|HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES REPORT OF FACT-FINDING MISSION TO BEIT HANOUN|
Starts General Debate on Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
18 September 2008
The Human Rights Council this morning discussed the report of its High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun, as a follow-up to its Special Session on the issue. After concluding the discussion, the Council started its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Member of the High-Level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun, presenting the report, said that after fourteen months and numerous failed attempts, the Mission had been able to travel to Beit Hanoun in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of Gaza in the last week of May this year. As mandated by the Council, the Mission had focused on the situation of the victims and the needs of the survivors of the shelling. The right to life had been violated. The right to physical and mental health had been and continued to be violated. Israel had decided to withhold any cooperation with the Mission; this had hampered its work. Faced with the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military, the Mission had to conclude that there was a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime.
Israel, speaking as a concerned country, expressed its concern that the Mission appeared to have legitimised the control of Hamas terrorist organizations held over the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. Both Israel and its Palestinian partners publicly committed themselves to reaching a just solution, based on the idea of two nation-States, living side by side in peace and security. Israel remained committed to the peace process. Also, they had conducted a thorough internal investigation of Beit Hanoun military operations and had shared the results with the United Nations.
Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that the delay in carrying out the mission was due to the non-cooperation of Israel. Israel had a persistent disregard for resolutions of the Human Rights Council and international law. The report should be widely circulated and brought to the attention of both the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. The Israeli shelling of civilians in Beit Hanoun was a war crime and its perpetrators must be brought before international justice.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue, States said that the report of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission highlighted the disregard of human rights standards or humanitarian norms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. One speaker recognized Israel’s right to defend itself, but called on it not to take disproportionate action or acts against international humanitarian law. States also regretted that Israel had not facilitated the Mission. The Israeli response in the form of a largely secret internal military investigation was totally unacceptable. All parties had to protect the civilian population, particularly women, children and vulnerable groups. One speaker said the report showed that the attack had been premeditated; this was a war crime.
In concluding remarks, Christine Chinkin, Member of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission, said that it was important to remember that the Fact-Finding Mission was independent and not linked to the United Nations. Although she regretted that the Mission was delayed for 18 months, the delay allowed them to see the context of the attack. This gave an understanding of the ongoing cycle of violence and the denial of respect for the rule of law.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in concluding remarks, expressed the wish that they had been able to communicate to everyone the sense of devastation that they had experienced when they had been in Gaza. They had wished that they could have gone to Sderot too; every single human being was a member of our family.
In resolution S-1/1, of 6 July 2006, the Council decided to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. In resolution S-3/1 of 15 November 2006, the Council decided to dispatch urgently a High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to travel to Beit Hanoun. In its resolution OM1/2, of 20 June 2007, the Council had called for the implementation of both resolutions.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Egypt on behalf of the African Group, France on behalf of the European Union, Morocco on behalf of the Arab Group, Cuba on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, South Africa, China, Bangladesh, Qatar, Iraq, Malaysia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, New Zealand, Yemen, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Mauritania, Senegal, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Libya and Bahrain.
Also speaking were the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and United Nations Watch.
Towards the end of the meeting, the Council started its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories. Israel, Palestine and Syria spoke as concerned countries. Cuba on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Egypt on behalf of the African Group and France on behalf of the European Union also made statements.
When the Council meets at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will conclude its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories and also conclude its general debate on the Universal Periodic Review which started on 17 September.
Report of High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun
The Council has before it the report of the high-level fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun established under Council resolution S-3/1 (A/HRC/9/26), the final report of the fact-finding mission established to travel to the town of Beit Hanoun, following Israeli military operations carried out there on 8 November 2006. The report finds that firing of artillery towards Beit Hanoun on the morning of 8 November was a “deliberate act in the context of the long-term occupation of Gaza and of the deaths of civilians and destruction of property in Autumn Clouds”. Taken together with further facts, the mission considers that there is evidence of a “disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life, contrary to the requirements of international humanitarian law”. In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military (who is in sole possession of the relevant facts), the mission “must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”. Similarly, as the mission made clear to Hamas at the highest level, the firing of rockets on the civilian population in Israel must stop. “One victim of the Beit Hanoun shelling was the rule of law”, the report stresses. The Israeli response of a largely secret internal military investigation is absolutely unacceptable from both legal and moral points of view. The mission notes that Israel has adopted a similar response to other killings by its military, with similar results. Accountability involves providing a remedy and redress for victims. To date, neither has been forthcoming from Israel, despite its admission of responsibility for the attack. The report outlines some of the obstacles put in the way of victims seeking justice. The mission recommends that the State of Israel pay victims adequate compensation without delay. In the light of the magnitude of the attack on a small community, the mission also recommends that Israel make reparation to the community of Beit Hanoun in the form of a memorial to the victims that constitutes a response to the needs of survivors. The report also reiterates the mission’s position that the international community is failing to fulfil its role in respect of the suffering of the people of Gaza, in particular in its silence which begets complicity.
Presentation of Report by High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun
ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, presenting the report of the High-Level Fact Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun, said that after fourteen months and numerous failed attempts, the Mission had been able to travel to Beit Hanoun in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of Gaza in the last week of May this year. The Mission was grateful to the Government of Egypt and the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. The Mission had used its short stay in Gaza to pursue the mandate given to it by the Council. They had spent a morning at the site of the shelling talking to victims and survivors especially those from the Al-Athamna family. They also had met the Mayor and United Nations Staff who had worked to assist the victims since the shelling. They had also spent an afternoon taking formal testimony from survivors, met with non governmental organizations and human rights defenders, met with members of Hamas and visited the Al Shifa Hospital.
The Mission’s visit to Gaza had allowed it to verify a number of facts surrounding the shelling; in-situ visit had proved crucial. At around 5:30 on the morning of the 8 November 2006 a 155mm shell from Israeli artillery had hit a house in the heavily populated neighbourhood of al-Maakkha in northern Beit Hanoun. It had been followed by 11 more falling over an area of approximately 1.5 hectares. Residents had been in their beds, or returning from dawn prayers. After the first shell they had rushed into the street, going to the aid of those injured. As further shells landed, many had been killed. After thirty minutes, 19 civilians had been dead or mortally wounded. All but one of the victims had been from a single family group. Over 50 others had also been wounded. This attack had inflicted horrendous physical and mental injuries, tore families apart, destroyed homes. What they had seen in Gaza had shocked them. Many of the wounds, in particular psychological, had not yet been healed, said Archbishop Tutu.
The shelling had taken place within a very specific and distressing context; the previous week had witnessed a major Israeli incursion into the town, terrifying residents. Archbishop Tutu said that the report also set out the impacts of the Israeli siege of Gaza on the victims of the shelling. As mandated by the Council, the Mission had focused on the situation of victims and needs of survivors of the shelling. The right to life had been violated, not just through killing, but also through the lack of an adequate investigation of the killings. The right to physical and mental health had been and continued to be violated. At the time the victims of the shelling had required medical assistance, the health facilities in Gaza had been severely weakened by the blockade. After the shelling, the accessibility and availability of health services had not only been limited but also obstructed. Continued shelling had impeded ambulances and medical teams to get to the scene. Evacuations to Israeli and Egyptian hospitals had been impeded and delayed. The psychological injuries caused by the shelling were more disturbing than the physical, affecting many, including children.
Archbishop Tutu further wanted to draw the Council’s attention to a number of points of the report. The first value was dialogue. In carrying out their mission, they had been struck by the resistance of people to talk to each other. Israel had decided to withhold any cooperation with the Mission. This position had hampered the work of the Mission. Paradoxically, this ban had itself been an obstacle to the balance that Israel was seeking. Despite the objections of some in the international community, meeting with Hamas had allowed them to hear their views and hear their concerns. It had also allowed them to challenge their positions and to demand an end to the launching of rockets against civilians in Israel. Those working in the human rights field must be able to speak to all those with the power to stem human rights violations. Peace and security would come through dialogue and negotiation. The story of Beit Hanoun was a story of failure of the rule of law; no verifiable explanation had been offered and no independent investigation had been held. The Israeli military had admitted responsibility but had claimed a technological error. Faced with the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military, the Mission had to conclude that there was a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime. How could the concept of rule of law mean anything to Gazans in the face of such impunity?
Archbishop Tutu noted that the blockade remained the greatest current facto affecting the victims and survivors of the shelling; it had vastly increased the suffering of the population. The shelling had also taken place in the context of the firing of rockets towards civilians in Israel by Palestinian militants. These militants had legal obligations to desist and Hamas had a legal obligation to respect and ensure respect for the provision of international humanitarian law, prohibiting the targeting of civilians. Families living in Sderot had the right to live without the fear of rockets dropping from the sky. In conclusion, he said that the international community was failing to fulfil its role in respect of the suffering of the people of Gaza. It was this silence which most offended.
Statements by Concerned Countries
AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said Israel did not have many substantive remarks on the report presented today, but expressed its concern that the Mission appeared to have legitimised the control of Hamas terrorist organizations held over the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. This was not in the interest of Israelis, Palestinians, or those who sought to support the peace process. The long-dormant Peace Process had been revived at the Annapolis Conference and, although there was no lack of sceptics, Israel spoke authoritatively as to how much progress had been made. Both Israel and its Palestinian partners publicly committed themselves to reaching a just solution, based on the idea of two nation-states, living side by side in peace and security. The question now, rather than who had been more right or wrong, was when the peace would be achieved and how. Finding a just solution was not easy, but was imperative.
Israel quoted part of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, saying that their hands were still stretched out in peace to the entire Arab and Muslim world, without exception. There would be speed bumps along the way, terrorist attacks and military operations and regrettable civilian deaths. There had been five major attacks in Jerusalem this year alone. It was not easy explaining to Israeli citizens that the international community did not believe such attacks should have provoked Israel into action and that Israel was expected to sit on its hands and sacrifice its citizens for the greater good. Nevertheless, Israel remained committed to the peace process and the renewed hope that had blossomed at Annapolis.
Israel said that it had conducted a thorough internal investigation of Beit Hanoun military operations and had shared the results with the United Nations. Israel noted that nothing could be gained with retaking the subject again. The report presented today would take its place in the vast library of United Nations reports on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the resolution it would spawn would take place on the lost-list of one-sided resolutions that this Council had passed against Israel so far. Neither one would be later remembered for having significantly contributed to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said that the delay in carrying out the mission was due to the non-cooperation of Israel, the occupying power. Israel had a persistent disregard for resolutions of the Human Rights Council and international law. A draft resolution had been tabled welcoming the report of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Professor Christine Chinkin and recommended to the General Assembly its consideration with the participation of the members of the mission. The report should be widely circulated and brought to the attention of both the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. The Israeli shelling of civilians in Beit Hanoun was a war crime and its perpetrators must be brought before international justice. Moreover the victims and the survivors were entitled to reparations.
Palestine drew a parallel between the past suffering of Jews in Europe and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank today. What was needed was an Israeli visionary leadership that abandoned the path of collision and ended the occupation. Israelis and Palestinians had no alternative to living peacefully in the holy land as no party would vanish or emerge as a victor in this conflict.
Interactive Dialogue with Bishop Desmond Tutu
TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the report of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission highlighted the disregard of human rights standards or humanitarian norms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to international humanitarian law, the Palestinians were a protected people. The occupying power had obligations towards the Palestinian people, these had not been fulfilled. Access had not been allowed to the Fact-Finding Mission for several months by Israel. The Mission had reported a number of findings: the attack on Beit Hanoun had been deliberate; the attack had raised legitimate concerns that war crimes had been committed. The Organization of the Islamic Conference agreed with the mission that the occupation was the root cause of the bleak situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and supported the recommendations of the Mission that the occupying power had to fulfil its responsibilities. Israel should also allow an independent investigation into the tragedy. The report also pointed out that the international community was failing to fulfil its role in respect of the suffering of the people of Gaza. This was a candid assessment. A sincere effort was needed to implement the recommendations of the Mission.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group highly commended the exhaustive and long-awaited report on the investigation of the atrocities committed by Israel in the town of Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006. The African Group made reference to the fact that the fact-finding Mission had had to travel to Beit Hanoun via Egypt due to the Israeli long-standing procrastination and refusal to show any form of cooperation with the Mission.
The report provided the Council with a meticulous legal investigation of the grave violations of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by the Israeli forces bombarding the civilians of Beit Hanoun. It also reflected the plight of the Palestinian civilians seeking treatment after the attack and the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow injured children and elderly to be accompanied by family members when travelling to seek treatment.
Paragraph 49 of the report stated that the firing of artillery towards Beit Hanoun had been a deliberate act in the context of the long-term occupation of Gaza and thus had left no doubt of what had happened in that shocking massacre. The African Group was deeply alarmed at the conclusion of the Mission that there was a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun had constituted a war crime. The Group believed that such a serious conclusion warranted a rapid and clear response by the international community at large.
The African Group fully endorsed the recommendations contained in the report and joined the Mission in emphasizing that the occupation of the Palestinian Territories remained the root cause of the bleak situation in the territories. The African Group renewed its unwavering support for the legitimate cause of the Palestinian People and for their just aspirations to establishing their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that at the time when the Beit Hanoun events took place, the European Union had expressed its deep concern about the escalation of violence and had deplored the number of civilian deaths. The European Union had strongly condemned Israeli military actions in Gaza and the unacceptable military operation on Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006. While the European Union recognized Israel’s right to defend itself, it had called on it not to take disproportionate action or acts against international humanitarian law. The European Union constantly condemned all action that fed into a cycle of violence. Furthermore, in view of the extremely worrying humanitarian situation, the European Union called for a controlled opening of entry points making it possible to enter and leave the Gaza Strip. The European Union had serious reservations about some of the conclusions in the report. It firmly supported the ongoing peace process.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed the Arab Group’s appreciation for the efforts undertaken by the Mission. The Arab Group could not fail to express their appreciation to Egypt, which had done its outmost to facilitate the success of this Mission. The Arab Group however regretted that Israel had not facilitated the Mission. The Council had to do everything to implement the recommendations of the report. The report painted a bleak picture of what had happened and the use of arbitrary shelling, without taking any care of the places of the shelling.
This massacre had led to many injuries. The human conscience was called upon to react to such a massacre. The following obstacles put to prevent the arrival of medical care and an ambulance was a violent violation of human rights. The Arab Group supported all the recommendations of the Mission; the international community as a whole had to provide protection to the Palestinians. The Arab Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference had prepared a draft a resolution asking the General Assembly to take up this matter further.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, said that two years after the massacre there had been no recognition or redress of this tragedy by the authors and not much had improved for the Palestinian people. As reflected in the final report, the attack of 8 November 2006 took lives, inflicted physical and mental injuries, tore families apart, and in spite of that, the Government of Israel the Occupying Power, had refused to cooperate with the Mission thus flouting the decision adopted by the Human Rights Council.
There had been no accountability for the murder and injury of innocent people. The Israeli response in the form of a largely secret internal military investigation was totally unacceptable from both the legal and moral points of view. In this regard, the Non Aligned Movement demanded from the State of Israel a public investigation to determine those responsible for those murderous acts and the provision of reparation to the victims of the shelling, which constituted a war crime.
The Non Aligned Movement regretted the loss of all innocent lives and called upon the parties to urgently resume peace process negotiations in order to comprehensively resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. The Non Aligned Movement took note of the timely international conferences on Annapolis and Paris and called for serious and continuous follow-up efforts. It also reiterated its support to convening the follow-up conference in Moscow to take stock of progress achieved in the peace process. The Non Aligned Movement strongly believed that the only real solution in this case was to put an end to Israel’s occupation through a peaceful settlement of the conflict and to allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their right to self determination and sovereignty in their independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt) said that the report described a horrendous picture of the shelling of Beit Hanoun. Egypt felt grave concern that the shelling was a premeditated operation. Egypt also expressed grave concern that the report listed evidence that Israel did not pay attention to the lives of civilians. Egypt endorsed the recommendations in the report and called on the international community to carry out its responsibility. The sanctity of human rights and the necessity of protecting them would not be achieved as long as one party continued to disregard human and humanitarian rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All bodies of the United Nations had to work together and the international community in its totality was called upon to promote human rights.
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico) said that giving priority to the needs of victims was the prime priority. Mexico recognised the balanced approach of the Mission in carrying out its mandate and welcomed the important meetings held between the Mission and the victims and the local authorities. Of crucial importance was to uphold the needs of the victims. Mexico had condemned the excessive use of force against Palestinians. All parties had to protect the civilian population, particularly women, children and vulnerable groups. Also, all parties had to respect international humanitarian and human rights law. All States had to cooperate with the Council and a follow-up to the mission’s report would indicate such a commitment.
ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) expressed Saudi Arabia’s appreciation of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission and the efforts they had made in going to Beit Hanoun to investigate the massacres committed by the Israeli military forces.
The report clearly showed that the massacres were committed by the Israeli army and had to be condemned. Barbaric acts by the Israeli occupying army had led to innocent victims and had left many injured. Physical and mental damage had been inflicted and households had been dismantled. Two years after the massacre, Israel still refused to cooperate with the Mission in total disregard of the Council’s decisions.
The Human Rights Council had to show clear responsibility and was called upon to take measures to reactivate its decisions and to ask Israel for an open and transparent investigation in the massacre.
HAMID BAIEDINEJAD (Iran) said that the report had concluded that the events preceding the shelling on 8 November 2006 had a direct and negative impact on the situation of victims and survivors of the shelling. The inhabitants of Beit Hanoun lived in a state of constant fear and anxiety and were traumatized by the deaths and injuries they had witnessed. The fact that the shelling took place early in the morning of 8 November 2006, 24 hours after the military withdrew from the town, when the inhabitants were returning to normal life, manifested that the operation was meant to be a collective punishment. Iran fully shared the conclusion of the mission that the occupation remained the root cause of the bleak situation in the Occupied Palestine Territories. Iran stressed that there was no doubt that the perpetrators had to be brought to justice. Two years had gone by and Israel continued to withhold information on the massacre. Iran asked the Council to open an investigation to hold those responsible accountable.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that it was clear that the international humanitarian law was not getting any regard in Gaza by the occupying power. In this attack, they could only see the denial of the right to life. Everyone knew that Israel had not collaborated with the Mission. The report showed that the attack had been premeditated; this was a war crime. An independent and transparent investigation had to take place. The international community had failed to react; this showed selectivity by some powers which defended human rights in some cases and completed neglected them in other cases. Algeria called for the submission of a report to the General Assembly.
ANTHONY SEDWYN (South Africa) said that two years after Beit Hanoun, very little had changed for the Palestinian People. South Africa regretted the loss of innocent lives of both Palestinian and Israeli people. South Africa took particular note of the impact of the conflict on the lives of women and children as well as the recommendations that women needed to be incorporated in conflict resolution and peace-building efforts.
South Africa said it was regrettable that the Palestinian people remained under occupation, and that their human rights continued to be denied, including the right to self determination and the right of return. South Africa called on the parties to urgently resume the peace process negotiations on the basis of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. South Africa reaffirmed its position that the Palestinian people must enjoy their right to self determination and sovereignty in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
KE YOUSHENG (China) said the incidents including the shelling of Beit Hanoun had inflicted a lot of suffering on the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people lived under extreme hardship. Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the Council had convened several times to deliberate on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Regrettably, the Council had so far failed to materialize the message of peace. China said that all parties concerned were bound to adopt in earnest the Council’s resolutions. Upholding justice and addressing Palestine and Israel would also be a matter of world peace and tranquillity in general.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that the report validated what they had been saying since the first Special Session. What had happened in Beit Hanoun was a flagrant violation of international law and civil norms. Bangladesh regretted that the Mission had taken so much time to be able to enter Gaza. The hindering of the mission by Israel was unacceptable. The silence on the part of the international community had resulted in the further suffering of the innocent Palestinian people. Bangladesh agreed with the Archbishop that peace would only happen through dialogue. Implementation of the recommendations would provide impetus to the resolution of the long standing conflict.
MANSOOR ABDULLA SALEM AL-SULAITIN (Qatar) said that the Human Rights Council today was studying one of the cases of human rights violations that required urgent redress by the international community and showed the extent to which Israel must be held accountable.
Qatar was concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as a result of Israel’s daily violation of human rights of Palestinian people. Unlawful practices by Israel included closing of borders, isolating Palestinian towns and cities and undermining the peace process. Israel continued with the settlement activities in the Palestinian territories despite condemnation by the international community. Qatar called for the cessation of the “Judaization” of the holy places and supported the right of Palestinians to self determination and the right to their State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Qatar supported the resolution of the Human Rights Council condemning the attack on Beit Hanoun.
OMER BERZINJI (Iraq) said that the crime which had destroyed dwellings and killed their inhabitants had been condemned by all divine and worldly laws. Iraq called on the international community to judge Israel for killing civilians for so-called legitimate reasons.
JOHAN ARIFF ABDUL RAZAK (Malaysia) said that Malaysia was pleased to note that after a delay of almost two years, the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission had finally been implemented this March. Malaysia had many times urged for the Mission to take place as early as possible, in order for the Council to take action as soon as possible. They were deeply saddened that the situation of the victims of the shelling remained grim. Israel had not honoured its obligation to respect and protect the people in Beit Hanoun. It was well known that the people of Palestine had been subjected to a decade long sort of collective punishment. The recommendations contained in the report were strongly supported by Bangladesh; full implementation had to happen as early as possible.
RANIA AL RIFAIY (Syria) thanked the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission for reaching the scene of the crime despite the obstacles and constraints created by Israel and for documenting the committed crimes. The massacres and Israel’s violations of human rights of Palestinians must come to an end. International humanitarian law and international law must be applied and Palestine must take its rightful place in the international society with their independent State and East Jerusalem as their capital. The Human Rights Council must be the voice that exposed the practices of Israel and must call on Israel to implement the recommendations outlined in the report.
ADEL ESSA HUR AL MAHRI (United Arab Emirates) said that the United Arab Emirates expressed its gratitude and respect for the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission which carried out its work despite the refusal of Israel to cooperate. The United Arab Emirates condemned the actions of Israel, which had resulted in the killing of civilians in Beit Hanoun. This was a collective punishment which exacerbated the crisis. The United Arab Emirates called on the Human Rights Council to condemn the massacre. The crimes against the Palestinian people were not limited to Beit Hanoun and Gaza but were spread throughout the Occupied Territories. The United Arab Emirates condemned the flagrant violation of the principles of international law. The international community must join efforts and mobilize energy to create peace.
NAJEEB A.A. AL-BADER (Kuwait) said that Kuwait appreciated the efforts made by the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission. Kuwait expressed concerns vis-à-vis the immoral and continuous violations by the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The report showed the horrendous actions by the Israeli military. The premeditated killing was a grave violation of human rights law and humanitarian norms. Kuwait expressed concerns over these flagrant violations. Urgent international action was needed to put an end to such violations. Kuwait called for an immediate intervention by the Human Rights Council to stop the violations and to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach the victims.
BASHAR ABU TALEB (Jordan) said that in both times of peace and times of conflict, accountability and the rule of law were the essence of the protection of human rights. Even after the disengagement of September 2005 Israel still had an effective control over Gaza and as such undeniable obligations towards the population in Gaza under both international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Jordan reiterated the need for Israel to honour its obligations to the people of Beit Hanoun and to the people of occupied Gaza and to fully respect their human rights at all times and in all situations. Specifically, it urged the Israeli authorities to facilitate access of victims to health services, to lift restrictions on the flow of medical supplies into Gaza and to end the policy of blockades, which hindered the enjoyment of full human rights for the people of Beit Hanoun.
WENDY HINTON (New Zealand) said that while new Zealand recognized Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel had to act in accordance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The ongoing blockade of Gaza had exacerbated an already fraught situation. Steps needed to be taken to ensure that those living under these conditions were able to freely exercise their fundamental human rights, including the right to minimum essential food, to adequate and safe water and to basic healthcare facilities. New Zealand encouraged both sides to commit in word and deed to the pursuit of peace and respect for human rights in order to negotiate a just and enduring two-State solution to this conflict.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that what had happened in Beit Hanoun was a continuation of the barbaric acts carried out by the occupying power. Yemen welcomed that the report had been issued, despite the non-cooperation by Israel. It was a common responsibility to call on Israel to stop all military actions against civilians as well as its violations of human rights and humanitarian law. What had happened in Beit Hanoun was a war crime. Israel was responsible for this and for the protection of civilians in Gaza.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) thanked Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Professor Christine Chinkin. Tunisia was particularly sensitive to the fact that the report adopted a global approach and saw the attack on Beit Hanoun in the general context of the occupation of Gaza. The horrifying testimonies and irrefutable evidence presented in the report led to the conclusion that the attack on Beit Hanoun had been deliberate and must be seen in the context of the occupation of Gaza. Tunisia reiterated its conviction that the occupation had been the root cause of the tragedy.
Israel must resume its responsibilities under international humanitarian law and international law. The international community must place Israel in front of its obligations. The Human Rights Council must take all necessary measures to implement the recommendations contained in the report and ensure their follow-up.
RAJIVA WIJESINHA (Sri Lanka) believed that Israel, which was set up through the United Nations, should make it clear through cooperation with the United Nations that it subscribed to international norms and laws in its efforts at self defense. Sri Lanka also understood the need to compensate for earlier aberrations felt after the Second World War. However that this compensation should be at the expense of innocent others was something Sri Lanka did not understand. Sri Lanka also called upon those who exercised power 60 years ago, and continued to exercise power now, to temper power with justice and work with commitment and consistency to end the suffering that they had created so many years ago.
ZEHOR HASSAN SID AHMED MOHAMMED (Sudan) condemned the lack of cooperation showed by Israel. Sudan called for the High Commissioner to ensure that the Human Rights Council’s decisions were implemented with a view of putting an end to the occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. On the events in Beit Hanoun, civilians had been attacked when they were sleeping; this was a flagrant violation of all international norms. Israel was called on to end its inhuman actions.
MOUNINA MINT ABDELLAH (Mauritania) said that regarding the heinous massacre committed by Israel in Beit Hanoun, Mauritania associated itself with the statements made by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Group and the Non Aligned Movement. Mauritania endorsed all international resolutions that guaranteed the rights of the Palestinian People, especially the right to self determination and the right to an independent State with East Jerusalem as their capital.
TIDIANE THIAM (Senegal) said that many civilians had paid a heavy toll in the bombardments in November 2006. Senegal reaffirmed its commitment to the establishment of a free Palestinian State and Israel’s right to live within secure and internationally recognized borders. Senegal believed that all parties were duty bound to respect human rights.
BABACAR BA, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, conveyed the high expectations of the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference for a full implementation of the decisions of the Council. In this regard, it was once again sad to note that Israel had failed to meet its international obligations by not cooperating with the Mission. The report showed the inhuman behaviour of the occupying power as well as its responsibility. After painting a horrific scene of the bombing, Archbishop Tutu in his report said that, in the absence of a well-founded explanation by the Israeli military, there was a possibility the bombing could be considered as a war crime. This was a grave warning. The Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference fully supported the recommendations contained in the report. Implementing them was very important to preserve the credibility of the Council.
DIA A. ABUBAKER (Libya) said that Israel continued the massacres of Palestinians, continued with arrests, and continued with demolitions of homes and occupation of land in full disregard of international law and international resolutions. The report of the Fact-Finding Mission reflected the extent of the tragedy of the Palestinian People. Libya strongly condemned Israel for its stark violations of human rights, international law and international humanitarian law and its disregard of international resolutions.
Libya called on the Human Rights Council to implement the resolutions and called on the machinery of the international community to hold Israel responsible for its actions. It also called for the cessation of actions against innocent civilians and on all United Nations agencies to stand by the Palestinian people and support them in regaining their rights.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) said that the report submitted by the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission showed that the attacks by the Israeli occupying forces had led to many civilian victims. The Human Rights Council now had to show that it truly intended to promote the right of the Palestinian people. Bahrain underlined the importance of the need for the international community to achieve a just peace in the region and to take all necessary means to implement it. Bahrain hoped that the Human Rights Council could prevent crimes in the future and that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.
HOSSAM BAHGA, of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that the Cairo Institute endorsed the recommendations made by the Fact-Finding Mission. They noted that the dire situation and human suffering described in the report served as a reminder of the human rights and humanitarian law violations that Palestinians were systematically subjected to throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The attacks on Beit Hanoun were part of a long standing pattern of disregard for civilian life by the Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Cairo Institute called for all parties to recognize that respect for civilian life and welfare and the enforcement of the rule of law and accountability remained the most promising means to begin efforts toward peace and security. They also called on the Council to support and adopt the draft resolution proposed by Egypt on the protection of human rights in armed conflicts.
DINA COHEN, of United Nations Watch, said that the Council until now had heard only one part of the story and wished to present the other, in the context of the paragraphs 14 and 18 of the report. The speaker was a 22-years old mother living in Sderot in Israel, who described the fears she was confronted with every night and the daily questioning over what might happen to her son if a rocket fell in his room. She also gave the account of the recent missile attack and a missile falling a few meters from the apartment, gravely wounding a child of 8 and his brother of 18.
In 2005, she said, Israel had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip in the hope for peace. In return, the Palestinians had chosen Hamas, who since had launched 4,637 missiles, all the while targeting innocent citizens. This was the real cause of the conflict that was being discussed today.
Concluding Remarks by the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission
CHRISTINE CHINKIN, Member of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission, said in her concluding remarks that it was important to remember that the Fact-Finding Mission was independent and not linked to the United Nations. Although she regretted that the Mission was delayed for 18 months, the delay allowed them to see the context of the attack. This gave an understanding of the ongoing cycle of violence and the denial of respect for the rule of law. Ms. Chinkin said that human rights must be respected at the national level and the role of the international community was to foster that process and to speak out if human rights were violated - wherever and by whomever. It was in this spirit that the recommendations were made. Hopefully, the recommendations would contribute to the peace process. In an earlier report, a recommendation was made to install an independent monitoring mechanism where Israelis and Palestinians might work together. She hoped that this recommendation also was given attention.
ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, Member of the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission, in concluding remarks, expressed the wish that they had been able to communicate to everyone the sense of devastation that they had experienced when they had been in Gaza. They wished that they could have gone to Sderot too; every single human being was a member of their family. They had spoken about 19 persons killed. But these should never be reduced to mere statistics; they were the mother of someone, the son of someone, someone dear to someone else.
Addressing the audience in the Council, Archbishop Tutu said that they also prayed that those sitting in the Council would be able to communicate to their countries they represented that ultimately, they all were a family. They might not always think so, he said, but the ultimate salvation would be when they realized their common humanity and that each one was diminished when one was treated less than he was.
In this tradition, each one was a God carrier; each had a preciousness that could not be measured. It was not just politics about which those sitting in the Council were concerned. They had been given a noble calling; the noble calling of ensuring the respect of human rights. Why did they ultimately have human rights? Because they believed fervently that each one had been created in the image of God, and if they treated one as being less than that, they were committing a blasphemy, a sacrilege. It was as if they were spitting in the face of God. He thanked the Council for its commitment and prayed that the Council would realize how much influence it had, as people would realize that their concern for human rights would be as in the image of justice, when one was blindfolded and when there was a violation anywhere, it was a violation. They had been given a divine vocation. God was hoping that somehow they would make God’s world a gentler place, a more compassionate place and a more caring place. God had no one else and Archbishop Tutu prayed that they would be able to fulfil this high-calling. It was a divinely given vocation.
Statements by Concerned Countries Before General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as concerned country, regretted that his first address to the Human Rights Council as the Permanent Representative of Israel took place on the day when the only item on the agenda was a one-sided consideration of Israel’s human rights record; this was not his idea of a particularly auspicious beginning.
Israel’s views on item 7 - human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories - were well known and Israel had already protested against the bias in dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues in all relevant fora. Israel had already questioned the logic of setting aside an entire day on the Council’s programme of work for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian question, while all other human rights situations were crammed in three hours.
Progress would not be made in this forum under this agenda item, Israel said. There was more important work to be done and he would not take more time with this issue. Israel asked all interested parties to consider the new opportunities presented through the Annapolis summit, recommit themselves to the peace process and pledge to work together to solve real and pressing issues on the ground.
MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said that ethnic cleansing had been taking place throughout the occupation and Israel continued committing it. Should the two-state-solution fail, the South African solution could be envisaged instead of serving as a mere scarecrow. The Palestinian people were among the most educated in the region and despite their tragedy the Palestinian people were willing to live in peace with Israel. The Occupied Palestinian Territories continued to raise the flag of hope amidst the harsh wind of despair.
FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria), speaking as a concerned country, said that the situation in the Occupied Arab Territories was still very dire. This was due to the continuation of the Israeli occupation and due to its barbaric actions at times. Israel denied the right to self determination and the right to return. The total isolation of the Palestinian people was condemned, as well as the wall of segregation, which ran counter to all international law. The list of violations was too long to enumerate. Israel continued to build settlements on a daily basis, despite the calls to cease this and despite United Nations decisions and resolutions.
In the Syrian Occupied Golan, the situation was very grave. The calls and resolutions of the Council had been in vain. The Israeli authorities continued to harm Syrians; they confiscated their land and gave it to Israeli settlers. As for Syrian prisoners in Israeli jails, some had been imprisoned for more than 25 years. Some of them had never been tried in any way and faced the worst forms of torture, leading to serious illnesses or to death due to cancer. Israel was misleading the whole world, pretending it was carrying out peaceful negations. These violations would not cease unless the land was returned to its legitimate owners and until the United Nations and Human Rights Council resolutions were implemented.
General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, reminded that 60 years had passed since the Al-Nakba (The Disaster), after which the Palestinian People had become stateless and dispossessed people. The Non Aligned Movement reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian People and redoubled its collective efforts for the just and peaceful solution of the question of Palestine in all its aspects.
The Palestinian People and other occupied Arab territories had suffered under Israel’s brutal occupation of their land for more than 42 years now. They continued to be denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to self determination and the right of return. All this time Israel had been violating international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law and had carried out unlawful practices aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and nature of the lands under occupation. The situation in the occupied Syrian Golan also remained a cause of serious concern.
The Non Aligned Movement highlighted the brutal process in Israeli occupation prisons and expressed their grave concern at the inhuman conditions of the Palestinian and Arab detainees. The Non Aligned Movement called upon Israel, the occupying power, to reopen the Quneitra entry point, and to facilitate visits of the Syrian citizens under Israeli occupation to their motherland Syria.
The Non Aligned Movement regretted the loss of all innocent lives and called upon the parties to urgently resume peace process negotiations in order to comprehensively resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. The Non Aligned Movement took note of the timely international conferences on Annapolis and Paris and called for serious and continuous follow-up efforts. It also reiterated its support to convening the follow-up conference in Moscow to take stock of progress achieved in the peace process. The Non Aligned Movement strongly believed that the only real solution in this case was to put an end to Israel’s occupation through a peaceful settlement of the conflict and to allow the Palestinian People to enjoy their right to self determination and sovereignty in their independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group was gravely concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, including the Golan Heights. Reports of United Nations bodies, highly credible media and civil society organizations showed a consistent pattern of Israeli violations of human rights of citizens living under its occupation. Israel was pursuing its policies of closure, collective punishment, extra-judicial killings and deprivation of the freedom of movement. As for the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continued its practices of imposing an Israeli identity on the Syrian citizens and establishing Israeli settlements. All resolutions of both the Council and the General Assembly in this regard were ignored by Israel. The African Group expressed its full solidarity with the Palestinian People and its unconditional support for their right to self determination and the early establishment of an independent Palestinian State.
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed the conviction of the European Union that respect for human rights was a basis to prevent conflicts and to support peaceful relations unifying all peoples. It was in this spirit that the European Union supported the peace process and encouraged efforts by all sides to continue towards achieving a long lasting peace in the Middle East. The European Union condemned all actions endangering these discussions, such as the carrying out of rocket attacks and all other activities violating international law. The European Union reaffirmed that there was no military solution to the crisis and reiterated its appeal to put an end to all acts of violence. All parties had to respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
The European Union remained concerned about the increasing expansion of settlements. These, wherever they were, were unlawful with respect to international law. They also constituted an obstacle to a peaceful solution. The European Union called once more upon Israel to freeze all settling initiatives. The European Union also asked that all restrictions imposed by Israel should be removed, in order to improve the situation on the ground. The European Union hoped the truce would be fully effective and would put an end in the violence in Gaza. They urged for a controlled reopening of the crossings into Gaza. Further the provision of fuel and electricity should be ensured and should not be interrupted.
For use of the information media; not an official record