|Human Rights Council |
19 March 2009
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process on the report on the United Arab Emirates, and began its consideration of Universal Periodic Review process on the report on Israel.
Aharon Leshno Yaar, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting additional information on the review, said Israel had agreed to adopt the recommendation regarding the investigation of allegations of violence and killings allegedly committed by the police. Israel also agreed to adopt the recommendation regarding the law on polygamy and has recently re-instructed the Qaddi's of the Sharia Courts to refer every suspected case of polygamy to the police; and also decided to adopt the recommendation to ensure full protection to the rights of minorities. Israel had also taken upon itself to promote the recommendations on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; to consider strengthening the dialogue with the Council and its special procedures and the cooperation with all relevant United Nations special procedures and mechanisms; and to grant the right to those who object to serve in the army on conscientious rounds to serve instead with a civilian body independent of the military.
During the discussion on Israel, speakers commended Israel for its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process, however, many raised serious concerns over the continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, with regard to Israel's continued occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan. Speakers urged Israel to address numerous other recommendations made by the Working Group which had not been addressed, such as the increased blockade in the Gaza Strip, which was of serious concern to many speakers, in particular Israel's violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, with the use of white phosphorus bombs in civilian populated areas. Israel's commitment to narrowing gaps between different communities in Israel, and its determination to improve the status of women within all sectors of Israeli society was welcomed.
Speaking during the debate on Israel were Palestine, Cuba, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Malaysia and the United States. Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Amnesty International, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, World Federation of United Nations Associations, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Women's International Zionist Organization, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Society Studies Centre, and African-American Society for Humanitarian Aid and Development.
The Human Rights Council will conclude its consideration of the outcome on Israel on Friday, 20 March. The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m. today, when it will proceed with the consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review process on Liechtenstein, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Burkina Faso.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review for Report on Israel
AHARON LESHNO YAAR, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, said that Israel took very seriously its participation in the third session of the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council as an opportunity for genuine introspection, and frank discussion within the Israeli system, despite Israel's reservations about some aspects of the Council's work. Israel was pleased to announce that it agreed to adopt the recommendation regarding the investigation of allegation of violence and killings allegedly committed by the police. Israel also agreed to adopt the recommendation regarding the law on polygamy and has recently re-instructed the Qaddi's of the Sharia Courts to refer every suspected case of polygamy to the police; and Israel had also decided to adopt the recommendation to ensure full protection to the rights of minorities.
Israel had also taken upon itself to promote the following items from the Council's recommendations: the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; ensuring best protection of human rights and follow-up to the implementation of international instruments; considering strengthening dialogue with the Council and its special procedures and the cooperation with all relevant United Nations special procedures and mechanism; redoubling efforts to increase women's representation in society; continuing and strengthening its efforts to achieve gender equality in Government and public service at all levels; ensuring prompt and impartial investigations of allegations of ill treatment, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and ensuring that all cases were reviewed by a court in accordance with fair procedure; and granting the right to those who object to serve in the army on conscientious rounds to serve instead with a civilian body independent of the military.
While Israel also appreciated the spirit of the recommendation to protect the children and families of migrants, it did not consider that accession to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families was required in order to achieve this goal, as under Israeli legislation, the rights of children and family members of migrants were already protected. With respect to the recommendation calling for the evaluation of the possibility of ratifying the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty, Israel reiterated what was indicated in its report to the Universal Periodic Review, that while it was not a possibility to ratify the Protocol, Israel had applied a de facto moratorium on executions, and the only exception that had ever been implemented since Israel's establishment was in the case of the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1962. The death penalty had not been applied since. Israel also took note of the recommendation to intensify its efforts to ensure that human rights were respected in the fight against terrorism. This remained an ongoing challenge for Israel as it continued to confront the threat of terrorism.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine) said when the human rights situation in Israel was being reviewed, Palestine presented 12 recommendations based on international human rights law, among other things. None of those recommendations were taken into account by Israel, because it was the occupying power of the Palestinian Arab Territory. With regard to respect to international instruments, Israel led a savage aggressive attack on Gaza, which left thousands of men, women, and children dead, as well as extensive destruction to homes. Israel had been pursuing its blockage of Gaza for some time now. Palestine stressed that a number of appeals had been made to Israel on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, which had been rejected. Many international organizations, including Israeli organizations firmly condemned the practices of the occupying party, condemning their war crimes. Israel must comply with its international humanitarian and human rights commitments. It must hold itself morally and legally responsible, and if it did so it would be keeping with the principles of this Council and the United Nations as a whole. Palestine asked how Israel could be held responsible for its commitments if it did not comply with the Human Rights Council.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said the presentation made by the Ambassador of Israel was noted. Last December, Israel was before the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and the review there was profound and critical, with over 40 delegations speaking, almost all of whom raised concerns about the situation in the Palestinian territories and the Occupied Syrian Golan, particularly regarding human rights violations and the serious situation besetting the Palestinian people. Many recommendations had been put forward, very much in the spirit of cooperation which was the hallmark of the review exercise. Israel claimed to be a democracy, and must, as such, recognise that the situation of democracy was not compatible with being an Occupying Power, humiliating and negating the rights of the Palestinian people in their territories. Just a few days after the Review, Israel unleashed its assault on the Gaza Strip, which had led to a Special Session of the Council. The requests of the international community should be heeded by Israel's Government, and there should be a fair and lasting peace for the peoples of the Middle East, with the Palestinian people in a free and independent Palestinian State in which they could enjoy their rights fully.
FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria) said that the Israeli delegation was today at the Human Rights Council while Israel was pursuing its violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Syrian Golan. During the Universal Periodic Review, Israel was boasting about the human rights situation in its country and continued with its disinformation campaign. Israel was pursuing its attacks in the Gaza Strip, which took place only a few days after Israel's appearance before the Council. Such behaviour had been typical for Israel for the last 60 years. On a daily basis, Israel was responsible for many deaths of Palestinian women, men and children.
AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt) said that Israel always accused the Council of targeting it, however, Israel was the one who continued to violate international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Israel occupied the land, which was rightfully the land of the Palestinians and should be returned to the rightful owners one day. On the Syrian Golan, Egypt stressed that no Israeli measure would keep those lands away from its rightful owners. Egypt said that Israel should end its occupation of all Palestinian and Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan and Jerusalem. Egypt stressed that Israel had an obligation to end its occupation of Palestine and allow for the establishment of a free Palestinian State back to the borders of 1967, allowing Palestinians their right to self-determination; Israel should respect the rights of Palestinian refugees and recognize their right to return, providing compensation for their losses and damages; and reversing its illegitimate decision to occupy the Syrian Golan.
Mr. ANSARI (Iran) said the Universal Periodic Review mechanism could not appropriately and sufficiently address this specific situation - the gross and systematic human rights violations committed by Israel during the past six decades required more particular attention by the international community. During past decades, numerous cases of grave and systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Israel against the people of Palestine, the Syrian Golan and Lebanon had been well documented. Various cases of human rights violations had characterised the occupation of Palestine for many years, and had featured regularly in reports of international human rights mechanisms. Recent brutal and heinous aggressions against the Gaza Strip were the most recent atrocities perpetuated against the Palestinian people and demonstrated the new vivid examples of such grave and systematic human rights violations by Israel. The international community should take all necessary and concrete measures to put an immediate end to all forms and manifestations of occupation, aggression, racism, and violations of human rights perpetuated by Israel, as a matter of priority and urgency.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that the Human Rights Council was examining the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report at a point were the blood of thousands of martyrs in Gaza had not yet dried. What could be done here in this Council? It was not astonishing that Israel was continuing to ignore all recommendations as the right to self-determination, Jerusalem as a capital, the right to return for Palestinian refugees and compensation for what had been suffered and pillaged goods. Further, respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention and others had to be immediately implemented. Yemen only mentioned some of the many commitments that had to be honoured.
ANIZAN SITI HAJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said Malaysia highly appreciated the process of the Universal Periodic Review as a mechanism for delegations to engage in constructive and non-destructive dialogue. Malaysia regretted that Israel did not address some of the main issues. In addition, while Israel only accepted a few of the recommendations, the Palestinian people's human rights remained in violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Israel illegally occupied the Palestinian territories. Malaysia called upon Israel to put an end to the occupation, aggression and violation of human rights of the Palestinian people. Malaysia emphasized that there was a difference between terrorism and resisting occupation. Malaysia stressed that the only way to peace was through a transparent and constructive dialogue between the Palestinian people and Israel.
MARK C. STORELLA (United States) said important measures of a democratic society were the vibrancy and robustness of civil society institutions and organisations, and the willingness of Governments to tolerate and listen to dissent and criticism, both domestic and international, and in this regard the United States noted Israel's energetic civil society and independent media. Israel's commitment to narrowing gaps between different communities in Israel was welcomed, as was its statement to the Working Group that it was making a concerted effort to ensure that Israeli Arabs were represented in policy and decision-making positions. The United States also commended Israel's determination to improve the status of women within all sectors of Israeli society. The United States regretted the politicised nature of many of the recommendations made in the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. Politicisation and selectivity in the Universal Periodic Review process did nothing for the Review's credibility as a constructive human rights mechanism. Peace and democracy were the best guarantors of human rights in the region, and the United States hoped and expected that the Council and the Universal Periodic Review would contribute to efforts by all to advance this goal.
MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said the organization would like a more direct approach to the questions raised in the meetings of the Working Group. It would like to make the following recommendations to Israel: that it investigate war crimes and other violations of international law, including those perpetrated in the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip, hold the perpetrators accountable and provide reparation to the victims; and that it lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow the unhindered passage of people and goods, including much needed humanitarian aid and material for the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure destroyed in the recent conflict.
ABDEL WAHAB HANI, of Arab Commission for Human Rights, regretted that the State currently under review, did not provide its answers in good time. This meant that the young Human Rights Council was not in a position to fulfil its mission. They suggested that the Council not adopt the report, despite the debate being rich. The Arab Commission noted with concern that one of the recommendations in the report with regard to the increased blockade in the Gaza Strip was not addressed. The Arab Commission expressed their grave concern about the activities of the Israeli extreme right. They noted that Israel was in complete contradiction of its obligations to international law with regard to the Palestinian Territories, and that the current Government was incapable of peace.
MARYAM SAFARI, of Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, said the implications of Israeli air strikes and ground invasions had gone beyond the destruction of infrastructure and loss of innocent people's lives. The massive scale of destruction of buildings, houses, schools, clinics and other infrastructure was shocking. The devastating psychological consequences of the Israeli air strikes and ground invasion appeared in the social and cultural fabrics of Palestinians, their identity and their values system. International humanitarian law should be respected, and there should be an independent fact-finding delegation which indicated the actions of the Council to be on the same side as its written duties with regards to Palestine.
OMEH LEILA ENAYATI, of World Federation of United Nations Associations, said that one of the most blatant examples of human rights violations was the continued neglect of the rights of civilians, women and children in particular, during armed conflict. Exactly what the whole world witnessed taking place in the Gaza Strip in other words. During the Israeli military aggression in the Gaza Strip, forty per cent of the dead were women and children under eighteen. In violation of the Geneva Fourth Convention, Israel used white phosphorus bombs even in civilian populated areas. Israel destroyed the water, food, medicine and hygiene facilities and infrastructure during its military onslaught. Schools, hospitals and dozens of other civilian building were destroyed.
JEREMIE SMITH, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, commended the engagement of Israel with the Universal Periodic Review process. The Cairo Institute pointed out that all international arbitration bodies and United Nations mechanisms, including the Council, had been unequivocal and united in their conclusions that confiscation and settlement of Occupied Palestinian lands by Israel constituted illegal acts under international law, including violations of fundamental rights and humanitarian standards. The world was united in asserting that there could be no such thing as a "legal" settlement within the 1967 borders of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
DEREK BRETT, of Conscience and Peace Tax International, welcomed the indication in the introductory remarks that Israel was planning the introduction of alternatives to military service, and urged Israel to use international standards in this respect as elaborated in the Human Rights Council's resolution and in the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee. This should be firmly under civilian control, should not be punitive in nature, and should accept declarations of conscientious objection without inquiry.
RAMA ENAV, of Women's International Zionist Organization, said that in recent years, Israel had taken major steps to promote human and women's rights, for which it should be commended, yet there still were some standing barriers to the full realization of human and civil rights in Israel. Progress was made mainly by advancing implementation of already existing legislation. The organisation called on Israel to remove its reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women, in particular on equality in public representation and on gender equality in family life, or to at least to narrow them down. It urged Israel to finally provide for civil marriage and divorce in line with the Convention, as more than 300,000 Israeli citizens who formally had no religious affiliation could not marry in Israel.
FATIMEH DORRI, of Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said no one should forget that, on 27 December 2008, the Israeli military launched operation cast lead against the Gaza Strip. The 22-day military campaign left over a thousand Palestinians dead (one third being children), thousands injured and homeless, and a blockade against a population of 1.5 million in an area as small as 366 square kilometres. Genocide, aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity were grave infractions which a number of countries, international organizations and public opinion accused Israel of committing.
MOHAMED ELFATIH, of Society Studies Centre, welcomed the review of the human rights situation in Israel, but at the same time noted with great concern that the Universal Periodic Review was only addressed to the rights of Israelis, while there was a disregard of the violations committed against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, where Israel had exonerated itself from the violations that were taking place on a 24-hour basis. The Palestinian people were denied their right to self-determination, and their land was occupied, with undeniable cruelty against civilians. Many women, elderly and children had been killed, and over 1,300 Palestinians had been killed and many more wounded during the recent campaign. Israel should bear responsibility for its war crimes in the occupied territories.
AHMED MOHAMED TAHIR HAMED, of African-American Society for Humanitarian Aid and Development (ASHAD), said that the Society had followed the tragedy of the Palestinian people and the appalling occupation by Palestine of Israel with alarm, particularly with regard to the events in January. The Israeli war machine had killed millions, also women, children and babies. The Society called on the Council to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people and appealed to Israel to put an end to the ethnic cleansing in which it was engaged.
AHARON LESHNO YAAR, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, thanked the skilful and productive manner in which the President of the Council conducted the review, and thanked the troika members for their helpful and constructive support, as well as the comments made by non-governmental organizations. The statements made by countries from their region were noted. Those States had an unimpeachable record on human rights, and as such those comments were illuminating. Israel thanked them for their valuable contribution.
Despite the concerns raised, Israel considered the Universal Periodic Review an important part of the Council's work. It allowed States to take a self-critical look at their own human rights records. While many of the decisions were challenging, Israel said they would serve the Israeli people. Mr. Yaar said it would use this opportunity to examine and review a wide range of measures taken with regard to the human rights situation in the country. In response to the President's remarks and on institution building, Mr. Yaar said those recommendations enjoyed full support by the Government, and on others Israel would continue to consult with civil society and other organizations.
Mr. Yaar stressed that the creation of the modern State of Israel and the belief of Zionism was based on the people's linkage to land and history. The country was born out of etches of the Holocaust and war. Israel continued to struggle against the plague of terrorists; Israel was in a region where many called for their destruction and slaughter. Israel was proud to grow into a strong and flourished society; a State based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel, irrespective of religion or sex. Mr. Yaar noted that the Government was well aware that their human rights record was not perfect; their shared struggle ensured shared opportunity. Furthermore, Mr. Yaar said that Israel was aware that the protection of human rights was an unending challenge.
For use of the information media; not an official record