Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
19 March 1997
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 5th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 12 March 1997, at 3 p.m.
Mr. SOMOL (Czech Republic)
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (
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 3.20 p.m.
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 4) (
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item
(Egypt) said that the unanimous declaration by the Arab delegations at Cairo in June 1996 of their determination to continue the peace process required a matching commitment by Israel. Any failure on the part of Israel to respect its commitments to the agreements reached at the Madrid Conference would lead to a failure of the peace process and a return to the cycle of violence and tension. Negotiations should be resumed in accordance with the agreed timetable since delay would jeopardize the attainment of a just and lasting peace that would ensure the national rights of Palestinians, including their inalienable right to self-determination. He noted Syria's readiness to re-enter the negotiations.
2. The expansion of settlements was unacceptable: it ran counter to international law, hindered the peace process and should be halted. Peace could be achieved only through finding a solution to the problem of Jerusalem and guaranteeing the right of Palestinians to return to the city, agreeing to pay compensation and respecting other United Nations resolutions. Arabs must enjoy the same rights in Jerusalem as Israelis. He thus welcomed the remarks made the previous day by the spokesman for the European Union, who had called the Israeli settlement policy incompatible with international law.
3. Israel must respect the agreements already reached: it should stop building new settlements in the Golan - indeed, it should withdraw altogether - and it should comply with Security Council resolutions regarding Lebanon.
4. Peace could be achieved in the Middle East only on the basis of the elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, in respect of which all parties should be placed on an equal footing. Only with the elimination of weapons of mass destruction could the peoples of the region live in peace and stability. While his delegation was opposed to terrorism from any quarter or in any form, it was equally opposed to repressive measures against innocent civilians, which were a flagrant violation of all the international conventions.
(Republic of Korea), having welcomed the signing of the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, said that peace in the Middle East region could best be described as fragile. He urged all parties to the peace process to prevent extremism from derailing their quest for a permanent peace. Human rights were central to any lasting peace, because human rights violations only reinforced the prevailing mistrust in the region, and led to violence. In that context, he noted with pleasure that respect for human rights had advanced to a certain degree, as evidenced by the recent release of 31 female Palestinian prisoners.
6. Palestinian economic development was crucial in improving the human rights situation, since an enhanced quality of life reduced the inclination to resort to violence. It was in that belief that his Government had supplied an assistance package of some US$ 12 million following the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-government Arrangements in 1993 and a further US$ 3 million in 1996. It was also involved in funding projects at a regional level relating to economic cooperation, development, desalination and training.
7. In the conviction that the enhancement of individual welfare through economic development was a necessary step to the accomplishment of a true peace, his Government would continue to play its role in striving for sustainable development in Palestine. It also hoped that the principle of self-determination would be respected.
(Zimbabwe), after deploring the acrimonious note which had crept into the debate, said that oppression and repression could be dealt with only by tackling the root cause; human rights violations in the occupied Arab territories could be ended only by an immediate and unconditional end to the occupation.
9. He welcomed the condemnation of Israeli intransigence by the European Union, and agreed that the Palestinian Authority must also rid its security forces of those who violated human rights. However, lapses by the State apparatus of the Palestinian Authority could not be compared with the horrors inherent in occupation. It would be insane to renege on the Oslo Agreements and he condemned the current Israeli leadership's decisions to build new settlements in south-east Jerusalem and close the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization in east Jerusalem.
10. He called on the Commission to take a firm stand against the occupation by Israel of foreign territory, which was an affront to human dignity. He hoped that the European Union's attempt at even-handedness and its desire, in conjunction with some of its allies, to raise respect for human rights to the level of a global ethic were genuine, and not simply another attempt by the strong to use human rights issues as geopolitical tools. Unfortunately, to judge by the protection afforded to an occupying Power in certain international forums, the powerful still exacted what they could and the weak still granted what they had to.
(Observer for Jordan) reiterated his Government's commitment to finding a just and comprehensive solution to the problems of the Middle East. Unfortunately, peace and stability in the region and fundamental human rights were being jeopardized by the current settlement policies of Israel, which legal experts had found to be in breach of international law and international agreements. Its settlement activities on territory over which it had no sovereign rights violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, as pointed out in the Special Rapporteur's report (E/CN.4/1997/16).
12. Furthermore, its settlement activity in Jerusalem was killing off the peace process. His Government refused to accept any change in the status quo that might affect the final status of Jerusalem. While earlier Israeli Governments had allowed the peace process to take root by freezing the construction of new settlements, the policies of the current leadership could not but lead to further violence.
13. The rights to personal dignity and self-determination were at the very heart of the peace process. He called on the Government of Israel to recognize that fact and to face up to the consequences of its policies on the stability of the region. He urged that Government to generate trust and confidence by cancelling its decisions to build new settlements in the occupied Arab territories, particularly in east Jerusalem. He welcomed the approach taken by the European Union and urged the United States, which had made an invaluable contribution to the peace process, to take a firm stand on the question of settlements and use its influence to avoid a crisis. For its part, the Commission should condemn Israel's destructive settlement policies.
(Observer for Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Arab countries which had initiated the Middle East peace process at Madrid in 1991 had been driven by a sincere desire for a just and lasting peace on the basis of the “land-for-peace” principle. However, the peace process had almost totally collapsed as a result of Israel going back on its international agreements. Its decision to build a new settlement in Jerusalem would change the historic character of that city, and was an illegal act on territory occupied by force of arms.
15. The Arab Group strongly condemned the Israeli decisions to build new settlements, which were contrary to the spirit and letter of international conventions and resolutions, as well as being a threat to the stability of the region. The international community had rightly condemned Israel's attempt to change the geographic and demographic configuration of Jerusalem.
16. He therefore urged the Commission to do everything in its power to persuade Israel to cancel those decisions. He called on those countries that supported Israel financially to withhold aid until Israel honoured its international agreements. Finally, he voiced support for the peoples of Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon in their struggle against the occupation and in their search for a durable peace based on international law.
(Pax Christi International), said that she applauded the Special Rapporteur's desire not to adopt an accusatory approach but, rather, to seek a meaningful and constructive dialogue with all the parties concerned and help to overcome the human rights problems in the occupied Arab territories (E/CN.4/1997/16, para. 4). It was to be regretted, therefore, that only informal meetings between the Special Rapporteur and representatives of the Government of Israel had proved possible.
28. The most serious development from the legal point of view was the decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice to authorize the use of force in the interrogation of suspects, a ruling that was tantamount to sanctioning torture and ill-treatment in violation of Israel's international obligations. The Special Rapporteur also pointed out that the closure of the occupied territories imposed by the Israeli authorities in the wake of security incidents in February and March 1996 amounted to collective punishment in violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (para. 24). Moreover, settlement expansion, which presupposed the confiscation of Arab-owned land in the occupied territories, violated articles 53 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Lastly, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem were reported to be increasingly treated as resident aliens by the Israeli authorities (para. 31).
29. The recent decision to authorize the construction of a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem had been unanimously criticized throughout the world, not least by Pope John Paul II.
30. Her organization appealed to Israeli citizens to oppose the dangerous policies instigated by an extremist minority and also appealed for international solidarity in support of the Palestinian population suffering under a military occupation that should be ended according to schedule and in the spirit of the Peace Accords through negotiations conducted in reciprocal good faith.
The meeting rose at 5.55 p.m.