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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 )*
Situation of human rights in Afghanistan
Human rights of migrants
Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
* Items which the Committee has decided to consider together.
Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
55. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967), introducing his report under agenda item 105 (c) (A/59/256), said Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territory posed the same challenge to the credibility of international human rights as apartheid in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly as the gross, systematic violations of human rights observed there had been committed not by undisciplined and uncontrolled militias but by one of the most disciplined and sophisticated armies in the world, directed by a stable Government.
56. 56. Though it had been put on hold at several points since the matter had been brought before the Israeli courts, construction of the Wall continued, despite the Advisory Opinion given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July 2004. Unfortunately, assaults on Gaza had drawn the international community’s attention away from Israel’s refusal to dismantle the Wall, even though it had been judged illegal by ICJ and had serious consequences. First, the Wall encouraged the development of illegal Israeli settlements by including most settlements in the “closed zone” between the Wall and the Green Line. As a result, the settler population had increased by 5.3 per cent in the past year, while population growth in Israel itself was only 1.4 per cent. In August 2004, the Israeli Government had granted over 2,000 construction permits to Israeli settlers, inevitably giving rise to increased settler violence against Palestinians. Second, the Wall had resulted in the seizure of Palestinian land, particularly in the regions of Tulkarem and Qalqiliya, where Israel had confiscated the best agricultural land and water resources, with no compensation whatsoever. Israel was now seizing East Jerusalem by constructing a wall around Greater Jerusalem to enclose settlements and Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem. As a result, some 60,000 Palestinians living in the outer suburbs of Jerusalem, on the West Bank side of the Wall, would be denied access to schools, hospitals and employment, and entire families would be divided. Third, the Wall greatly impeded the freedom of movement of Palestinians living on the West Bank side of the Wall. The permits they needed to access their lands on the other side of the Wall were frequently withheld, especially in respect of young men who were seen to be security threats. Moreover, gates granting access to the closed zone were frequently not open at scheduled times. Such a system could be likened to the “pass laws” of apartheid but, unlike the apartheid system, was totally arbitrary. It would appear that the Wall was designed not only to achieve security, but also, as was clear from its routing, to seize land for settlers and cause an exodus of Palestinians. With no access to their lands and their lives made miserable by the Israeli military presence, Palestinians had already started to leave their homes, as could be seen in Qalqiliya, now a ghost town.
57. With regard to Gaza, Israel had engaged in a scorched-earth policy. Rafah, Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya had all experienced the might of the Israeli army. In May 2004, 298 buildings, housing 710 families, had been destroyed and over 50 people killed in Rafah. In Gaza, 10 per cent of the population was now homeless. In October 2004, 130 people had been killed, over 400 injured and about 90 houses destroyed by the Israeli army in Jabaliya. Bulldozers had dug up roads, destroying electricity lines, sewers and water pipes in a brutal and disproportionate display of power. Most of those killed or injured had been civilians. Young children had been shot at their school desks and one girl had been brutally executed as she walked innocently to school. Gaza was a prison which would remain under Israeli control even after Israel withdrew its settlements, as confirmed in a report to the Israeli Ministry of Justice published on 24 October 2004. It was therefore important for the international community to serve notice on Israel that it would remain subject to the obligations contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of Gaza.
58. To conclude, while Israel did have legitimate security concerns, its Government had taken advantage of the paranoia of non-State terrorism in certain countries to embark on a reign of State terrorism in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, bringing into contempt the Charter and the principles enshrined therein.
59. Mr. Israeli (Israel) emphasized once again that the very nature of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was problematic insofar as it examined only one side of the conflict, prejudged key issues and was unique in comparison with the other regional and thematic special rapporteurs. The Special Rapporteur’s most recent report, like previous reports, lacked context and balance, omitted certain facts and distorted the reality by presenting a caricature of victim and villain, thereby running counter to the stated goals of the United Nations: an end to violence, respect for the mutual obligations of the road map and a return to dialogue, in line with Security Council resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003).
60. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past four years had been a complex web of suffering and responsibility. At the same time, it was impossible for a reasonable observer to fairly assess the current situation without fully viewing the context of violence and terror that had killed not only Palestinians but also over 1,000 Israelis. Qassam missiles, suicide bombers, snipers and attempts at “mega-terrorism” were directed against innocent civilians as part of the armed intifada being carried out by organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigade, whose goal was to wipe his country off the map. No fair-minded observer could ignore the point that the Palestinian leadership was corrupt and had ignored calls to end the terror. The challenge facing his country was to find proportionate and morally acceptable measures to protect its citizens against such terrorist organizations, which had no respect for life or the law, saw the killing of women and children as a victory and had no compunction about turning both Israeli and Palestinian civilian areas into combat zones. The road map had taken account of such matters, focusing in its first clauses on the Palestinian duty to end terrorism, violence and corruption, as the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs had told the Security Council the week before. And yet the Special Rapporteur still adamantly refused to consider those factors in his reports and, without such context, had not found a single measure taken by his country to protect the lives of its citizens to be proportionate or acceptable.
61. The security fence was a temporary, non-violent defensive measure to prevent suicide bombing and, contrary to the Special Rapporteur’s predictions, had been dramatically successful. Now the Special Rapporteur insisted that a fence could be built only on or within the Green Line, thereby demanding that his country’s security barrier should predetermine a political line that did not necessarily take security into account, a position condemned by Israel’s High Court in June 2004. The Special Rapporteur presented as fact his allegations that Israel intended to confiscate Palestinian land, encourage an exodus of Palestinians and incorporate settlers into Israel. Such claims had, however, been contradicted by clear statements by Israeli leaders and measures taken on the ground, including the current rerouting of the fence, in line with the Israeli High Court’s decision. As stated by the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs on 17 March 2004, the fence was not a political act and was not intended to prejudge future negotiations with the Palestinians. His country’s legal system, which offered methods of appeal and compensation, ensured that a balance was offered between his country’s legitimate security needs and the humanitarian concerns of Palestinian residents of the region. Moreover, even before the High Court’s ruling, significant changes had been made to the routing of the barrier and humanitarian arrangements had been augmented, facts intentionally misinterpreted by the Special Rapporteur.
62. His country’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank aimed to lessen the friction between Palestinians and Israeli security authorities and had been welcomed by much of the international community, including the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and representatives of the Quartet. However, the Special Rapporteur continued to believed that the initiative responded to secret and unsaid goals on the part of Israel, conspiratorial claims that were belied by the current public debate there and by the Knesset’s approval of a bill that sought to change the status quo in order to improve the situation for Israelis and Palestinians.
63. He regretted that the Special Rapporteur had seen fit to compare the State of Israel — a democracy, characterized by freedom of the press and freedom of expression, where Jews and Arabs had equal rights to vote and to be elected to public office — to the apartheid regime of South Africa, his homeland, which only illustrated his biases. His extremist and inappropriate calls to the international community should also be rejected.
64. The Israeli Government remained extremely concerned by the situation and was seeking a solution that respected the right of the Israelis to be protected from terror and that of the Palestinians to live their lives. The matter was regularly debated openly within Israeli society and in several international bodies.
65. By ignoring the real dangers in the region — support of terrorism, corruption, lack of reform and incitement to violence, and failing to recall the obligations arising from bilateral agreements and international documents — the Special Rapporteur’s report damaged the credibility of the Commission on Human Rights and, more importantly, the interests of the peoples concerned. It expressed a myth according to which one of the parties only had obligations and the other only had rights. Such a myth was a lie that was incompatible with the road map and the true spirit of international law, and would never end violence and foster a return to dialogue.
66. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking on a point of order, said that the representative of Israel should not take advantage of the dialogue to make an extended general political statement.
67. Ms. Vigny (Switzerland) asked the Special Rapporteur about the role of the Israeli High Court of Justice in current discussions on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and his opinion on the Israeli Government’s reaction to the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
68. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his untiring efforts to spread awareness of the conditions endured by the Palestinians, victims of Israeli occupation for the past 37 years. In his report, the Special Rapporteur had referred to the Advisory Opinion of ICJ and reminded States of their obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and not to render aid or assistance to maintaining the situation. If Israel continued building the Wall, she wished to know what specific measures States could take to offset the terrible consequences for the Palestinians. She also denounced the Israeli practice of shamelessly attacking United Nations officials, special rapporteurs carrying out their mandates and other key international figures, using threats and intimidation, when they were merely witnessing the tragic daily lives of the Palestinians.
69. Mr. Litver (Netherlands) asked the Special Rapporteur about the consequences on the economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinians of the three main problems he had examined in his report: the military incursions into the Gaza Strip, the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law arising from the construction of the Wall, and the pervasiveness of restrictions on freedom of movement. He also wished to know what Israel should do to ensure that any security measures respected the freedom of movement of the Palestinians. Lastly, he asked what the international community as a whole could do to ensure that human rights and international humanitarian law were respected in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
70. Ms. Groux (Switzerland), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.
71. Ms. Khalil (Egypt) asked whether, once the Wall had been built, its disastrous consequences on the rights of the Palestinians could be reversed, whether the United Nations and the international community could help resolve the problem, and what the role of the road map was.
72. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967), replying to the questions raised by the representative of Switzerland, said the High Court of Israel played an important role in promoting the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territory and had taken an important decision, although less radical that the Advisory Opinion of ICJ, by considering that the sufferings that the Wall would cause to the Palestinians could not be justified. Regarding the Fourth Geneva Convention, to date, Israel had considered that it was not applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Government was reconsidering its position, but the problem was that, under the Convention, the settlements were purely and simply unlawful. As for the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were women and children, it had not been very successful but at least it had drawn attention to their conditions.
73. With regard to the measures that Member States could take, he recalled that the international community should not recognize the construction of the Wall or its consequences. The optimum solution would be for the Security Council to intervene, but, in the current political context, that was not likely. The situation recalled what had happened during apartheid, when the United States, the United Kingdom and France exercised their right of veto to prevent economic sanctions being taken against South Africa. As was the case at that time, Member States could always impose sanctions on an individual basis, and regional organizations, particularly the European Union, could exert pressure on Israel; however, the Union was in a paradoxical situation, because it imported numerous products from the settlements. Civil society could also be more active and, for example, exert pressure on the Caterpillar corporation to stop providing bulldozers to the Israeli army.
74. In response to the questions posed by the representative of the Netherlands, he indicated that the economic decline that had accompanied the second intifada had worsened with the construction of the Wall, as could be seen in Qalqiliya.
75. Regarding freedom of movement, he said that the number of checkpoints in the West Bank had diminished, but they should be completely eliminated, because they were not effective and seemed to be designed mainly to humiliate the Palestinian population.
76. Referring to the remarks of the Israeli delegation, he regretted that it always used a strategy of attacking and slandering the messenger — rather than targeting the message — and considered it illustrative that the representative of Israel had not seen fit to refer to the occupation, which justified his comparing South Africa at the time of apartheid to Israel; or to the ICJ Advisory Opinion, under which Israel was called on to dismantle the Wall. ICJ had also considered that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as were the international human rights covenants and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He emphasized that, basically, he limited himself to reiterating the Advisory Opinion, which the international community should abide by, as it had done in the case of South Africa, condemned in 1971 for its occupation of Namibia.
77. The road map was doomed, owing mainly to the Israeli Government, and especially to the rapid expansion of the settlements in the West Bank. He was not opposed to the withdrawal from Gaza, but regretted that it was accompanied by a show of force on the part of the Israeli army and, in any case, the Gaza Strip remained under Israeli control.
78. 78. Mr. Gzllal (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/59/256), which reflected the reality of a situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that was growing worse every day. It was important to recognize that the Wall had not been built for security reasons and to underscore that, as the International Court had stated in its Advisory Opinion, the settlements were illegal. Indeed, the settlements were more like military camps than anything else.
79. He wondered why the Special Rapporteur had not referred to the international community’s obligation to urge Israel to implement the Advisory Opinion. Evidently, it was a difficult issue, but it was extremely important.
80. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic), praising the quality of the Special Rapporteur’s report, said that, in his statement, he had mentioned serious violations by Israel of the rights of Palestinians. It was necessary to deal with the violations arising from the construction of the Wall and the expansion of the settlements, both of which were contrary to international instruments and United Nations resolutions.
81. While emphasizing the Special Rapporteur’s courage in preparing his report, which was an essential official document, she would have liked him to make recommendations to individual countries and to the international community on the best way to oblige Israel to respect the provisions of the relevant international instruments. Nevertheless, he had made some pertinent oral recommendations.
82. Ms. Wong (United States of America) said she was disappointed that the Special Rapporteur’s report and some of his comments were not objective. In particular, the report did not mention Israel’s security needs. The goals of the road map would not be met by considering only one of the parties.
83. As to the Advisory Opinion of ICJ, the Special Rapporteur had stated that it was necessary to reach a negotiated solution based on international law, leading to the creation of two peacefully coexisting States. The Wall, whose final route was still undecided, was only one element of a complex conflict, which was also marked by Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and the incapacity of the Palestinian authorities to prevent certain acts.
84. Any sustainable solution required the issues dividing the parties to be resolved. The parties had responsibilities and obligations and should exercise the greatest restraint so as to end violence and terror, and avoid an escalation of tension. The United States supported Israel’s right to self-defence and considered that, until the Palestinians could ensure security, Israel would have to take unilateral measures.
85. 85. Mr. Zeidan (Lebanon) said he was glad that the Special Rapporteur had had the courage to describe the situation as he saw it and as the international community saw it. He had taken the problem of Israel’s security and self-defence into due consideration, developed his arguments and drawn the most logical conclusions. He asked whether the Special Rapporteur found difficulty in carrying out his mandate and how the international community and the two parties to the conflict reacted.
86. Ms. Majali (Jordan), associating herself with the delegations that had welcomed the clarity of the Special Rapporteur’s report, said that the construction of the Wall, which impeded freedom of movement and divided land, casting doubts on the whole concept of the Palestinian State, was contrary to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). According to the ICJ Advisory Opinion, the route of the Wall did not respect the 1967 borders and violated the Geneva Conventions on human rights and international humanitarian law. The Opinion should therefore be implemented. She, too, would have liked the Special Rapporteur to have made specific recommendations regarding the solution of the question.
87. Mr. Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967), replying to the representatives of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and Jordan, said the recommendation he could make was to urge States to do everything possible to ensure that the ICJ Advisory Opinion was complied with and that Israel terminated its occupation so that the parties could return to the negotiating table.
88. In answer to the question posed by Lebanon, no one was preventing him from carrying out his task, and civil society even supporting it strongly. Unfortunately, the Israeli authorities did not recognize his mandate and, therefore, would not enter into discussions with him; if they had done so his report would have been more nuanced. Although it was not perfect, it was as impartial as possible under the circumstances.
89. He agreed with the representative of the United States that a negotiated solution was essential. However, the Israeli Government claimed that it had no partner with which to negotiate and, owing to the elections, the United States Government had not assumed the leadership role in the region incumbent on it and had rejected the ICJ Advisory Opinion, adopted by 14 votes to 1. The Court deserved greater respect than the United States granted it. The United States should be part of the solution; currently it was part of the problem.
90. Mr. Israeli (Israel) said that his country supported the special rapporteurs on condition they were impartial. In complex situations, the context had to be taken into consideration. The figures mentioned by the Special Rapporteur were not corroborated. There were absolutely no grounds for speaking of confiscation of land, inasmuch as appeal and compensation mechanisms existed in Israel, or of the destruction of housing leaving 10 per cent of the population of Gaza homeless. Stating that the West Bank checkpoints were sources of humiliation was also partial. The decrease in the number of such checkpoints was a direct consequence of the construction of the Wall — something that Israel did not want, but which constituted a barrier against terror.
91. 91. As to the Advisory Opinion of ICJ, the Israeli High Court had asked for the Israeli Government’s legal opinion, and the Government as always would cooperate. Lastly, to indicate that the road map was doomed was a rebuff, a sign of hopelessness, and such words should not be uttered in the Third Committee.
The meeting rose at 1.05 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.