, had extended more than US$ 250 million in economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority; and had promoted multilateral talks on the environment, tourism and water resources; when the election for the Palestinian Council was being held, it had sent a delegation of 77 observers. It had also contributed Japanese Self-Defence Force contingents to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights to participate in peacekeeping operations.

31. The goal of the peace process was not simply the cessation of hostilities, but rather the creation of an environment in which all the peoples of the region could live in peace and enjoy a decent life; the only way to reach that goal was to move the peace process forward and promote regional cooperation, which Japan was pledged to do.


32. Mr. LIU Xiansheng (China) ...


36. The restoration of the Palestinian people's rights, including their right to self-determination, and a just and reasonable solution to the question of Palestine were the key to the realization of peace and stability in the Middle East. His delegation hoped that the parties concerned, guided by the principle of “land for peace” and based on the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, would strive for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the Middle East question through political negotiations.


40. Mr. TARMIDZI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), appealed to the international community, particularly the sponsors of the Middle East peace process, to ensure the success of the process through the effective implementation of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. He invited the Commission to compel Israel to implement all the agreements concluded and to enter into serious negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian territories. He also urged all States to extend their support to the international programme on economic, social and cultural development in the occupied Palestinian territories.

41. It was unfortunate that the current Israeli Government had reneged on the commitments made by the previous Government, in particular to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967. Israel must also be compelled to implement Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and resume in the near future the negotiations concerning the Golan as part of the Middle East peace process.

42. Mr. AMAT FORES (Cuba) ...


44. His Government reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and demanded that Israel restore unconditionally all the Arab territories it was occupying, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan and the occupied portion of southern F. ...


46. Mr. HAUGESTAD (Observer for Norway) said that his country viewed the two agenda items under consideration in the context of the Middle East peace process. His delegation expressed sincere appreciation for the Special Rapporteur's high-quality report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and shared the Special Rapporteur's view that his mandate should be adjusted to take the peace process into account. The mandate should, in future, encompass both self-governing and occupied areas. Close cooperation with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities was required, as well as with local non-governmental organizations.

47. The Oslo Agreements, which provided for the establishment of democratic institutions and respect for human rights, laid the foundations for the self-determination of the Palestinian people. The ultimate goal of the peace process would be attained when Palestinian and Israeli civil societies lived side by side in peace and security. His Government urged both sides to refrain from any unilateral measure designed to pre-empt the outcome of the final status negotiations. It was important to safeguard both the letter and the spirit of the Oslo Agreements. In that connection, his delegation deeply regretted the decision of the Israeli Government to build new settlements in East Jerusalem.

48. His delegation was pleased that the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council was actively discussing human rights issues. The local Palestinian elections should strengthen the development of democratic institutions and practices still further. It was reassuring that that important work was being given high priority by the Palestinian Authority, which was responsible for dealing with human rights issues. The parties should promote understanding between their peoples and advance the negotiations; only then could human rights be fully protected.

49. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the right of peoples to self-determination was a fundamental principle of the Charter of the United Nations and a basic human right. Pakistan thus reaffirmed its commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people. Faithful implementation of the peace accord could bring the Palestinians closer to their ultimate objective of realization of their right to self-determination. Unilateral actions could not but harm the peace process, and his delegation fully associated itself with the concerns expressed at a previous meeting by the Chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference regarding Israel's decision to build a new settlement in the Jabal Abou Ghaneim sector in Al Quds al Sharif (Jerusalem).


54. Mr. KIRKYACHARIAN (Movement against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples) said that there could be no limits on the right to self-determination other than those set by those who held that right, namely, human beings. It could not be politicized, for legitimately political issues, rather than what was in the realm of mere fact, had to be defined in terms of freedom. In a large number of specific problems, for which the Governments concerned would gradually be led to accept certain solutions, much would be gained both politically and from a human point of view if those involved took as their reference point the principle of self-determination, which was the very foundation of freedom.

55. An illustration could be found in the situation of certain peoples or population groups which were being denied the right to self-determination but persisted in defining themselves as peoples. That was the case for the two million individuals living in Kosovo; the Sahrawi people, whose right to self-determination had been recognized by the United Nations; the Palestinian people and the Timorese people, whose tiny territory had been occupied and ruled over repressively for over 20 years by a very powerful neighbour. ...


62. Father JAEGER (Franciscans International) said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was a source of hope for both nations, notwithstanding the difficulties and repeated setbacks. At the same time, it must not be limited to questions of political, military or economic power; to bring about true peace, it must include a priority human rights dimension. Both nations should be given assistance to implement human rights at both the constitutional, legislative and administrative levels. The Commission had its role to play in helping both nations to develop high priority educational programmes. Human rights education, emphasizing freedom of religion and conscience and non-discrimination, was the key to a genuine reconciliation and a true peace in the Holy Land, as indeed anywhere else.

63. As a Catholic organization, Franciscans International was firmly committed to the well-known positions of the Holy See on the peace process, particularly those regarding the rights of both peoples and the need for an internationally guaranteed special statute for Jerusalem.

64. Mr. PARY (Indigenous World Association) said that the countless works written, resolutions passed and demagogic statements made on the right of peoples to self-determination had merely concealed its true political and historical nature. And yet the explicit recognition of that principle - without restrictions or conditions - was the cornerstone of all the rules of international law which laid down the treaty obligations of States and determined their capacity for establishing relations of peaceful coexistence and international cooperation. It was particularly regrettable in that connection that the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination continued to be flouted by Israel, which was pursuing its policy of establishing settlements against the wishes of the international community.


71. Mr. H.K. SINGH (India) said that his Government's stand on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, was well known. It had consistently supported a Middle East peace process designed to secure the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and it was particularly dismayed at recent events and their impact on the peace process. His delegation supported the appeal made by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Hannu Haalinen, for a comprehensive approach to the issues of security, development, democracy and respect for human rights, for it agreed with him that human rights could not be set aside pending the outcome of the peace process.

72. Israel's continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories, the confiscation of Palestinian lands and property, collective punishments and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including the use of torture, were all obstacles to establishing an atmosphere of trust and identifying solutions to problems. The continuation of the settlement policy, with the announcement of the construction of a new Jewish neighbourhood at Jabel Abou Ghneim, to the south of East Jerusalem, was particularly disturbing. His delegation once again urged all the parties concerned to intensify their efforts to find a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, on the basis of the Security Council resolutions and the interim agreements. It firmly believed that the implementation of those agreements would be a considerable contribution to the enjoyment of human rights.


The meeting rose at 12.50 p.m.

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