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Strengthening international law: rule of law and maintenance of international peace and security.
Letter dated 7 June 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2006/367)
The meeting resumed at 3.10 p.m.
The President : I shall now give the floor to the Permanent Observer of Palestine.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): The delegation of Palestine expresses its appreciation for the convening of this important open debate on a topic that is very timely and relevant for the Security Council: “Strengthening international law: rule of law and the maintenance of international peace and security”. We express our appreciation to Denmark for the discussion paper it has prepared to help guide this debate (S/2006/367, annex), which raises many relevant issues and questions of concern to which the Security Council should give serious consideration in the conduct of its work, as it strives to carry out its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations. We would also like to welcome the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations Legal Counsel and to thank them for their valuable interventions.
The issue of strengthening international law and the maintenance of international peace and security is clearly of importance to the entire international community. It is an issue of particular concern to us, as the question of Palestine has consistently been on the Security Council’s agenda since the inception of the United Nations and remains a question of which the Council is seized, for it tragically remains unresolved after the passage of several decades.
As appropriately noted in the discussion paper, the Security Council has the authority to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes and to take steps to ensure compliance with international law. In terms of the question of Palestine specifically, the Council has exerted repeated efforts, through its debates and, more important, through the adoption of dozens of resolutions, to bring about respect for the relevant rules and principles of international law aimed at ultimately securing a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, for various reasons, including lack of follow-up and of implementation of its resolutions, and excessive use of the veto at critical junctures, the Council has regrettably been unable to effectively exert its authority with regard to this conflict.
While, since 1967, the Security Council has adopted more than 40 resolutions specifically on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem — 27 of which, for example, reaffirm or recall the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949 — the Council has been unable to take the action necessary for implementation of those resolutions and thus for bringing about compliance by Israel, the occupying Power, with its obligations under international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law.
In that regard, Israel’s policies and practices against the Palestinian people under its occupation since 1967 and until the present have included not only systematic human rights violations, but acts constituting grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention under its article 147 — that is, war crimes. These have included, but not been limited to: military raids and attacks; excessive and indiscriminate use of force against civilians, including children and women; extrajudicial executions; wanton and deliberate destruction of property, including homes; confiscation of land; construction of colonial settlements and transfer of the occupying Power’s civilians to the occupied territory; construction of a wall besieging and isolating civilians in walled enclaves; arrest, detention and imprisonment of thousands of civilians, including minors; and collective punishment of the entire civilian population, including by means of severe restrictions on freedom of movement.
In a situation such as this — one in which violations and grave breaches of international law are being relentlessly committed and the perpetrators are not being held accountable and continue to defy the law with impunity — the unfortunate result is the weakening of international law, giving rise to accusations of double standards in the implementation of the law, and the undermining of the credibility of those institutions entrusted with implementing the law. The perpetuation of such situations is clearly harmful not only to those civilian populations subjected to such violations, but also to the international system itself. In the case of Palestine, the fostering of this culture of impunity by appeasement of the occupying Power or by ignoring its incessant violations against the civilian population under its occupation has not only aggravated the situation by failing to bring about an end to the violations, including an end to Israel’s belligerent military occupation it In a situation such as this — one in which violations and grave breaches of international law are being relentlessly committed and the perpetrators are not being held accountable and continue to defy the law with impunity — the unfortunate result is the weakening of international law, giving rise to accusations of double standards in the implementation of the law, and the undermining of the credibility of those institutions entrusted with implementing the law. The perpetuation of such situations is clearly harmful not only to those civilian populations subjected to such violations, but also to the international system itself. In the case of Palestine, the fostering of this culture of impunity by appeasement of the occupying Power or by ignoring its incessant violations against the civilian population under its occupation has not only aggravated the situation by failing to bring about an end to the violations, including an end to Israel’s belligerent military occupation itself, but has also prolonged a conflict that has caused so much suffering, loss and hardship for the Palestinian people, as well as for the entire region, whose stability and security is under constant threat as a result of the ongoing occupation.
Appropriate measures in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter should be taken to remedy the situation in the interest of upholding and strengthening the rule of international law and promoting peace and security in the world. In that regard, it is clearly in the interest of the international community to exert all efforts necessary for securing a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole, on the basis of international law and the resolutions of the United Nations.
The Security Council, in accordance with its authority and responsibilities under the Charter, should play a leading role in that effort. We firmly believe in the authority and the ability of the Security Council to do so and in the legitimacy and rule of international law. It is our strongest hope that one day soon these efforts will become a reality and will ultimately allow for peace, justice and security to become a reality in our part of the world.
At the same time, we stress the importance of the role of the General Assembly, in accordance with the Charter, in the progressive development of international law, in conjunction with the role ascribed to the Security Council for that purpose. With regard to the question of Palestine, we believe that the Assembly’s efforts have definitely contributed to the promotion and strengthening of international law, including, for example, by its use of the International Court of Justice. In December 2003, the Assembly requested the ICJ to urgently render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction by Israel, the occupying Power, of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, “considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions” ( General Assembly resolution ES-10/14, the operative para. ). It was on that clear basis of international law that the Court examined the situation and presented its findings in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004.
In its entirety, the advisory opinion constitutes a comprehensive and authoritative determination by the ICJ of the applicable rules and principles of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, and the specific legal obligations by which Israel, the occupying Power, is bound under international law. The Assembly appropriately followed up the Court’s advisory opinion by acknowledging it, demanding that Israel comply with its legal obligations as mentioned in the opinion, and also calling upon all United Nations Member States to comply with their legal obligations.
In this regard, it is imperative to recall that the Court, in paragraph E of the dispositif, also determined that
It is not too late, however, for the Security Council to use its authority to address this issue and to undertake the appropriate measures for bringing an end to Israel’s violations and grave breaches and for salvaging the prospects of reaching a peaceful settlement.
In conclusion, by undertaking such an effort, the Council would be actively fulfilling its Charter responsibilities on the basis of legal mechanisms in unison with the other organs of the United Nations, and would also be making a major contribution to strengthening an international order based on legal principles. Moreover, that would reaffirm and reassert the important role that the Security Council should rightfully play in the search for a just, lasting, comprehensive and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the maintenance of peace and security in the Middle East.
Our deepest hope is that the Council, in the light of this important debate and of the many significant issues it has brought to the forefront, will soon set an appropriate course of action to undertake its responsibilities vis-à-vis the question of Palestine, thus upholding and strengthening the rule of law and promoting peace and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples as well as for the Middle East region as a whole, and beyond.
The President : The next speaker is the representative of South Africa, to whom I give the floor.
Mr. Kumalo (South Africa): ...
The people of Darfur and the people of Palestine are among those who look to the Security Council to protect them from the crimes that are currently being inflicted upon them with impunity. They, like all others, deserve justice and have an inalienable right to live in freedom from attacks.
For this reason, it is important that the success of the reform of the United Nations be measured according to how far we go towards meeting the objectives of the Organization as set out in the Charter, rather than against extraneous factors such as the money that major contributors may save by abolishing mandates.
The meeting rose at 4.55 p.m.
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