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(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms ( continued)*
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives ( continued)*
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (continued )*
The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.
Agenda item 71: Human rights questions (continued) (A/60/40, 44, 129, 336, 392 and 408)
(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued ) (A/60/134, 266, 272, 286, 299, 301 and Add.1, 305, 321, 326, 333, 338 and Corr.1, 339 and Corr.1, 340, 348, 350, 353, 357, 374, 384, 392, 399 and 431)
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued ) (A/60/221, 271, 306, 324, 349, 354, 356, 359, 367, 370, 395 and 422; A/C.3/60/2)
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ( continued) (A/60/36 and 343)
20. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), introducing his report (A/60/271), said that the Israeli Government was to be congratulated on its decision to withdraw from Gaza. However, while Gaza was no longer colonized by Israeli settlers, its borders, territorial sea and airspace were still controlled by Israel. The residents of Gaza were also denied free access to the West Bank and neighbouring countries and Israel strictly controlled the traffic of goods into and out of Gaza. Israel had subjected Gaza to intensive bombardment and sonic booms since the withdrawal of the settlers and had revived its practice of targeted killings of militants. Furthermore, over 650 Palestinian prisoners from Gaza were still detained in Israel jails.
21. In the light of those circumstances, Israel remained an occupying Power, subject to the obligations of international humanitarian law, including the obligation to promote the welfare of the people of Gaza and not to impede access to medical care and other resources.
22. The prediction in his report (ibid., para. 11) that Israel would drag out decisions on the future of Gaza to distract world attention from its territorial expansion in the West Bank through the construction of the wall and settlements had proven accurate. The wall, when completed, would run for over 700 kilometres, of which only 150 kilometres would run on the Green Line (the de facto border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory). The wall already penetrated deep into Palestinian territory and was set to include major Israeli settlement blocks that would divide Palestine into separate cantons and destroy the contiguity of its territory. It was estimated that some 10 per cent of Palestinian land would be included on the Israeli side of the wall. While Israel claimed that the wall was being constructed for security reasons, Israel’s legitimate security concerns could have been met by constructing the wall along the Green Line.
23. The Israeli High Court had ruled that the construction of the wall within Palestinian territory was justified as a security measure. However, the flaw in that ruling was that, while it accepted the right of Israel to protect its settlers, it carefully failed to deal with the question of whether their settlements were illegal. Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited such settlements, and the International Court of Justice had unanimously found them to be illegal. Israel’s rationale for building the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory therefore had no legal basis. Prime Minister Sharon had acknowledged that the main settlement blocks in the West Bank would remain under Israeli sovereignty, which meant that the territory between the wall and the Green Line had been de facto annexed by Israel.
24. Israel was also using the wall to change the character of East Jerusalem, which it occupied illegally. The changes were aimed at, inter alia, reducing the number of Palestinians in the city, increasing the number of illegal Jewish settlers there, and transforming East Jerusalem into a Jewish city in order to undermine Palestinian claims to the city as the capital of a future Palestinian State.
25. While the wall and the occupation of the West Bank essentially served the interests of the Israeli settlers, they also inflicted serious human rights violations on Palestinians. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was being seriously undermined by the reduction and fragmentation of Palestinian territory. Palestinians living in the “closed zone” between the wall and the Green Line, and those living close to the wall, were subjected to a humiliating and discriminatory permit system which seriously impeded their freedom of movement. Checkpoints, closures and curfews were also seriously impeding the freedom of movement of Palestinians elsewhere. The personal freedom of Palestinians was endangered by large-scale arrests and detention, prison conditions were poor and allegations of torture continued. Approximately half of the Palestinian population lived below the official poverty line, and health care and education had deteriorated substantially. Homelessness resulting from military home demolitions, particularly in Gaza, was also pervasive.
26. In 2004 the International Court of Justice had given legal expression to the concerns of the international community about the treatment of Palestinians when it had ruled the partition wall to be illegal, settlements to be unlawful and many features of Israel’s occupation practices to be contrary to humanitarian law and human rights law. He regretted that the international community’s political organs had so far failed to convert that legal opinion into political action. Not only had the Security Council refused to endorse the Court’s advisory opinion but also the Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation, had failed to mention it in statements on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It was hard to understand how the United Nations could be a party to statements which deliberately ignored the pronouncements of its own judicial body, as endorsed by the General Assembly. The United Nations should be actively engaged in implementing the advisory opinion, which represented the law of the United Nations.
27. Mr. Israeli (Israel) said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 was one-sided and that his report, like its predecessors, was marked by serious errors of omission and commission, as well as distortions of fact and law. It had been prepared before Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank and contained a number of alarmist predictions that had proved unfounded; that was because of the great care taken by Israel. The report contained a number of subjective interpretations, including a misreading of Israel’s statement that, while it had relinquished any authority to operate militarily in the Gaza Strip, it reserved its right to act in self-defence.
28. The security fence had not been “marginally modified”; by the Special Rapporteur’s own reckoning, there had been an 80-per-cent reduction in the number of Palestinians included within its route. The Special Rapporteur not only dismissed the road map adopted by the international community but also argued that it ran counter to international law. He also sought to undermine the principle of a two-State solution, speaking with approval of a proposal to establish a bi-national Palestinian State. Those working for peace knew that progress must be built on the fulfilment of obligations by both sides; for the Rapporteur there were only Palestinian rights and Israeli obligations.
29. The Special Rapporteur’s omission of any mention of the involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the area at a time when the President of that country had called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” was a further indication of the inadequacies of his reporting stance.
30. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine) asked what could be done to ensure that Israel did not follow through with its plans to demolish houses in the Silwan region in order to build a park. With respect to the construction of the wall, she wondered what steps could be taken to ensure that Israel complied with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and that the international community fulfilled its obligations in compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention. She hoped that the United Nations would take stronger action, particularly with respect to the Secretary-General’s request to establish a register of damage caused to all natural or legal persons who had suffered as a result of the construction of the wall, in accordance with resolution ES/10-15.
31. She condemned Israel’s practice of attacking United Nations officials who were simply carrying out their mandates. If Israel ended the occupation, there would be no human rights violations and no need for a Special Rapporteur.
32. Ms. Fountain (United States of America) objected to the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/60/271) as being one-sided and failing to address the broad context of the conflict as well as the obligations of both sides. Her delegation had long opposed such one-sided reports and related General Assembly resolutions because they addressed final-status issues that the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to decide through negotiations; advocated activities that were incompatible with the basic principles of the Middle East peace process; and expended resources that could be used in more productive ways to improve the lives of the Palestinian people. Her delegation particularly objected to the criticism of the Quartet’s efforts to facilitate a two-State solution and felt that such criticism undermined the United Nations role as part of that Quartet.
33. Mr. Saeed (Sudan) asked what measures could be taken to compel Israel to respect the advisory opinion of the International Court and discontinue the building of the wall. His delegation wondered how the United Nations could be party to negotiations which contradicted a decision of its own legal body.
34. The withdrawal from Gaza was being carried out in such a manner that it actually added to the suffering of the Palestinian people. His delegation called upon Israel to cease building the wall and urged the international community to be more neutral in its consideration of human rights.
35. Mr. Hyassat (Jordan) inquired about the opinion of the Special Rapporteur on the applicability of international human rights laws with respect to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
36. Ms. Khalil (Egypt) said that the only solution was for Israel to make a full withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She wished to know if the Special Rapporteur could propose any specific and immediate measures to improve the human rights of the Palestinian people.
37. Ms. Warif-Halabi (Syrian Arab Republic) urged the international community to pressure Israel to put an end to human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
38. Mr. Dixon (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked whether the Special Rapporteur saw any opportunity for improvement in the human rights crisis in Gaza. He also requested details regarding the detention conditions of the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. He wondered how many claims had been filed against the Israel Defense Forces for allegedly inflicting physical harm in military detention centres and whether the allegedly guilty parties were actually being prosecuted. He also wondered whether any progress had been made with respect to the registration of damage caused by the construction of the wall. He also asked whether the Special Rapporteur had had any discussions with the Palestinian Authority regarding the execution of Palestinian prisoners.
39. Mr. Abuseif (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that the Israeli occupation had resulted in continued human rights violations and that the international community had made very little effort to compel Israel to fulfil its obligations. Furthermore, it appeared that the Quartet preferred to negotiate the road map directly with Israel, without taking into account the advisory opinion of the Court.
40. Ms. García-Matos (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) said that her delegation firmly supported the principles of non-intervention and self-determination. Given the close relationship between human rights and the right to access to natural resources, she wished to have more information on the wall’s impact on the Palestinians’ access to water.
41. Mr. Amorós Núñez (Cuba) asked the Special Rapporteur to explain how the United Nations could compel Israel to comply with the advisory opinion of the Court and wondered whether other organizations should become involved.
42. Mr. La Yifan (China) asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on his contact with civil-society organizations.
43. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967), said that, concerning input from civil society, he had received excellent cooperation from international as well as Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations. Indeed, much of the information from Israeli NGOs had greatly helped him to compile his report.
44. Regarding the demolition of houses in East Jerusalem in the Silwan region (A/60/271, para. 31), he said that he had visited those houses and that legal proceedings had been launched to stop the demolition. Concerning the failure of the Israeli Government to heed the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the wall and the steps taken to remedy the resulting damage, including the establishment of a register to record that damage, such a register took time to compile. The budgetary implications and structure of the register were still under consideration. It seemed, however, that the United Nations had been moving slowly and that the establishment of a register had stalled within the United Nations bureaucracy. He regretted that the matter had not been made a more urgent priority. To advance the advisory opinion, the Security Council, like the General Assembly, should make it clear that it had accepted that opinion. The Quartet should also do more to promote the Court’s findings. To date, it had simply ignored the opinion and put little emphasis on the illegality of the wall and the expansion of settlements. Civil society had played an active role in opposing the wall and required increased support fro m the United Nations acting through the Quartet.
45. The discontinuation of construction of the wall and destruction of the parts that had already been built would dramatically improve the humanitarian situation of Palestinians living in the closed zone between the wall and the Green Line and its vicinity, as the wall had infringed upon their basic freedoms. Of serious concern were the obstacles to the freedom of movement that had been placed in the West Bank. Although there had been a decrease in the number of checkpoints, there remained random checkpoints, curfews and other forms of closure which greatly affected the economy and contributed to the humanitarian crisis in the region. The Israeli Government and the Quartet must therefore address the issue more positively.
46. Concerning the responsibilities of the Israeli authorities in Gaza, the withdrawal had changed their obligations. Nevertheless, they were still under the obligation to ensure the welfare of the inhabitants. Israeli efforts to obstruct the movement of goods in and out of Gaza, limit access to health care and other services and imprison the Palestinian people were undermining their welfare. On the issue of access to water resources, many wells were in the “closed zone” between the wall and the Green Line. In Gaza, although in the past there had been many complaints of water being exported, Palestinians now had access to those resources.
47. Turning to the conditions of some 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, he said he regretted that the Israeli Government had not been prepared to speak to him about his mandate. He therefore had had to rely on NGOs and other interlocutors, who had informed him of poor prison conditions and allegations of torture. He would have liked to discuss such allegations with the Israeli authorities themselves. Although he had been unable to gain first-hand knowledge of prison conditions, the reports of abuse of Palestinian prisoners were disturbing. In addition, he did not have access to Israeli information on the exact number of injury claims filed against the Israeli Government before the courts. Furthermore, the Israeli authorities had taken very few steps to prosecute those accused of causing death or serious injury to Palestinians.
48. Regarding the death penalty, although such a human rights violation did not fall within his mandate, he felt compelled as a human rights lawyer to draw attention to the execution of criminals by the Palestinian Authority, and called on it to desist from such a practice. The degree of civilization of a country could be measured by its attitude towards the death penalty.
49. 49. In a brief and unsubstantiated statement, the United States had accused him of being one-sided and of attempting to undermine the activities of the Quartet. He would like to know the attitude of the United States towards compliance with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, as many in the international community feared that the Quartet’s failure to attempt to implement the opinion stemmed from the lack of enthusiasm for it by the United States, which dictated its views to the European Union, the United Nations and the Russian Federation.
50. The Israeli delegation had accused him of misusing his position to promote his personal prejudices and agenda. He admitted that he was indeed motivated by a personal prejudice: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in the region. Like the Israeli Government, his political agenda involved seeing two States living in peace and security in the region. There was disagreement, however, on how that agenda might be achieved.
51. The continued construction of the wall, expansion of settlements and changes to the character of Jerusalem had serious implications for a two-State solution, as they undermined the possibility for Palestinians to build a viable State. The Israeli authorities should give consideration to the ongoing discussion among Israeli authorities concerning the matter.
52. Lastly, it was a gross distortion to link his report with the statement made by the Iranian President concerning the destruction of the State of Israel, and he deserved an apology for such an accusation. He had also been accused of being soft on or justifying terrorism. As someone who had grown up in apartheid South Africa, he was accustomed to such allegations, as human rights activists had been regularly accused of being either communists or terrorists. To support human rights and respect for international humanitarian law was not to support terrorism. To suggest otherwise, however, could destroy the message of the messenger. He therefore hoped that members would disregard such comments by the Israeli delegation.
53. Ms. Carvalho (Portugal), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.
Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.