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        Economic and Social Council
30 March 2004

Original: ENGLISH


Sixtieth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Wednesday, 24 March 2004, at 9 a.m.

Chairperson : Mr. SMITH (Australia)




The meeting was called to order at 9 a.m.


ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE SESSION (agenda item 3) (continued)

Special sitting to consider the situation in the Occupied Palestine Territory resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin (E/CN.4/2004/L.4)

39. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that the Commission had reached a nadir by lending the support of its moral standing to the most despicable and horrendous of evils, that of terrorism, while denying Israel the right of self-defence. As it headed towards establishing that precedent, whatever remained of its credibility was at stake.

40. The countries of the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had yet again distracted the Commission from its primary role of discussing human rights violations, many of which took place in those very countries. Israel had repeatedly been discussed since the beginning of the session and the absurd ritual would continue at the next meeting when the Commission took up agenda item 8, the only item dedicated to a single Member State.

41. During the wave of violence thrust on Israel since 2000, 945 Israelis had lost their lives and thousands had been injured. The prime instigator had been Hamas, founded and led by Ahmad Yassin. Hamas had been responsible for numerous suicide attacks in which hundreds of Israelis had been killed, civilians who had been innocently riding in buses, dining in restaurants, shopping in malls, studying at the university or just walking down the street. Yassin was not an innocent spiritual leader or an elderly “gentleman”. He was a practitioner of international terrorism and a cynical manipulator of his followers, a so-called “spiritual leader” who had distorted religious principles to recruit suicide bombers, including women and children, for his “holy war”. He had personally approved dozens of suicide bombings. The Commission had not demanded a special sitting to condemn such abuses of women and children, or calls for the destruction of the State of Israel by Hamas leaders in mosques, schools and summer camps, or the launching of rockets against Israeli villages and towns.

42. There was no value, however sacred, that the worldwide scourge of terrorism had not trampled underfoot. If murderous suicidal terrorism was not defeated, it would threaten free societies around the world. The operation against Yassin had not been an act of vengeance but an effort to confront terrorism and its sources. The ultimate goal of the brutal Hamas campaign was the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic State on its ruins.

43. When Israel sought to defend itself by building an anti-terrorist fence, it was criticized. When it struck at an organization defined by the EU and the United States as terrorist, it was faced with a special sitting of the Commission. When it planned a unilateral disengagement from Gaza, a representative of the League of Arab States accused it of “violating universal norms”. Was the right to life of one people less sacred than that of others, as suggested by the double standards applied by speaker after speaker in the Commission?

44. The allegedly helpless Ahmad Yassin had clearly stated the goals of his organization, claiming, for example, that there was unanimity among religious leaders on the legitimacy of suicide bombings. He had rejected the Geneva understandings, the Oslo accords and the Roadmap, expressed regret at the capture of Saddam Hussein and prayed that Usama bin Laden would succeed in his endeavours. Everything the terrorists touched turned to hatred and bloodshed: ambulances became vehicles for terrorists and bombs; mosques and churches became fortresses for terrorist killers and places of incitement to murder and brutality. Death and so-called “martyrdom” were glorified.

45. There were still many States which behaved as if they could remain neutral in the war against terrorism, as if granting sanctuary to terrorists and their supporters and permitting the free flow of funds, arms and equipment used in terrorist attacks was a position of impartiality. Those countries were not neutral.

46. There was no equivalence between the perpetrators of terrorism and those who fought in self-defence. No principle of international law could ever justify the murder of civilians. To differentiate among terrorist acts and ignore those launched against one State Member of the United Nations, Israel, was a shameful exercise.

47. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the Commission had adopted numerous resolutions calling on Israel to end its human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular its extrajudicial killings, but the Government of Israel had ignored them, just as it flouted other United Nations resolutions. It continued to perpetrate gross violations of human rights, including the assassination of Palestinian civilians. Since the beginning of the month the Israeli Government and its occupation forces had killed no fewer than 73 Palestinians in Gaza alone, including Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, an elderly paraplegic, who had been killed in his wheelchair on leaving the mosque after dawn prayers.

48. In the face of such crimes, it was not enough to hold a special sitting of the Commission to condemn the Government of Israel. The international community, represented by the United Nations, must take full responsibility for halting the ongoing failure of a State Member of the United Nations to respect the will of the international community and international law.

49. Israel had at its disposal all the trappings of State power and was protected by a super-Power so that it could behave as it wished. When the Israeli Government killed Palestinian civilians, it acted as a court imposing the death penalty. The sentence was executed by the military, in some cases by Apache helicopters and in others by F-16 warplanes. The Government then congratulated the perpetrators, as in the case of Sheikh Yassin and Abu Ali Mustapha, the civilian leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in the West Bank.

50. If terrorism was the killing of innocent civilians for specific goals, political or otherwise, the actions of the Israeli Government for many years in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could be described as State terrorism. Israel had been associated with terrorism ever since its establishment in the land of Palestine in 1948, when it had massacred Palestinians to force them to flee their country, starting with the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 and continuing with Sabra and Chatila, Jenin and Gaza. It had assassinated Count Bernadotte, the United Nations peace mediator, in 1948 and had fired on the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, when she had visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory two years previously.

51. However one described the killing of Sheikh Yassin and seven others in Gaza two days previously - as a terrorist crime, homicide, assassination or liquidation - it was in any case a flagrant violation of the right to life and a gross infringement of human rights principles, international law, international humanitarian law, the International Covenants on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Commission had a duty to put an end to the Israeli Government’s flouting of those principles, so that the law of the jungle no longer prevailed over justice and equity.

52. Mr. DEMBRI (Observer for Algeria) said that while the international community had been offering up prayers for the victims of the terrorist outrage in Madrid, the Prime Minister of Israel had been congratulating his armed forces on the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual leader of a movement of popular resistance to Israeli occupation. The previous day Israeli tanks had made an incursion into Khan Younis refugee camp, again bringing death and destruction. How much longer would the United Nations continue to tolerate the new string of Warsaw ghettoes that the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become? Israel had adopted as a State doctrine the physical liquidation of its opponents, a doctrine commonly known as State terrorism, which violated the right to life, liberty and security of person.

53. Never, even at the lowest points of contemporary history, including the Shoah, the Rwandan genocide or the tragedy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had a political or military leader so openly claimed responsibility for the systematic extermination of an entire people. The Commission should seek to end such arrogance vis-à-vis the international community through some form of exemplary sanction.

54. Since March 2002 the international community had seemed incapable of taking action against the immobilization of the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Authority, confined to his headquarters by the Israeli army.

55. The Palestinian people’s action in self-defence for half a century was the only way they could hope to have their voices heard. The assassination of Sheikh Yassin was a crime against the entire Palestinian population.

56. Ms. MILLAR (Australia) said that Australia had voted against the proposal to convene the special sitting because it was clearly intended to single out Israel for unbalanced criticism and would do nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East.

57. Australia had consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism. Hamas, a terrorist organization proscribed by Australian law, had used suicide bombers to murder many innocent Israelis and Sheikh Yassin had publicly supported those actions. However, Australia opposed targeted assassinations and was concerned that the killing of such a high-profile Palestinian leader would lead to further loss of innocent life.

58. Appalled by the rising civilian death toll, she called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint. The Palestinian Authority must end the activities of terrorist groups and incitement to further violence. The long-term interests of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority lay in a resumption of negotiations with a view to realizing the Roadmap’s goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

59. Mr. AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain) said that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin by Israel represented an unprecedented escalation of its action against the leaders of the Palestinian people and would pave the way for further assassinations of political figures by both sides. It would stoke up Palestinian feelings and lead to increased tension and violence in the region. Bahrain therefore strongly condemned the heinous crime committed by Israel, whose assassination policy would lead to even more bloodshed and would blight the prospect of achieving peace and security in the Middle East.

60. Israel’s policy of extrajudicial killing, especially the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and his companions, should be condemned by the Commission since it violated the right to life as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The international community should also address the issue without delay. Failure to do so would lead to frustration in the region and hence to further outbreaks of violence.

61. Mr. ALI (Observer for Bangladesh), condemning the extrajudicial killing of Sheikh Yassin, called for an immediate end to all atrocities by Israeli forces against the Palestinian people. Israel had shown persistent disregard for human rights and international law in the occupied territories. A lasting and viable peace could only be achieved if Israel recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and withdrew its forces from the occupied territories. He called upon all parties concerned to resume their search for a just and comprehensive settlement.

62. Mr. da ROCHA PARANHOS (Brazil) said that efforts to combat terrorism should not be allowed to compromise the historic achievements of international law. Moreover, repressive measures against terrorist organizations must be supported by measures to address social and economic problems. Social exclusion, combined with the restriction of civil and political liberties, helped to foster criminal activities. Condemning the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, he called for greater multilateral cooperation on those issues, and for a swift resumption of the peace process in the Middle East.

63. Mr. MARTABIT (Chile) condemned all terrorist acts against civilians, on the one hand, and all acts of State violence in breach of international law, on the other. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law were essential tools in the fight against terrorism, and not privileges to be sacrificed in times of tension. There could be no justification for the murder of either Palestinians or Israelis. He appealed to the parties to the conflict to step up their efforts to end the spiral of violence, and urged the Quartet to show the necessary leadership.

64. Mr. SHA Zukang (China), strongly condemning the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, said that Israel’s policy of targeted liquidation was not conducive to the settlement of the Middle East conflict. Instead, it was bound to trigger more violence and to further destabilize the region. Negotiations should be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, on the principle of “land for peace”, and on the immediate cessation of Israeli military action in Palestinian areas. He pledged his unwavering support for the just cause of the Palestinian people, and called upon both parties to exercise restraint.

65. Mr. MENGA (Congo) said he was deeply concerned by the massive human rights abuses committed by Israeli occupying forces, and by the recent escalation of violence in the region. Condemning terrorism in all its forms, he said that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was a cynical violation of international law, which further jeopardized attempts to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. His delegation would vote in favour of draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4.

66. Mr. GONZALEZ-SANZ (Costa Rica) said that dialogue was the only acceptable approach to conflict resolution, and that good faith and political will were the basic requirements of successful dialogue. Extrajudicial killings and suicide bombings were two sides of the same coin. Together, they represented an abdication of the joint responsibility of Palestinians and Israelis to work for peace. His delegation condemned both the confrontational stance adopted by Hamas and the policy of assassinations and other human rights violations pursued by Israel. Draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4 failed to reflect the rejection of dialogue by both sides.

67. Mr. FERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was an odious and cowardly crime. The elderly spiritual leader had been leaving a mosque in his wheelchair when he had been killed by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter. Though Israel sought to justify its murderous policy on grounds of self-defence, there could be no justification for State terrorism. Israel’s armed forces routinely attacked civilian targets with indescribable brutality. Only its strategic alliance with the United States of America allowed it to continue flouting international law in defiance of global public opinion.

68. Ms. GABR (Egypt) said that, through the Camp David Accords, her country had been the first in the region to make peace with Israel. It was committed to achieving a just and lasting peace, in accordance with international law. However, the assassination of Sheikh Yassin demonstrated Israel’s determination to provoke a spiral of violence, as a pretext for its own military campaign and the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction. The Palestinian people had almost given up hope of securing respect for their basic human rights. She urged the international community to send them a strong message of support.

69. Mr. TEKLEE (Eritrea) said that his delegation had opposed the special sitting because Sheikh Yassin’s assassination could have been discussed under other agenda items. Nevertheless, that and other extrajudicial killings constituted flagrant violations of human rights. Therefore he would vote in favour of draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4.

70. Mr. PURI (India) said there could be no military solution to the situation in the Middle East. States had an overwhelming responsibility to uphold international law. At the same time, though the Palestinian people deserved the full support of the international community in their struggle for independence, there could be no justification for the use of terrorism.

71. Mr. HARIYADHI (Indonesia) said that the Commission must exercise its moral authority in condemning the flagrant human rights abuses committed by Israel in the occupied territories. The systematic killing of Palestinian political leaders by the Government of Israel could only lead to further violence in retaliation. The Commission should send a strong message to Israel by adopting a resolution urging it to comply with the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.

72. Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the EU and associated countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, said that respect for human rights was the foundation of all sustainable and peaceful democratic systems. She called upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to fulfil their international obligations in that regard. Condemning all extrajudicial killings carried out by Israel and all terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, the EU called for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence. It urged the Government of Israel to lift the obstacles that prevented humanitarian organizations and medical personnel from carrying out their work effectively.

73. There could be no military solution to the Middle East conflict. The EU called upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap, with a view to the creation of a democratic Palestinian State and a comprehensive peace. Both sides would need to summon the necessary political will to overcome the current impasse in the peace process. Regrettably, draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4 did not call for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction. Therefore the EU and associated countries would abstain from the vote.

74. Mr. ALBORZI (Observer for the Islamic Republic of Iran) strongly condemned the relentless massacre of Palestinians and the targeted assassination of Sheikh Yassin. Regrettably, Israel had failed even to express remorse for its killing of an elderly, handicapped religious leader. The atrocities committed by Israel during the current session of the Commission were an affront to the Commission’s credibility.

75. Mr. ENDO (Japan) said that the killing of Sheikh Yassin was unjustifiable, and seriously jeopardized prospects for peace in the region. He urged the Government of Israel to exercise restraint in order to prevent any further deterioration of the situation, and called upon both sides to renew peaceful negotiations within the framework of the Roadmap.

76. Mr. MADI (Observer for Jordan) said that the assassination was a clear violation of international law, and would only lead to a further escalation of violence. Israel was intent on pursuing military action, in spite of the best efforts of the international community. Only Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories could pave the way to peace and security. His delegation pledged to continue helping the Palestinian people in its struggle for a viable State.

77. Mr. RAZZOOQI (Observer for Kuwait) said that the Government of Israel was badly mistaken if it believed that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin would either end the resistance of the Palestinian people or enhance the security situation in Israel. It would only lead to further violence and terrorism.

78. Mr. SOUFAN (Observer for Lebanon) said that 22 March was another sad day for those who believed in the rule of law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the principles of justice and freedom from tyranny enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. Israel had set a new code of conduct in international relations, based on a criminal programme of extrajudicial executions and threatening the very basis of international law.

79. Mr. BEN OMRAN (Observer for the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that, while talking about peace and security, Israel continued to pursue a policy of violence. The Palestinian people suffering under colonial occupation deserved the support of the international community in their struggle for independence. Sheikh Yassin had been a symbol of that struggle.

80. Ms. RAJMAH (Observer for Malaysia) strongly condemned Israel’s escalating military campaign against the Palestinian people and its political leadership. The assassination of Sheikh Yassin would further heighten tension in the region and jeopardize implementation of the Roadmap to a permanent two-State solution. The extrajudicial killing of a religious leader was not an act of self-defence, but tantamount to State terrorism.

81. Mr. OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said that the assassination of political leaders never weakened national liberation movements. On the contrary, by revealing the contradictions of the occupying power, the murder of Sheikh Yassin would kindle further resistance. The international community must show greater political will in reviving the peace process.

82. Mr. ALBA (Mexico) regretted the Israeli attack of 22 March 2004 in which the Palestinian spiritual leader, Sheikh Yassin, and eight other people had lost their lives. Such acts made it less likely that the political conditions necessary for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be established. His Government called for a stop to all practices contrary to the principles of international law and international humanitarian law. The only way to end the escalation of violence was through dialogue, steadfast negotiation and unreserved compliance with international law from both parties. Israel had the right to live in peace within safe and recognized borders, and the Palestinians had the right to self-determination and to establish an independent State. The Mexican Government again urged the international community, particularly the United Nations and the Quartet, to intensify their efforts to implement the Roadmap, and called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to avoid unilateral decisions that hampered the peace process.

83. Mexico strongly condemned terrorism, which no goal or cause could justify. States had a duty to combat and punish it; all societies had the indisputable right to live in peace and victims were entitled to justice. The war on terrorism would only be credible and effective, however, if the human rights of all people and the rule of law were fully respected. Since 2002, therefore, Mexico had successfully urged the Commission, the General Assembly and the Security Council to speak out in favour of those principles and to proclaim that the war on terror should be conducted in full accordance with the provisions of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law. More than ever, the international community should work to provide for effective standards and mechanisms to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the war on terror.

84. Mr. HILALE (Observer for Morocco) condemned the killing of Sheikh Yassin in an act of aggression that would doubtless lead to an escalation of tension and possibly destabilize the entire region. The Israeli and Palestinian parties should bring themselves to return to the negotiating table, since that was the only way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East and an independent State for the Palestinians. As in the past, Morocco condemned terrorism and would continue to do so. All States should condemn Israeli air strikes against the Palestinian people and the inhuman and illegal acts Israel had committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Commission should adopt a resolution on that situation and take immediate measures, in cooperation with all peace-loving forces, halt the deterioration of the situation in the region and ensure a resumption of peace negotiations so as to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to the creation of an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

85. Ms. DEMPSTER (Observer for New Zealand) said that her country, consistent with its support for the framework of international human rights law, had strongly opposed the killing of civilians by States in any context, particularly extrajudicial killings. Assassinations such as that of the Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin clearly violated the norms of international human rights law and were counter-productive to peace efforts as they were likely to provoke further violence, and assist recruitment into terrorist groups. The prospect of peace in the Middle East following the Roadmap promoted by the United Nations, the United States, the EU and the Russian Federation was already slender, but had been further damaged by the assassination.

86. New Zealand condemned terrorist acts and had called on the Palestinian leadership to take steps to demonstrate its commitment to stopping extremists from committing such acts. Tactics such as the recent assassination, however, fed the cycle of violence and undermined the position of those on both sides who sought lasting, negotiated resolution to the dispute. Israel should cease its policy of targeted assassinations and leaders of both sides should take action to break the escalating cycle of incident and response that was eroding the prospects for the Roadmap.

87. Mr. RIMDAP (Nigeria) said that his delegation had been shocked by the news of the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, but that the tragedy had strengthened the Commission’s resolve to work more effectively to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. While Nigeria condemned all forms of terrorism, particularly when it was State-sponsored, attacks had continued to occur in various parts of the world, leading to the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property. Together with other members of the Commission, Nigeria was determined to combat the threat to national and international security, and reaffirmed the conviction that only comprehensive measures on international terrorism could serve to protect individual and collective rights for all. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become locked in a cycle of violence, which was exacerbating the situation in the Middle East. Nigeria recognized the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist within secure borders, and condemned the wilful destruction of life, the most basic human right. The international community should try once again to aid both sides in the conflict to reach a solution based on the implementation of the Roadmap and complemented by the Geneva Convention, in order to move the stalled peace process forward. With the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, the time had come for reason to prevail in the Middle East after decades of conflict and destruction. Nigeria would vote in favour of draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4, thus demonstrating its policy of condemnation of terrorism and respect for the human rights of all people, including the Palestinians.

88. Mr. AL-RIYAMI (Observer for Oman) said that the reaction of the Commission in convening a special sitting had shown its awareness of the flagrant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people being committed by the Israeli occupying forces, culminating in the recent assassination of Sheikh Yassin. The Commission should condemn that deplorable act, which contravened the Geneva Convention, and endeavour to put an end to such barbarous practices.

89. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that some speakers had suggested that the special sitting was one-sided and unnecessary. There would no longer be any need for such meetings when the killing of Palestinian people stopped, when the daily deaths on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank ended and when the decimation of the Palestinian leadership came to and end. While those horrors continued, however, the Palestinian people had every right to ask the Commission for justice, to protect their human rights and demand respect for international humanitarian law. The Islamic world would support draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4, as should all fair-minded delegations.

90. Mr. AL-DUHAIMI (Qatar) deplored the barbarous act committed by Israel, in which helicopter gunships had killed Sheikh Yassin and other Palestinians, an attack likely to plunge the region into an infernal cycle of violence and undermine peace efforts. The international community should shoulder its responsibilities by calling for an end to Israeli aggression and crimes, protecting the Palestinian people and their leaders and rejecting the murder of innocent people. Qatar assured the Palestinian people of its solidarity in recovering their rights and establishing an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

91. Mr. PARSHIKOV (Russian Federation) said that his delegation had supported the holding of a special sitting as it was deeply concerned at the worsening situation in the Middle East. As an active member of the Quartet, Russia had been alarmed by the course of events in the occupied Arab territories, which seriously threatened the achievement of the Roadmap. The new wave of violence could invalidate all efforts to re-establish the negotiating process between Israel and Palestine that had been undertaken by the Quartet and key players in the region, and it was important that both sides should exercise restraint.

92. Russia was convinced that only observance of the Roadmap and cooperation on security matters between Israel and Palestine could put a stop to terror in the region and create the conditions for a lasting settlement and the peaceful co-existence of two States, Israel and Palestine, within secure and recognized borders, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1515 (2003).

93. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that the flagrant violations committed by the Israelis had reached a new level. The killing of innocent men, women and children and torture of detainees flouted all the values and principles of human rights, in violation of United Nations resolutions and the Geneva Convention. The Commission should condemn the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, in order to retain its credibility. Saudi Arabia expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people and its sympathy for their suffering.

94. Mr. CAMARA (Observer for Senegal) expressed his concern at the escalation of violence in the Middle East, culminating in the assassination of the Palestinian leader, Sheikh Yassin. That unacceptable act constituted a flagrant violation of the sacrosanct right to life and would doubtless lead to a dangerous escalation of violence and compromise the peace efforts of the international community. The Government of Senegal condemned the act and denounced the Israeli policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders, which should be stopped immediately. It called on the Commission not to remain indifferent in the face of the policy of extrajudicial executions and to reject the use of all types of force, from whichever side it came. Senegal expressed its total solidarity with the martyred Palestinians and supported the draft resolution before the Commission.

95. Ms. KHOSA (South Africa) said her Government condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin; such extrajudicial executions contravened international law and the relevant United Nations conventions, and only served to strengthen those parties not committed to peace in the Middle East. They could only lead to retaliation and counter-retaliation, and would further erode any progress made in the implementation of the Roadmap, which would eventually lead to cessation of its implementation.

96. The only way to end violence and extrajudicial acts was to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, and for both parties to the conflict to enter into unconditional negotiations. The United Nations should act decisively to create the conditions for a two-State solution. Continuing Israeli occupation, destruction of infrastructure, collective punishment and assassinations would make the realization of such a solution increasingly difficult.

97. Ms. FERNANDO (Sri Lanka) joined the international community in condemning the recent assassination of Sheikh Yassin. Such extrajudicial killings were in contravention of international law and should be totally repudiated by peace-loving countries. Sri Lanka had suffered two decades of terrorism in the form of attacks on economic and political targets, and suicide bombings. Terrorism had brought immense pain to innocent civilians, adversely affected social systems, generated hatred and darkened the prospects of future generations. Her country had been in the vanguard of the campaign against terrorism for many years, and as the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, Sri Lanka had supported the strengthening of the United Nations collective action mechanisms against all forms of violence and terrorism. All parties involved in the Middle East conflict should exercise restraint and refrain from any form of violence, as it only diminished hope for a lasting peace. Palestine and Israel should honour their commitments to find a solution in negotiations based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and other peace initiatives.

98. Mr. EL HAJ (Sudan) said that the entire world had focused its attention on the recent outrageous human rights violation, and the special sitting of the Commission had served to demonstrate the indignation felt in that forum. The Commission should help the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate aspiration to establish an independent State. The crimes committed by Israel were a flagrant violation of the human rights of the Palestinians and the assassination of Sheikh Yassin had been part of Israel’s strategy to eliminate the Palestinian leadership. The international community should vigorously condemn such practices and call on Israel to end them. The recent assassination had been an attempt to halt the peace process and had plunged the region into a cycle of violence. The Sudan would support draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4 and called on all other members of the Commission to do likewise.

99. Mr. VIGNY (Observer for Switzerland), reaffirming his country’s respect for the law, said that international humanitarian law and human rights, which bound both parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, constituted an objective basis for condemning the acts that had been committed, since they violated them in letter and spirit. Israel’s continued practice of summary and extrajudicial executions and other violations was deplorable, particularly since excessive force was used which resulted in numerous civilian casualties. In accordance with humanitarian rules and principles, Switzerland condemned the suicide attacks committed by Palestinian armed groups, which constituted one of the most abject forms of indiscriminate violence, and deliberately targeted Israeli civilians. The Palestinian authorities should take decisive action to tackle and prevent such acts. International humanitarian law included the permanent duty to distinguish between the civilian population and combatants, and between civilian property and military objectives. The parties to a conflict should, under all circumstances, respect the principles of proportionality and distinction and take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties. Respect for the law was an essential condition for putting an end to the cycle of reprisals that had come to characterize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All parties concerned should honour their commitments and return to negotiations for the implementation of the Roadmap.

100. Mr. A’ALA (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that his country deplored Israel’s criminal and ignoble assassination of Sheikh Yassin. That heinous crime was but one in a litany committed by the occupying Power against the Palestinian people and would lead to an escalation of violence in the region. The Israeli Government’s policy of murder and destruction flagrantly flouted international law and the fourth Geneva Convention. The international community and all political and humanitarian institutions should therefore appeal for an end to those crimes and for Israel to be punished. The voices being raised on the streets of the Arab world should be heard, and the United Nations should assume responsibility for strengthening and protecting human rights and implementing the relevant mechanisms to attain that objective. Syria supported draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4.

101. Mr. MANSOUR (Observer for Tunisia) said that his country condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, which would lead to an escalation of violence and would hinder the peace process in the region. The international community should take a vigorous stand against that act and do its utmost to ensure respect for international law. Two days prior to that assassination, President Ben Ali had called for a resumption of peace negotiations based on the Roadmap to find a just and lasting solution for the region, so that the Israeli and Palestinian people could live in peace and security.

102. Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States of America) said that his country’s commitment to individual freedom and democracy had provided the foundation for a society that cherished the values of free speech, equal justice and religious tolerance and opposed the forces of cruelty, injustice and tyranny. The agenda for the Commission’s current session included several items under which attention was focused on Israel; items 5 and 9 provided ample opportunity to address the issue of Israel’s conduct; item 8, focusing on castigating one country with no discussion of those who promoted terror and violence, was inappropriate.

103. All parties to the conflict should exercise restraint and focus on measures to end violence and terror, avoiding actions that would increase tension, impede the restoration of calm and harm efforts to resume progress towards peace. The Quartet had met in Cairo two days previously, and the international community should remain focused on how to achieve peace, avoiding one-sided, unbalanced resolutions that would only detract from the efforts of the Quartet. The Commission should not examine the issue at that time, given that it was currently under consideration at the Security Council, the body with primary responsibility for such questions. Such action on the part of the Commission discredited its work and diminished its effectiveness.

104. His country remained committed to its President’s two-State vision and, working with its Quartet partners, would call on both sides to the conflict to meet their responsibilities and obligations to fulfil the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and harmony. Those responsibilities included Israel’s obligation not to take any steps that would undermine that outcome and that of the Palestinian authorities to rein in terrorism, such as that unleashed by Hamas.

105. Ms. PORTOCARRERO (Observer for Venezuela) said her delegation welcomed the decision to give the international community an opportunity to protest at the current situation of the Palestinian people. Her Government condemned the murder of Sheikh Yassin and rejected in the strongest possible terms the use of violence in the pursuit of any goals whatsoever. Her Government wished to reiterate its commitment to peace, ongoing dialogue, consensus and the negotiation of peaceful solutions to disputes between nations and to express its strong solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority at a time of great distress.

106. Her Government stressed the need to respect the rights of both sides and support United Nations action to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and an end to violence, tension and political instability in the region, and called upon the parties to continue the peace negotiations.

107. Mr. AL-SALAHI (Observer for Yemen) said his country condemned Israel’s policies, which had taken a dangerous turn with the systematic assassination of Palestinian leaders and symbolic figures. The murder of Sheikh Yassin was a clear violation of international law and international humanitarian law and was a step that might well plunge the region into a vicious and unpredictable cycle of violence.

108. Israel, blinded by arrogance, had come to believe that it would never be held accountable to the international community. The peace process was in stalemate and would be very difficult to revive unless the international community assumed its responsibilities and refused to allow any of its members to commit acts that violated international law.

109. Mr. TRAMBOZ (International Human Rights Association of American Minorities), speaking also on behalf of the African Society of International and Comparative Law, the Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’ homme, the December 12th Movement International Secretariat, the International Association against Torture, the International Committee for the Respect and Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, International Educational Development, the International Indian Treaty Council, the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, the International Young Catholic Students Association, North-South XXI, the Rural Development Foundation and the World Muslim Congress, condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and Israel’s policy of State terrorism and extrajudicial and summary executions. Such policies would never yield peace and security for Israel but rather aggravate the current situation of violence and counter-violence in the region.

110. His organization also condemned the de facto impunity conferred on Israel, which had ignored resolutions adopted by various United Nations bodies over the years. It called upon the Commission to condemn the assassination of Sheikh Yassin; to do otherwise would be to sanction extrajudicial killings by States.

111. Mr. de KORT (Al-Haq), speaking also on behalf of Al-Mezan, Habitat International Coalition and Housing and Land Rights Network, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Human Rights, Norwegian People’s Aid and the World Organization against Torture, expressed grave concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. What was at issue was not a person or group but Israel’s policy of targeted killing of Palestinians. He condemned all attacks on civilians, whether carried out by State or non-State actors, as violations of the right to life. Moreover, extrajudicial executions denied those targeted their right to be investigated and tried in accordance with human rights standards. Israel’s right to protect the security of its own citizens must be exercised in accordance with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

112. The indiscriminate nature and scale of Israel’s targeted killings contravened the core principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality and flagrantly disregarded the obligation to protect civilians. Such actions were likely to contribute to a further escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied territory. Without respect for human rights there could be no prospect for a just and enduring peace.

113. Mr. PARRY (Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”), speaking also on behalf of the Centro de Estudios Europeos, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberanía de los Pueblos, the Women’s International Democratic Federation and the World Peace Council, said the murder of Sheikh Yassin, a sick, wheelchair-bound man, and of his two sons, who had died with him, was a demonstration of State terrorism in its most ignoble form. Such extrajudicial and targeted killings struck a blow at the Commission and defied international human rights instruments.

114. He recalled that a great injustice had been done to the Palestinian people in 1948, when they had been stripped of their lands and territories, condemned to live as pariahs and refugees and denied their right to self-determination. Since 1967, under the unconditional protection of the United States and with the connivance of the so-called Western democracies, Israel had been able to colonize Palestinian land metre by metre and humiliate the Palestinian Authority. Armed to the teeth by successive United States administrations, defended in the Commission and funded by international Zionism, Israel had now become the most dangerous terrorist State in the Middle East, while the Palestinians had only stones and their own bodies with which to defend themselves.

115. Mr. SAMUELS (Simon Wiesenthal Center), speaking also on behalf of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers, the International Council of Jewish Women and the Women’s International Zionist Organization, said Sheikh Yassin’s physical image had belied his enormous political influence and he had used his handicap to great effect. No country would tolerate the activities of such a person against its own citizens. Hamas would survive and continue to seek the destruction of the State of Israel, intimidating and infecting young minds with a culture of death, violence and hate. Indeed, it had recently stepped up its activities in order to upset Israel’s plans to withdraw from Gaza. The removal of Sheikh Yassin had been an act of war, as terrorism was a form of warfare. For those who prepared and carried out terrorist attacks, international legislation defined targeted killing as lawful.

116. The current special sitting of the Commission would be remembered as an act of appeasement and a reward for terror, and would serve as a green light for further atrocities elsewhere. It was yet another effort to hold Israel to double standards, and he noted that no similar session had been convened to sanction the targeted assassination in Iraq of the late United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Vieira de Mello.

117. Mr. LITTMAN (World Union for Progressive Judaism) said his organization had in 1989 alerted the Commission to the Hamas Covenant, which was a charter of hate and death that included incitement to commit genocide and had subsequently become an Islamist blueprint for local and global terrorism. He called yet again, for the fifteenth time, for the Commission to draw that charter to the attention of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.

118. Mr. NEUER (United Nations Watch) said the convening of the special sitting was yet another egregious illustration of the Commission’s discrimination against one State. The Charter of the United Nations guaranteed the equal rights of nations large and small, yet, out of 192 States, only one was singled out year after year for discriminatory treatment; where one agenda item was allocated to consider the human rights record of the whole world, another, separate one was devoted to the exclusive scrutiny of a single State. Repressive regimes were immune from the Commission’s censure, but Israel was ritually denounced and, moreover, excluded from every regional grouping. Was it necessary to hold a special sitting to berate Israel, when the Commission’s entire sixtieth session had thus far done nothing else?

119. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), introducing draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.4 on behalf of its sponsors, said the debate had affirmed that the murder of political and spiritual leaders constituted a grave breach of international humanitarian and human rights law. The draft resolution condemned the practice of extrajudicial executions of Palestinians and the continuing violation of their human rights, which were certain to have an impact on the overall situation in the occupied territory and might trigger a fresh spate of violence. The road to peace and security lay in according the fullest respect to the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. Protection of the Palestinian people’s fundamental rights fell within the core mandate of the Commission and he hoped that, in keeping with that mandate, the Commission would adopt the resolution.

120. The CHAIRMAN said that Cuba had become a sponsor of the resolution.

121. At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.

In favour: Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe.

Against: Australia, United States of America.

Abstaining: Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

122. The draft resolution was adopted by 31 votes to 2, with 18 abstentions.

The meeting rose at 12.35 p.m.

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