Press Release

23 July 2003


Begins Consideration of Human Rights and Indigenous Issues

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 23 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning began its adoption of texts recommended to it by the Commission on Human Rights with the adoption of a resolution concerning the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and two decisions concerning, respectively, Lebanese detainees held in Israel and the human rights situation in Myanmar.


The decision concerning Lebanese detainees in Israel was adopted by a vote of 26 in favour, and 2 against, with 24 abstentions.  Finally, on the subject of the human rights situation in Myanmar, the Council adopted, without a vote, a decision by which it endorsed the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for a further year.


Statements Concerning Decision on Human Rights Situation of Lebanese Detainees in Israel

Speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said that this draft decision had been drawn from a string of resolutions adopted in the Commission aimed at Israel.  Israel was a nation with a democratic, freely elected Government and an independent judiciary, whose citizens enjoyed the freedoms of observance and assembly, among others.  The resolution was factually wrong; the United States had called for the vote and would oppose the resolution.

The representative of Israel, in a general statement, said that Israel had withdrawn its troops from Lebanon unilaterally in 2000, as confirmed by the Security Council and the Secretary-General.  Furthermore, Israel had handed over the maps of landmines to the Lebanese Government.  The Lebanese Government, on the other hand, had not ensured its authority in the area.  Hezbollah attacks needed to be taken into account regarding counter-attacks by Israel.  Concerning detainees, he said that there were detainees, but they were Israelis held by Lebanese authorities.  By allowing an armed group to hold Israeli detainees, the Lebanese Government was not acting in accordance with international law.  On the other hand, 13 Lebanese had been held in Israel, but they had all been released.  Today, three Lebanese people held in detention in Israel were illegal combatants and terrorists.  They had recourse to legal advice and defense, which was not the case in Lebanon.  Moreover, the Lebanese Government had failed to comply with international resolutions and had not contributed to peace.

The representative of Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that he would abstain on the resolution.  Although concerned about the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel, Australia felt that the resolution was unbalanced and did not recognize the withdrawal of Israel from southern Lebanon.  Moreover, Australia was concerned with the overall approach to this issue in the Council agenda.

The representative of Lebanon, in a general comment, said that this resolution addressed two issues:  the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel, in which regard respect for international law should prevail; and the hundreds of thousands of landmines left by Israel in southern Lebanon, which inhibited the pursuit of a normal life by the inhabitants of the region.  Moreover, Lebanon did not harbour terrorism nor did it support terrorism.


Right of Reply


A representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, appealed to the Chairperson and those who voted for the resolution on Lebanese detainees in Israel and reminded them that the representative of Lebanon had been provided with critical information about Lebanese detainees based on visits by international organizations.  He appealed, on humanitarian grounds, that the Lebanese authorities accord the same rights to Israeli detainees, and ensure that they also had the same visits and rights.  With regard to the five Lebanese detainees, he stressed that they were not being held in communicado but that they had access to legal recourse and could have visits. 

A representative of Lebanon, speaking in right of reply, recalled that Israeli practices with respect to Lebanese detainees had been recognized by the international community.  It was regrettable that attempts had been made to distract from the truth of the situation.  

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