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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

CHR/2000/28/03
28 March 2000

Commission on Human Rights
56th session
28 March 2000
Afternoon
Concludes Consideration of Right to Development

The Commission on Human Rights this afternoon concluded its debate on the right to development and started discussion on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.

Giorgio Giacomelli, Special Rapporteur on the question of the violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, presented his report. He said that the present situation was all the same more disturbing since it was perceived by the large majority of the interlocutors he had met as a side effect of the very peace process. He drew the Commission's attention to the particularly severe effect that a number of violations had on the more vulnerable segments of society.

Among speakers under this item were the representatives of Palestine and Syria who expressed concern over human rights violations in the region. The delegation of Palestine said the continued deterioration of the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, proved again that the military occupation of others' land by force was a grave violation of human rights.

The representative of Israel regretted that the efforts to try and create circumstances that would enable work with the Special Rapporteur had not been fruitful. The Rapporteur had addressed many political issues that were extraneous to his human-rights mandate and were currently being negotiated directly; his report merely provided a platform for unsubstantiated allegations against Israel.

The representatives of the following countries also took the floor this afternoon to deliver statements: Portugal, China, Cuba, Canada, the United States, Senegal, Bangladesh, Norway, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, Malaysia and Kuwait.

The following non-governmental organizations made statements on the right to development: Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru; Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization; the International Indian Treaty Council; and the World Federation of Trade Unions.

The representative of Sudan exercised his right of reply.

The Committee will resume its debate at 6 p.m. in an extended session until 9 p.m. on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. It was also expected to start its debate on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world.

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The question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.

Under this agenda item, the Commission had before it a report by the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2000/23) on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. The report states that at the fifty-fifth session, the Commission adopted resolution 1999/6 entitled 'Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan' with the purpose of bringing it to the attention of all Governments, the competent United Nations organs, the specialized agencies, regional intergovernmental organizations and humanitarian organizations, and to report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-sixth session.

The Secretariat has acted in accordance with the resolution and also brought the resolution to the attention of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Furthermore the resolution was brought to the attention of all specialized agencies and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The Commission also has before it a note by the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2000/24) on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. The note states that in paragraph 11 of its resolution 1999/5, the Commission requested the Secretary-General to provide it with all United Nations reports issued between sessions of the Commission that deal with the conditions in which the citizens of the Palestinian and other occupied territories are living under the Israeli occupation. The Secretary-General provides a list of United Nations reports which have been issued since the closure of its fifty-fifth session on 30 April 1999.

The Commission has before it a report by the Permanent Observer of Palestine (E/CN.4/2000/136) on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. This report refers to the torture, collective punishments and ethnic cleansing, crimes of genocide, deliberate killings, arbitrary detention and detention without trial and the racial isolation administered by the Israeli Government. The report also discusses the Israeli settlements and land confiscations and the occupation of Jerusalem.

The report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied territories, including Palestine, Giorgio Giacomelli, (E/CN.4/2000/25) was not immediately available.

Statements

GIORGIO GIACOMELLI, Special Rapporteur on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, introduced his report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He said that while the very nature of human rights was such that a mere reduction in the level of violations could not satisfy, yet any improvement should be welcomed, if anything as a trend to be encouraged and monitored. Unfortunately, no such trend was emerging as yet in areas under his mandate. While in certain areas of human rights there appeared to be a statistical improvement, in others there was evidence of the opposite.

Mr. Giacomelli said that the present situation was all the more disturbing since it was perceived by the large majority of the interlocutors he had met as a side effect of the peace process. He drew the Commission's attention to the particularly severe effect that a number of violations had on the more vulnerable segments of society. A fact that, especially in the case of the very young, could have lasting, sometimes permanent consequences.

While it would be in any case unrealistic to pretend to provide a complete picture after such a short, although intense, immersion in a reality as complex as that of the occupied territories, the task of analysing it was made particularly difficult by the lack of dialogue with the occupying power, the Special Rapporteur said.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said the continued deterioration of the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, proved again that the military occupation of others' land by force was a grave violation of human rights. It also proved that the violations of human rights in such a situation could only cease if the military occupation was brought to an end. In occupied Palestine, the Israeli occupation authorities were neither responding to the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights, nor those of the General Assembly. They also ignored Security Council resolutions as well as the principles of international law by perpetrating crimes of deliberate killing, including killing of children, arbitrary detentions of Palestinians, confiscation of occupied land, establishment of settlements thereon, transfer of Palestinian populations from the Palestinian territory through various means, particularly in East Jerusalem, and the settlement of Israeli Jews in the Palestinian lands by military force.

Torture still constituted the method followed during the interrogation of Palestinian detainees. Arbitrary detentions without trial and administrative detentions were still practised against Palestinians, including women and children. Collective punishments represented by the closure of Palestinian lands and home demolitions were also continuing. The most outrageous practice perpetrated by the Israeli occupation authorities in the occupied Palestinian territory was racial discrimination, undertaken through dismembering Palestinian lands, separating between villages and cities, and isolating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, exactly as the racist regime in South Africa used to do. With the same degree of gravity, the Israeli occupation authorities were also perpetrating the crime of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem with the aim of emptying it from its Palestinian population and settling Jews instead.

TAHER AL-HUSSAMI (the Syrian Arab Republic) said the conditions in the region were deteriorating. The Special Rapporteur's report reflected the very negative picture of the situation. This was the thirty-first report on this topic, recommendations had continually been submitted, yet the situation in the region was declining rather than improving as the occupying authorities had not responded to resolutions. Violations of human rights continued.

The human rights situation in the Syrian Golan and the negative repercussions on the living standards in the region was severely condemned. There was undeniable evidence of Israeli violations of civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights of the Syrian population in the Golan Heights. The region was suffering from increased colonization as manifested by the denial of access to water. This was a clear deprivation of the fundamental freedoms of the population of the Syrian Golan. Another common violation was the arbitrary detentions carried out by Israel. The housing problems had been reduced, however the conditions in the prisons were unacceptable. The practices by the Israeli authorities and the occupation in itself had to end in order for the human rights violations to end. The Commission should ensure the end of human rights violations in the region and protect the Palestinians from the worst form of oppression. Human rights could not be achieved under occupation. The region needed peace.

ALVARO MENDONCA E MOURA (Portugal) speaking on behalf on the European Union, said that the EU welcomed the positive developments in the Middle East in this last year. Since the Israeli elections, a new atmosphere could be felt in the Middle East. The signing of the Sharm-el-Sheikh memorandum had showed the Israeli and Palestinian commitment to the peace process. However, the EU was concerned about delays and the lack of implementation of several aspects of the agreement. It was hoped that it would be possible to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on international law and on resolutions 242, 338 and 425 by the Security Council.

Respect for human rights throughout the Middle East was an important factor in building trust, strengthening cooperation and ultimately achieving peace. This was especially true in the territories occupied during the Arab-Israeli conflict. The EU recognized the Palestinians' and Israelis' legitimate security concerns, but noted that both had committed themselves to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and hence had to address security concerns within the framework of the rule of law. It was hoped that the Israeli High Court of Justice's decision to use 'moderate physical pressure' only would be adhered to. The EU remained concerned about the continuation of the Israeli policy of administrative detention. It continued to oppose Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and remained concerned about the ongoing activities that threatened basic Palestinian rights such as house demolitions, the confiscation of identity cards, and the discriminatory applications of laws on Israelis and Palestinians.

The EU welcomed the opening of the safe passage between Erez and the West Bank, but was concerned by the ongoing human rights violations in the prison of Khaim. The Israeli Government was urged to close this prison and release all prisoners. The EU was also concerned about continuing violations by the Palestinian Authority including the widespread use of torture and detention of prisoners without charges, among them political prisoners. The Palestinian Authority was called upon to further promote the rule of law and democratic procedures within Palestinian society. A concrete way to increase transparency and political accountability would be to have democratically elected local governments. To this end the Palestinian Authority was advised to conduct local elections in the near future.

DAI YUZHONG.(China) said that the tragic experience of the Palestinian people in losing their homeland as well as their displacement had been the subject of concern and sympathy of the international community over the past half a century. In order to recover their lost territory and restore their legitimate national rights and interests, the Palestinian people had been engaged in an undaunted struggle for a long time. Their experience had fully demonstrated that the sovereignty of a State was the premise and basis of human right enjoyment of its people. If sovereignty was undermined, human rights could not be effectively guaranteed. China sincerely hoped that during the process of the peace talks, the Palestinian people would steadily march towards their goal of restoring their legitimate national interests and establishing their independent State. Over those years, the international community, including the Commission, had played an active role in supporting the restoration of the legitimate national rights and interests of the Palestinian people. China believed that the international community should continue to be concerned about the peaceful settlement of the Middle East question in accordance with the UN Charter and the relevant resolutions. China had always supported the Middle-East peace process and had made unremitting efforts and contributions to it progress.

ALFONSO MARTINEZ (Cuba) said it wished to protest against the lack of availability of documents discussed by the Commission. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the occupied Arab territories (E/CN.4/2000/25), for example, was available only in one language - not in Spanish - and only yesterday. This interfered with the work of the Commission.

An exhaustive review of the horrendous situation in the territories was an impossible task, it was therefore necessary to summarize it. The Special Rapporteur had noted not only the obligations entered into by Israel but had also given a detailed review of the situation in the territories. He had drawn attention to the persistence of torture and the decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice to sanction the continuation of the practice. The report also highlighted continued detentions and discrimination against Palestinian people, including unjust administration of justice. Particular attention was accorded to the situation in occupied East Jerusalem, where Palestinian inhabitants were considered as mere visitors until such time when they became Israeli citizens.

In Lebanon, Israel continued to conduct an indiscriminate bombing campaign not only in the area under its control but also in areas under the authority of the Lebanese authority. Concerning the occupied Syrian Golan, the Israeli settlement policy had changed the demographic, economic, political and cultural balance of the region. The situation of human rights in the territories occupied by Israel continued to deteriorate. The violations tended to accumulate over time and the consequences were becoming increasingly serious.

ROSS HYNES (Canada) said that there could be no disagreement that the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace would provide the most sustainable environment for the respect of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel and Palestine were urged to continue their efforts towards reaching a final agreement by September 13, 2000. Canada had contributed to the advancement of respect for human rights in the region through an ongoing human rights dialogue with Israeli and Palestinian authorities at the highest levels; through an emphasis on human rights, good governance and democratic development in the development cooperation with the occupied territories; through regular contact with local human rights organizations; as Chair of the refugee working group in the multilateral track of the Middle East peace process; and by providing the parties concerned with the opportunity to discuss and address the refugee problem.

The achievement of peace was a two-way street, and so too was the achievement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The report of the Special Rapporteur highlighted the settlement activity which was contrary to international humanitarian law and which remained a major preoccupation. Freedom of movement was also critical. The opening of a southern safe passage route between the West Bank and Gaza was welcomed, as was the Israeli Supreme Court decision regarding the use of physical pressure during the interrogation of Palestinian prisoners. The Special Rapporteur had not focussed on the human rights responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. Canada raised a number of concerns on this issue, including incidents of arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment of detainees and summary executions. The Palestinian Authority was urged to respect and nurture the Palestinian traditions of free speech, religious tolerance and active political engagement by civil society.

JEFFREY ROBBINS (the United States) said his country was very concerned by the Commission's practice to devote an agenda item entirely to Israel. The United States remained convinced that devoting an entire agenda item to one country -- and one country only -- was inherently unfair, not just to Israel, but to the Commission itself, for it tended to undermine the principle of equal treatment on which the Commission should stand. The speaker urged the Commission to delete item eight altogether. The United States was also concerned about the unbalanced nature of the resolutions directed against the State of Israel. In addition, the report of the Special Rapporteur was based on a mandate that no longer reflected the reality on the ground. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Israel had redeployed from much of the West Bank and Gaza -- particularly those areas which were heavily populated by Palestinians -- and the Palestinian Authority exercised full or partial control over most major Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Gaza. While there had been many dark moments since the Madrid Conference had taken place and the Oslo Accords were signed, the Palestinians and Israelis had made genuine and demonstrable progress. Similarly, Israel and Syria had begun negotiations with the objective of reaching a peace agreement.

ABSA CLAUDE DIALLO (Senegal) said that the situation of violations of human rights in the occupied territories continued to be characterized by repeated violations of human rights, and a climate of fear, indignation and frustration as a result of numerous restrictions and a policy of fait accompli. Despite the will of the international community to arrive to a peaceful solution on the question of Palestine, serious obstacles remained, leading to strong feelings of helplessness.

The historic compromise of 1993 as well as the Wye Plantation Accords and the Sharm El-Sheikh memorandum had prompted a great deal of hope among the international community. However, the rights of the Palestinian people continued to be violated in a persistent and repeated manner, as attested by various UN reports, including that of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People.

Violations of human rights in the territories included massive expulsions of Palestinians, detentions, confiscation of land and property, restriction on the right of family reunions and frequent closures of the territories. Lands continued to be confiscated not just to allow for the expansion of settlements but also for the construction of new roads. The closures of areas placed under Palestinian perturbed the daily lives of the Palestinians and damaged the Palestinian economy.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that violations in the Middle East had been legion. The flagrant occupation by Israel of Palestinian and Arab territories including the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon continued to be a blot on the conscience of our times. Today there was a glimmer of hope in the region. There had been hopes of concrete and substantive results in the Clinton-Assad meeting and the delegation of Bangladesh encouraged all such efforts. A comprehensive solution to the totality of the problem was recommended, based on mutual trust and confidence, covering the social, economic and security interests of all involved. All occupied areas had to be returned, and the demographic character of Jerusalem should not be altered.

Bangladesh had been consistent in supporting the Palestinian people, the support flowed from Bangladesh's own experience in bondage. The long-awaited handover of the 6.1 per cent of the West Bank was welcomed. Bangladesh wished that the region would become tranquil and peaceful where Muslims, Jews and Christians could live together.

ROALD NAESS (Norway) said the Middle East peace process was at a critical juncture with Israel and the Palestinians embarking on final status talks. Although there had been setbacks, Norway believed it was possible to reach conclusions as long as there was a political will to do so. It hoped that negotiations between Israel and Syria would resume and lead to a comprehensive agreement that would complete the regional peace process between Israel and its neighbours. Strong support for the Middle East peace process should remain a high priority for the international community and all should work with the parties to find constructive solutions to the outstanding issues. The ultimate goal of the peace process was the establishment of viable democratic civil societies, living side by side in peace and security and exercising their right to self-determination. Social and economic development in the region was closely linked with the peace process. Any lack of progress had direct consequences for the human rights situation. Consequently, non-implementation of the peace agreement had often entailed human rights violations.

SERGUEI SHAPUSNIKOV (the Russian Federation) viewed the peace process in light of the conditions set up in Madrid under the 'land-for peace' principle. Russia would continue to support and encourage agreement between Israelis and Palestinians on the conflict in the Middle East. It was very important to allow the Palestinian people to fulfill their right to self-determination. The Russian Federation was aware of the difficulty of the situation. There had, however, been positive steps taken both by Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

It was important to note the positive trends. One was the increased freedom of movement. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict required peace on a regional level. This could be achieved only after all of the Golan Heights had been returned to Syria. The sovereignty of Lebanon had to be strengthened to ensure a sustainable peace in the region. The problem concerning the refugees also had to be addressed. These were the premises on which solutions could be reached and implemented. Russia would continue to support and participate in the peace process.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said the prolonged human displacement and misery of the Palestinian people continued as 'Palestinian individual and collective rights have until now been facing stark violations', and millions of Palestinian refugees continued to wait for an early return to their homeland. The signature of the Declaration of Principles between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel had generated optimism for a just and equitable solution of the Palestine question as well as for an early end to all human rights violations in all occupied Arab territories. Those hopes were soon dashed because of Israeli reluctance to fulfil its commitments under the agreement. Although the present efforts at peace did present a hopeful sign, the recent military actions in southern Lebanon and the accompanying suffering had vitiated the atmosphere. Pakistan had steadfastly supported the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. The international community should reassert its solidarity with the Palestinian people and assist the Authority in overcoming economic difficulties.

MOHAMED MAJDI (Morocco) said the peace process in the Middle East had been followed with great interest by countries of the region; but the promise of the Sharm El Sheikh agreements was being eroded as deadlines passed and were not met. It was encouraging to see the two parties resume dialogue and it was hoped they would show the courage necessary to move forward. The Oslo Accords also needed to move forward in order to maintain the status quo. Israel could not continue its policies of occupation or of constructing settlements. There was now an intention to build 3,196 homes in five months -- a higher rate of settlement building than under Mr. Netanyahu who had been a strong advocate of settlements.

There were serious material losses for Palestinians but also psychological damage as well; Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes was extremely traumatic for Palestinians. If progress was made in the peace talks it was because it was understood that a political solution was the only way out of the situation; a lasting peace in the Middle East also called for a resumption of negotiations involving Syria, and the cessation of military action in Lebanon by Israeli forces. Morocco was consistent in its efforts to combat injustice and in seeking to achieve peace between Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis.

ABDULLA HUSSAIN JABER (Qatar) expressed his country's gratitude to the Commission on Human Rights for giving due attention to the human rights violations by Israel in the occupied territories. Qatar was concerned that Israel was undeterred in violating and disregarding the many resolutions and recommendations of the international community. The human rights situation in the region was deteriorating through the Israeli expansion of settlements and the demolition of Palestinian houses.

The Israeli activities in the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon should be condemnation. The choice of peace was a strategic choice. However, peace could not be achieved through one party only. Qatar urged Israel's total withdrawal from the occupied territories, including Palestine. The activities in the occupied territories further violated human rights through practices of racial discrimination.

RAOUF CHATTY (Tunisia) said his country was concerned about violations of human rights in the Palestinian lands and other occupied territories as a result of the colonialist practices of the Israeli occupying forces. Israel continued to confiscate property, to carry out arbitrary detention, and to torture detainees in violation of all relevant human-rights conventions. This ran counter to the Israeli decision to consider torture of Palestinians no longer acceptable -- the practice nonetheless went on under the occupying forces, as did closures of the territories, another serious human-rights breach.

All parties must implement and use all resources and energy to raise the living standards of the people, but that would not occur until Israel fully respected the peace process which began in 1991. It especially had to respect the principle of land for peace. It was to be hoped that Israel would demonstrate a determination to take continuing peace talks seriously and that final-status negotiations would lead to a final, total solution and the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to an independent State with its capital in Jerusalem, the return of all refugees to their countries, and the return of all captured territories.

RAJA NUSHIRWAN (Malaysia) said the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices had recorded the widespread, systematic and continued violations of the whole gamut of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians. Testimony gathered by the Committee on such questions as the Israeli settlement policy, confiscation of land, housing demolitions, revocation of residence permits in Jerusalem, water supply for domestic and agricultural use, among others, indicated that the occupying power had chosen to callously disregard its international human rights obligations. The occupying power was urged to cease its mass and systematic violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the populations of the occupied Arab territories, and to be true to the spirit and the letter of its own international human rights obligations especially and international law in general.

SADIQ M. S. MARAFI (Kuwait), said the Israeli practices in the occupied territories, the illegitimate colonialising policies and the confiscation of land, the destruction of houses and collective punishments were clear violations of international humanitarian law. The delegation of Kuwait urged Israel to cease these inhuman practice and to refrain from adopting unilateral measures aimed at imposing the status quo. The international community had ensured that the efforts to achieve resumption of the peace process were intensified.

Peace was to be based on the principles of the Security Council resolutions 242 and 238, and the Madrid 'land-for-peace' basis. Israel was requested to ensure the full withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights to the demarcation line of June 4 1967 and the unconditional withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the western Beqaa Valley as stipulated by Security Council resolution 425. Peace could only be achieved when the Palestinian people were granted the right to self-determination.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) said negotiations were now under way in Washington on a framework agreement with the intention to conclude it by May and to conclude the Permanent Status Agreement by 13 September. After several handovers earlier this month, 99 per cent of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza lived under the administration of the Palestinian Authority, while only 55,000 Palestinians lived under Israeli administration. But this progress was not reflected in the deliberations of the Commission nor by the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Israel regretted that its efforts to try and create the circumstances that would enable it to work with the Special Rapporteur had not been fruitful. The Rapporteur addressed many political issues that were extraneous to his human-rights mandate and were currently being negotiated directly; his report merely provided a platform for unsubstantiated allegations against Israel which were presented without question or criticism, made no effort to distinguish between facts and opinions, and were rife with political assertions.

Israel requested that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur be changed to resemble the mandate of other Special Rapporteurs -- that it be time-limited and that it refer to both sides of the Middle East conflict, including consideration of human-rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority, which were well-documented by Governments, international human-rights organizations, and Palestinian human-rights organizations. Israel wished to state clearly that it would cooperate with a Rapporteur whose mandate was in line with those of other Rapporteurs and that it had a strong commitment to human rights.

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