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        Economic and Social Council
4 February 1994

Original: ENGLISH


Fiftieth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 1 February 1994, at 10 a.m.

Chairman : Mr. van WULFFTEN PALTHE (Netherlands)



Statement by the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization


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 10.20 a.m.


1. The CHAIRMAN invited the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization to address the Commission.

2. Mr. ARAFAT (Palestine Liberation Organization) said that the fiftieth session of the Commission on Human Rights was being held at a turning point in history, when the cold war was being replaced by numerous regional and internal conflicts in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Meanwhile, the conflicts in the Middle East had not fully subsided and human rights violations continued to occur. Perhaps the most atrocious human rights violations were those committed in time of war and under foreign occupation, which was the result of war. Regardless of the changing nature or scope of war - whether it was the cold war or the more recent regional or internal conflicts - the one constant was that man was always the victim. Human beings continued to suffer during the transition from one kind of war to another.

3. The Palestinian commitment to human rights and democratic freedoms, international law and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, was reflected in the decision taken, on 30 September 1993, to establish a Supreme Palestinian National Authority for Human Rights. The Authority would function as an independent body responsible for guaranteeing the exercise of human rights under Palestinian law and regulations in all bodies and machinery of the Palestinian Self-Government Authority. It would be composed of Palestinian jurists and headed by a Palestinian citizen, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.

4. Grave and systematic human rights violations persisted throughout the world, including torture and other inhuman treatment, deliberate killings and murder, arbitrary execution, arrest and detention without trial, racism and racial discrimination, apartheid, and violations connected with the rise of xenophobia and neo-nazism. Peoples were still being deprived of their national economic, social and cultural rights and the right to self-determination under foreign occupation and foreign domination, or as a result of poverty, religious fanaticism, terrorism and State terrorism. Discrimination against women persisted and the rule of law was absent from many places.

5. In that context, the Palestine Liberation Organization welcomed the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action by the World Conference on Human Rights, held at Vienna in 1993, and its endorsement by the United Nations General Assembly.

6. In his addresses to previous sessions of the Commission, he had described the policies which sought to justify human rights violations in order to impose supremacy. He had also recounted the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. His people continued to suffer violations of all its human rights and fundamental freedoms. It had been subjected to deliberate killings, torture, arbitrary detention and deportation, the confiscation of its lands for the establishment of Jewish settlements, and the imposition of collective sanctions. School curricula had been sabotaged, schools and universities had been closed and trade unions dissolved. The Palestinian national economy had been destroyed. In addition, the isolation of the Holy City of Jerusalem represented a violation of his people's cultural and religious rights.

7. For over a quarter of century, the Commission had been condemning that painful reality and calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and the other Arab territories occupied by force in 1967. Its condemnation had been expressed in the many resolutions it had adopted and, at its forty-ninth session, by the appointment of a special rapporteur to investigate Israeli violations of the principles and bases of international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention).

8. The Palestinian people, which for decades had been making sacrifices to recover its homeland and its usurped rights, longed desperately for peace. It firmly believed that there could be no peace where there was occupation, aggression or a denial of rights. In that spirit, it had always welcomed all international peace initiatives, including the Peace Conference on the Middle East, held at Madrid, the negotiations at Washington and Oslo and the agreement on a Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, signed on 13 September 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel, and the mutual recognition declared by Israel and the PLO.

9. The signing of the Declaration had been an initial expression of good will, of the intention to establish a peace based on justice and respect for human rights and of the desire to put the past behind, with all its tragedies, conflicts, enmity and hostilities. Such a peace would provide vast opportunities for cooperative relations between the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples, based on good neighbourliness, mutual respect and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, including dialogue and arbitration. The signing of the Declaration, under the auspices of President Clinton of the United States of America, in the presence of the co-sponsors of the Madrid Conference - the United States and the Russian Federation - and with the blessing of the entire world, thus constituted the first step towards a comprehensive and just settlement of the Middle East conflict based on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

10. The Declaration of Principles formed the basis for launching negotiations on a provisional Palestinian government with a view to establishing the Palestinian Self-Government Authority. The process would begin with the direct withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area. Three years later, negotiations would begin on, inter alia , the issues of refugees, borders and settlements, with the ultimate objective of enabling the Palestinian people to exercise its right to self-determination and to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

11. The PLO had embarked upon the negotiations in good faith and would continue them in the same spirit. The PLO hoped that the Government of Israel would display the same good will and would translate it into a full commitment to the contents of the Declaration and put an end to all human rights violations in the Palestinian territory. That would help to build confidence among the Palestinian people and create a climate conducive to the faithful implementation of the Declaration.

12. It was notorious that that objective had not been achieved so far. Even since the signing of the Declaration, Palestinians had been killed by the occupying forces and by Israeli settlers. Palestinian youths were still being injured; arbitrary arrests and detentions were still taking place; over 14,000 Palestinians were still being held in Israeli prisons and detention camps; homes were still being demolished; and collective sanctions and curfews were still being widely imposed in the occupied territories. Land continued to be confiscated for the building of settlements and blockades were imposed to isolate the Holy City of Jerusalem. The persistence of violence in the occupied territories created a negative impression among Palestinians and the other peoples of the region and cast doubts on Israel's seriousness in implementing the agreement.

13. He and Mr. Peres, the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs, had just met for two days of uninterrupted talks at Davos. He sincerely hoped that when they met at Cairo - following the one week break requested by Mr. Peres - they would be able to sign the Davos agreement and discuss its implementation. He hoped that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area could be implemented and that Israeli forces could be redeployed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Declaration of Principles.

14. The PLO firmly believed in the peace process and would oppose any obstacle set against it. He hoped that the Israelis would understand the human rights implications of the Declaration, and would discontinue their previous practices and implement the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the principles of international law.

15. In the light of recent developments, the international community must continue to assume its responsibility in relation to the question of Palestine. The Commission should continue to provide the Palestinian people with vital international legal protection during the transition phase, while Israeli forces were still present on parts of Palestinian territory. The United Nations and its specialized organs and machinery would retain that responsibility until such time as the Palestinian people recovered their right to repatriation, self-determination and independence.

16. He wished to stress that the peace process should be based solely on universally accepted provisions of international law for the peaceful solution of disputes between States. The PLO would lend its full support to the peace process in the hope that its successful outcome would guarantee future generations of Palestinians a life of peace, security, stability and freedom.


The meeting rose at 12.50 p.m.

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