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12 April 2002
Press Release


Commission on Human Rights
58th session
12 April 2002

Debate Continues on Civil and Political Rights

The Commission on Human Rights approved by roll-call vote this afternoon a resolution expressing concern over the continued establishment of settlements by Israel in the occupied Arab territories and urging the Government of Israel to reverse its settlement policy.

The measure, adopted by a vote of 52 in favour and 1 opposed -- Guatemala -- also expressed concern at closures of and within the Palestinian territories and at restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians. It strongly condemned all acts of violence, in particular indiscriminate terrorist attacks over past weeks that had killed and injured civilians.


The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 April, to continue its debate on civil and political rights and to act on outstanding resolutions under its agenda items on racism and racial discrimination and the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories.

Action on Resolutions

MARCOS GOMEZ MARTINEZ (Spain), speaking on behalf of the EU, said that it regretted it was not able to support resolution L.2, adopted this morning, on the occupied Syrian Golan. While the resolution was not completely in line with the corresponding General Assembly resolution, the main concern for the Union was a different one. The EU felt that in order for the Union to support the text in this forum, it would need a stronger focus on human rights. The EU also noted with regret that this year no opportunity had been given by the main sponsor of this resolution to engage in negotiations intended to improve the text.

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2002.L.17) on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, adopted by a roll-call vote of 52 in favour and 1 opposed, the Commission expressed grave concern at the dramatic escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had led to a spiral of hatred, anger, and further violence, and to increased suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians; expressed concern at continuing Israeli settlement activities; strongly condemned all acts of violence, in particular indiscriminate terrorist attacks over the past weeks, killing and injuring civilians; expressed concern at closures of and within the Palestinian territories and the restriction of the freedom of movement of Palestinians; urged the Government of Israel to comply fully with previous Commission resolutions on the subject; to reverse its settlement policy in the occupied territories; to prevent any new installation of settlers in the occupied territories; to implement the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the settlements; to confiscate arms and take other measures with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers; and it urged the parties to implement immediately Security Council resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1402 (2002), and called for the Israeli and Palestinian sides and their leaders to cooperate in the implementation of the Security Implementation Work Plan and the recommendations of the Mitchell Report aimed at resuming negotiations.

The vote was as follows:

In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.

Against: Guatemala

Abstentions: None

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said his country withdrew its co-sponsorship of the resolution. However it would vote in favour. Algeria regretted that draft resolution L.17 contained no specific reference to what was occurring in the occupied territories, especially the large number of deaths and the massacres committed, inter alia, in Jenin and Nablus. Hundreds of people had been killed and the Commission could not simply refer to a dramatic escalation that put on an equal footing Israeli and Palestinian violence. The draft resolution made no reference to deportations and detention camps set up by Israel and which held thousands of people. States were urged to stop providing Israel with weapons.

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), explaining a vote before the vote, said Saudi Arabia had also withdrawn its name from the list of co-sponsors for the same reasons given by Algeria. However, Saudi Arabia would still vote in favour of the draft resolution.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as representative of a concerned country, said the issue of settlements was one of those difficult issues left to be negotiated along with all outstanding issues during permanent status negotiations between Israeli and Palestinians. This was agreed upon in September 1993 in the Oslo Accord. This issue had been discussed at length during the Camp David Summit in July 2000 and during the negotiations that followed in Taba in January 2001. Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority made a strategic decision to resort to violence rather than continue these negotiations. By passing judgement in a one-sided manner on one of the still outstanding issues between Israelis and Palestinians, the Commission would be prejudging the results of the negotiations, thus creating one more disincentive for the Palestinians to resume the negotiations once violence subsided. Israel urged the members of the Commission to vote against this resolution. It also pointed out that the language used by the delegate of Algeria was inappropriate, and urged him to focus on the issues at hand.

TOUFIK SALLOUM (Syria) said draft resolution L.17 was too weak and should have been much stronger in its condemnation of Israel. Settlements were illegitimate and constituted an obstacle to peace. Israel should start dismantling the settlements. Until that time, it should prevent barbaric aggressions by the settlers against the Palestinian people. Israel continued to expand the settlements on the pretext of natural population growth and continued to establish new ones.

ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) in explanation of a vote before the vote, said Guatemala was not in the favour of the construction of settlements in the occupied territories, but would speak against the draft resolution since it was an isolated focus on the issue and inappropriate. The issues of Israeli withdrawal, free determination of the Jewish people, the compliance of the Palestinian Authority, settlements, and Palestinian refugees could not be discussed separately. They could not be dealt with in isolation but must be considered jointly.

Action on draft resolution L.16, on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, was delayed until Monday, 15 April. Comments on the draft resolution were made by representatives of Israel and Palestine.

YAAKOV LEVY(Israel) said that were draft resolution L.16 truly designed to promote human rights concerns, it would have taken a factual, balanced approach; a non-political, reasoned perspective, one that was not detached from reality. Were this text drafted with the aim of ending violence, it would have included a clear and unequivocal demand for the Palestinian leadership to call upon its followers to end violent armed attacks and suicide bombings against Israelis. While this resolution was being discussed, a suicide bombing had been carried out in Jerusalem. It was a massacre. The paragraphs relating to the right to resist by all available means legitimized Palestinian acts of terrorism. No window dressing of dropping four words could change the nature of the resolution. It was inconceivable that the Commission could endorse such violence.

Were the authors of this draft resolution committed to ending incitement, they would have felt compelled to demand that the Palestinian leadership, media and preachers in the mosques, in Gaza and elsewhere, end their anti-Israel campaign and rhetoric of hatred. Peace could not be reached by calling on Israel alone to make concessions. Nor could peace be attained by laying blame on only one side. The text was completely one-sided and politicized. Israel, the only UN member State deprived of the right to belong to a regional group and thus unable to become a member of this Commission, had been repeatedly and unfairly singled out at the Commission.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said that the resolution would prove to be robust and useful. The draft before the Commission focused primarily on violations by the Israeli Government of human rights in the last year. Some paragraphs referred to what was happening currently -- flagrant human rights violations. It was not just a political issue as some representatives sought to pretend. There was a habit of focusing attention on solutions based on negotiations, which seemed ironic since the Israeli speaker knew the Israeli Prime Minister had adopted a stance against negotiations. He had taken power to entirely liquidate the Palestinian State and to bring an end to all agreements between the two sides. For months he had been only destroying the entire Palestinian society through massacres. The massacres were being perpetuated this very minute.

The massacres in the villages, towns and camps had cost over 1,200 lives and injured many more. Over 2,000 Palestinian had been taken into detention without anyone knowing what had happened to them. The massacres had taken place but the media had been prevented from reporting on these flagrant violations of human rights. The Israelis had sought to hide hundreds and hundreds of bodies. In Israel's endeavours to cover up these crimes, journalists had been killed. Why had Israel not authorized the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the region? This was another aspect of the cover-up. These crimes had been carried out by the Israeli Defense Force in contravention of all international conventions and human rights instruments. Peace could not be compatible with occupation. If Israel really desired peace, it would withdraw.

Debate on Civil and Political Rights


JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said in the fight against torture, national and international human rights mechanisms needed to be improved. The battle cry must be no more impunity. No cruel or degrading treatment must be tolerated and it was essential to condemn such practices in the strongest terms. Governments in all countries must make this known and ensure that any persons guilty of torture be punished wherever they were.

Some groups such as human rights advocates and journalists often had their civil and political rights violated through extrajudicial or arbitrary detentions or excessive use of force. This was particularly worrying in the treatment of journalists and human rights advocates in the occupied territories by Israel and in Chechnya by the Russian Federation. In Colombia as well, there was a worrying trend of impunity. This practice had led to untold suffering of victims and their families. The importance of the right to chose one's religion was basic, and had a clear link to the right of freedom of expression. It was important in this context to focus more attention on the violation of freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, and also in countries such as China and Viet Nam. These countries had failed to allow the climates of their societies to evolve according to the religious beliefs of their citizens.

DIARMUND MARTIN (the Holy See) said respect for religious freedom meant welcoming the contribution of religious believers as vital for the construction of lasting peace. The question of religious minorities, especially where a particular religious tradition was dominant, was addressed in different ways in national legislation. The Holy See welcomed dialogue with Governments in order to ensure the widest possible respect for the religious freedom of all.

The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, as well as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict, laid down specific norms in regard to the protection of "historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constituted the cultural and spiritual heritage of peoples". The Holy See stressed that respect for those norms applied to all conflicts and to all parties in a conflict. The Holy See in Jerusalem and the Holy Land had a special significance for the three monotheistic traditions -- indeed for the whole of humanity. Disrespect for or misuse of those sites constituted a violation of international norms as well as bilateral agreements.

STEVEN SOLOMON (the United States) said that at a time when the international community had been united in its condemnation of international terrorism, the resolution on the occupied Arab territories that would be acted on later today would cast the Commission in the position of supporting the use of terrorism and violence against innocent civilians rather than promoting protection of human rights. Neither the Commission nor any UN organization nor any State could be seen to endorse terrorism for any reason.


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