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        Economic and Social Council
2 April 2003

Original: English


Fifty-ninth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Friday, 28 March 2003, at 4.05 p.m.

Chairperson: Ms. AL-HAJJAJI (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)




The public part of the meeting was called to order at 4.05 p.m.


QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE (agenda item 8) (continued ) (E/CN.4/2003/27-29, 30 and Add.1 and 130; E/CN.4/2003/G/2, 3, 5, 6, 8-12, 14, 16-21, 24-27, 29, 30, 33, 39 and 40; E/CN.4/2003/NGO/19, 34, 47, 128, 129, 133, 180, 211, 215, 221 and 261; A/57/366 and Add.1)

38. Mr. KRIEKOUKIS (Observer for Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union, the acceding countries of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia and the associated countries of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had committed themselves to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and he called upon them to live up to their commitments.

39. During the past year, the Israeli presence and military operations in the occupied territories, including the illegal presence of Jewish settlers, had led to repeated human rights violations and the killing and injuring of many innocent civilians. Notwithstanding its right to fight terrorism, Israel bore the full responsibility for preventing such violations. At the same time, terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups had continued. The Union reiterated its strong and unequivocal condemnation of Palestinian terrorist acts and pointed out that the Palestinian Authority bore full responsibility for fighting terrorism with all the legitimate means at its disposal. The killing and wounding of children on both sides was particularly alarming and it should not be forgotten that children were protected under international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Union regretted the failure of the Government of Israel to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and with other relevant thematic rapporteurs and called upon it to do so.

40. The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the Fourth Geneva Convention) was fully applicable to the Palestinian occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and the Union noted that, since 1967, more than 200 settlements had been constructed in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and within the administrative boundaries of Jerusalem, in violation of the Convention. The Israeli Government’s settlements policy of building inside existing settlements, creating new settlement outposts, confiscating Palestinian land and offering financial support for settlers continued. There were also frequent incidents of violence committed by settlers against Palestinians. The Union urged the Israeli Government to reverse its settlement policy and intended to table a resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories.

41. The Union was also concerned about the construction of by-pass roads in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and of a so-called security fence within the occupied territories. Such measures would isolate many Palestinian towns, result in the displacement of communities and have a devastating impact on access to water resources.

42. The numerous checkpoints and blockades of cities had almost suppressed the free movement of people and goods, including preventing Palestinians from going to work. The Union called upon Israel to take all the necessary steps to allow the normalization of economic life in the occupied territories. It welcomed the steps taken so far by the Government of Israel to disburse arrears of payment to the Palestinian Authority.

43. The Union strongly condemned the extrajudicial killings of Palestinians by Israel and the disproportionate and indiscriminate recourse to force, as well as the use of human shields. It urged Israel to ensure that its security forces observed international standards regarding the use of force. His delegation was also concerned at the large number of people held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

44. The Union was also dismayed by the failure of the Israeli Defence Forces to protect and respect ambulances and medical personnel and the recent refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow humanitarian authorities access to the occupied territories. It called upon the Government of Israel to lift all imposed obstacles preventing those organizations from carrying out their functions effectively.

45. The overall human rights situation under the Palestinian Authority was also a matter of concern, with cases of arbitrary arrest, absence of due process, torture, unexplained deaths of detainees and death sentences pronounced pursuant to unfair and summary processes by the State Security Courts. The Union urged the Palestinian Authority to take steps to ensure full respect for the independence of the judiciary. Steps must also be taken to ensure freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the free choice of leaders and the rule of law. Further rapid advances were also required in the Palestinian reform process, such as the presentation of a new constitution, the holding of elections and judicial reform.

46. The Union emphasized the need to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process through the immediate implementation of the “road map”, as endorsed by the Quartet of international mediators on 20 December 2002. The objective of the “road map” was to enable the parties to reach a final and comprehensive permanent status agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2005 through a settlement negotiated between the parties on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002).

47. Mr. WESTDAL (Canada) said that every effort must be made to encourage the negotiation of a comprehensive, just and durable peace in the Middle East. Positive developments should be emphasized and reinforced by the international community. The appointment of Mr. Mahmoud Abbas as the first Palestinian Prime Minister could constitute a significant step forward in good governance. It was to be hoped that his appointment would help to rebuild the trust necessary for a resumption of the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. The United States and the other members of the Quartet should redouble their efforts to implement the “road map” to Middle East peace. The implementation of constitutional and security reforms would have a positive impact on the human rights of ordinary people throughout the region.

48. The Commission should focus on its own task of protecting human rights and not on extraneous issues. Declarations singling out one of the parties did not contribute to the resolution of a conflict. Moreover, the Commission’s tendency to allocate so much of its time to one regional conflict had detracted from international consideration of other critical issues. In that context, he commended the fair-minded approach to the Middle East crisis displayed by the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General.

49. His delegation unequivocally condemned terrorist attacks and called on all parties in the region who truly sought peace to follow suit. No cause could ever justify suicide bombings or other actions intended to harm civilians. There were no legitimate targets for actions that violated international law. Those in positions of influence, both State and non-State actors, must rein in the terrorist threat; the climate in which such acts were tolerated or even rewarded was poisonous and destructive.

50. The human rights record of the Palestinian Authority was a matter for serious concern. It continued to detain political prisoners and had been accused by human rights organizations of using arbitrary arrest to restrict freedom of expression and intimidate individuals, including those who had publicly criticized the leadership. It was to be hoped that the new Prime Minister would change that situation.

51. In responding to attacks against civilians, Israel must conform to the standards of international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality. His delegation was concerned about the use of force in built-up areas of civilian population in excess of military necessity, the lethal targeting of individuals without trial, the use of civilians as human shields, the punitive demolition of homes and other civilian infrastructure and the reliance on the use of administrative detention.

52. The dire situation in the Palestinian territories must also be addressed. Deepening poverty and malnutrition, particularly among women and children, were chilling indications of the seriousness of the situation. Widespread curfews had impeded humanitarian access to those in need. Israel must facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and ensure that Palestinians had full access to basic needs. Moreover, illegal settlements had proliferated, supported by financial incentives. Such a process prejudiced the prospects for a fair-minded peace.

53. Mr. HUANG He (China) said that, over the past three years, vicious terrorist attacks, causing a large number of casualties among innocent civilians, including Chinese citizens, had grown more and more frequent. The loss of innumerable lives and vast amounts of property had inflicted irremediable psychological trauma.

54. The key to a lasting peace lay in an early end to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, the restoration of all the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including their right to self-determination, and a just settlement of the Palestinian question. In November 2002, his Government had, for the first time, sent a special envoy to six countries in the Middle East on a good offices mission. Countering violence with violence would only create deeper mutual hatred and mistrust and the most immediate task was to stop all the violence immediately and improve the humanitarian situation in Palestine-controlled territory so as to create conditions for the resumption of peace talks. The new Israeli Government should immediately end its military action and economic blockade so that the dispute could be settled through political negotiations on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of “land for peace”.

55. The international community had made efforts to improve the situation over the years and it was regrettable that, in 2002, the then High Commissioner had been refused permission by the Government of Israel to tour the occupied Arab territories. His delegation welcomed the new High Commissioner’s proposal to visit the region and hoped that the request would be accepted by both parties, in the interests of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

56. Mr. MONTWEDI (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, endorsed the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, which had expressed grave concern at the continued destruction of Palestinian society and the Palestinian Authority by the Israeli occupying forces since 29 September 2000. It also condemned the systematic human rights violations and reported war crimes committed by the Israeli forces. The wilful killing of Palestinian civilians, including extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, the indiscriminate use of force resulting in extensive loss of life and mass injury among civilians and humanitarian workers, the wanton destruction of homes, infrastructure and agricultural lands, the detention of thousands of Palestinians without trial and the imposition of collective punishment on the entire Palestinian population, coupled with severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, cumulatively amounted to a dire humanitarian crisis that must be addressed with the greatest urgency.

57. The African Group called for the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to be implemented without delay. The policies and practices of the Government of Israel had undermined the Oslo Agreements and the peace process. The recommendations of the Mitchell report had not been implemented, largely because of a lack of cooperation by the Israeli authorities. The Israeli occupying forces should withdraw from the Palestinian towns and the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 1322 (2000), 1397 (2002), 1403 (2002) and 1435 (2002), should be implemented in full.

58. The international community should strengthen its efforts to ensure the protection of the Palestinian population. The Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I should be fully respected in all circumstances and enforced in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The international community should take practical steps to end the illegal Israeli settlements.

59. The African Group reiterated its commitment to the achievement of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It reaffirmed its support for the right of the Palestinian people to national independence and sovereignty in their own State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. It endorsed the universally supported vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized boundaries. It welcomed the Arab Peace Initiative and had duly noted the latest proposals for the “road map” towards the resolution of the Middle East conflict. Broader consultations on the issue in the Commission would be welcome. The African Group was disconcerted by reports that unilateral changes to the “road map”, as presented by the Quartet, would make it impossible for the other side to adopt it.

60. The constraints placed on the movements of President Arafat, the elected leader and symbol of the Palestinians’ struggle, were deeply regretted. The Israeli Government should treat him humanely and with respect.

61. The African Group, like other regional groups, believed in the importance of an international presence in the occupied Palestinian territories to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian civilian population and help the parties to implement all the agreements that had previously been reached.

62. Mr. HUSSAIN (Malaysia) said it was frustrating that the international community had been ineffective in addressing the problem of the occupied Palestinian territories for over 50 years. Countless resolutions had been passed and no fewer than 22 United Nations reports or notes had been issued since the Commission’s last session. The media continued to report Israeli atrocities and the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied territories. Yet the Palestinian people continued to be killed, driven out of their homes, humiliated and harassed. Since September 2000, nearly 2,200 had been killed, including 384 children. More than 40,000 had been wounded. Palestinian houses had been bulldozed, sometimes with the residents still inside. Israeli tanks roamed the streets and helicopter gunships roamed the air. Nor were medical personnel spared: at least 22 Palestinian paramedics had been killed and 250 ambulances attacked.

63. The Palestinian problem was the root cause of the instability in the Middle East and the international community must find a solution to end the grave injustice inflected on the Palestinian people. The problem must be approached with greater urgency and commitment. Every effort must be made to ensure that the acts of State terrorism by the Israeli aggressors were stopped. The supporters of Israel who claimed to be the champions of human rights should forsake hypocrisy and double standards and apply effective pressure on the Israeli regime.

64. His delegation called on the President of the United States to make good his recent announcement concerning the “road map” for peace in the Middle East, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian State by the year 2005. In the meantime, the killing of Palestinian people and the destruction of their property must cease immediately; Israel must abide by its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international humanitarian law; a United Nations protection force should be deployed as a matter of urgency; and the international community, particularly Israel’s supporters, must put pressure on the Israeli Government to cease its policies of terror against the Palestinians.

Statement in exercise of the right of reply

65. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that, over the past two days, calls to eliminate “Zionist nazism” and the like had resounded through the hall and no one, including the Chairperson, had seen fit to rebuke them.

66. His Government faced an acute dilemma concerning respect for humanitarian agencies, their facilities and personnel, in the light of the daily abuse of them by Palestinians. For example, on that very day, in flagrant disregard of the principles of the international law of armed conflict, a leading activist of the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad had been apprehended, together with an accomplice, in the offices of the International Solidarity Movement in a building in Jenin which also accommodated the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins sans Frontières. The man in question had been directly responsible for the preparation and planning of several suicide attacks. With him had been found two Kalashnikov rifles and a gun.

67. With regard to the planned security fence, his Government had decided that it represented the best way of stopping would-be terrorists, in the absence of effective undertakings by the Palestinian Authority to limit the ability of would-be suicide bombers to enter Israel. Such prevention would actually reduce tension with Israel’s Palestinian neighbours, since there would be no casualties on either side and the dialogue could resume.

68. As stated clearly by the Prime Minister of Israel on several occasions, the fence was not a political instrument. It did not prejudge a demarcation line or border between Israel and whatever future entity or State emerged as a result of negotiations.

69. Those who condemned the construction of the fence should help to end the phenomenon of suicide bombing. Arab delegations could call on would-be suicide bombers, those who sent them and those who backed them to cease their murderous activities. They could label suicide bombing as terrorism or as a crime against humanity. Other concerned delegations could state, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), that such actions contradicted every moral principle for which OIC stood. Such statements, instead of empty rhetoric condemning an Israeli defence mechanism, could help save the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

70. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) confirmed that the previous day he had appealed to the world community to put an end to the racist Zionist movement and had compared zionism with nazism, which the world community had indeed defeated. Indeed, he would say that the activities of Zionist Israel had, for decades, exceeded those of nazism in the terror they inflicted on humankind. The Palestinians were in a better position than any to feel the effects of Zionist nazism and its crimes.

71. As for the “protective” fence, the Israeli Government was within its rights to build it, but not on land stolen from the Palestinian people. Ever since the creation of the State of Israel, Israel had been engaged in wholesale confiscation, the expropriation of land for the fence being the most recent example. Such expropriation had nothing to do with rights or freedoms but was purely and simply theft.

72. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said he was dismayed that the Chairperson had not stopped the observer for Palestine and that no delegation had spoken up in the face of a call for an end to Israel’s national movement and, by implication, to the State of Israel …

73. Mr. SOUALEM (Algeria), speaking on a point of order, said that the observer for Israel should confine himself to exercising his right of reply, rather than seeking to act as the Commission’s policeman.

74. Mr. LEWALTER (Germany), speaking on a point of order, said that his delegation could not accept points of order made for the purpose of preventing the observer for Israel from exercising his right of reply. He added that he must register his protest at any comparison between the annihilation of the Jewish community throughout Europe under the Nazis with the current situation in Palestine.

75. Mr. REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), speaking on a point of order, said he was surprised that delegations should take the floor on questions of procedure, when the Palestinians were being subjected to massacres and genocide.

76. Mr. BIGGAR (Ireland), speaking on a point of order, which he was confident would be endorsed by the other States members of the European Union, said that the previous speaker had made a substantive point. That was not in accordance with the rules of procedure and he urged the Chairperson to ensure that the rule was observed.

77. The CHAIRPERSON said that the representative of Cuba had not raised a matter of substance but had objected to the representative of Germany doing so.

78. Mr. LEWALTER (Germany), speaking on a point of order, said that he had not suggested that the Chairperson should not have allowed the original point of order; he had objected to the raising of the point of order in order to interrupt the speaker.

79. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that only calls for an end to the “racist Zionist movement” - in other words, the State of Israel - seemed to be permissible; he could barely imagine the reaction if he made a similar call in relation to any other group of people. The extreme language being used should be borne in mind by delegations urging Israel to compromise, make concessions or take risks for peace. If they were routinely termed Nazis and racists, Israelis’ actions in dealing with suicide bombers could hardly be considered disproportionate.

80. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said, in relation to the point made by the representative of Germany, that Palestinian blood was as red as Jewish blood. What had happened in Germany under the Nazis was currently happening in Palestine, as an impartial consideration of the facts would show. The Nazis had burned people to death, committed massacres and carried out terrorist attacks against mankind; and so did Israel. The observer for Israel did not like to hear the link made between nazism and zionism, but zionism had been a racist movement from the very outset: Theodore Herzl had said that the Jewish State should contain no non-Jews so that it would be pure blooded. That was true racism.

The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.

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