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        Economic and Social Council
1 April 2004

Original: ENGLISH


Sixtieth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Thursday, 25 March 2004, at 10 a.m.

Chairperson: Mr. SMITH (Australia)




The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.



(agenda item 9) (continued ) (E/CN.4/2004/28 and Add.1, 29-31, 32 and Corr.1, 33-35, 36 and Add.1, and 118 ; E/CN.4/2004/G/25; E/CN.4/2004/NGO/5, 18, 53, 80, 91, 102, 118-120, 127, 143, 150, and 157-167)


10. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), expressed concern over the plight of Muslim minorities in many parts of the world. In the wake of the terrible events of 11 September 2001, and in spite of the unwavering support of Islamic countries in combating terrorism, Muslims had continued to face organized media campaigns that vilified their religion. The OIC strongly rejected attempts to equate Islam and its followers with terrorism.

11. The situation in occupied Palestine exemplified the failure of international human rights machinery. The marginalization of the Palestinian people was a direct result of the apathy and indifference of the international community. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories had shed fresh light on Israel’s continued and systematic violation of international law. The OIC called upon Israel to comply with Security Council resolution 425 (1978), concerning the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Lebanese territories. It also called upon Israel to provide maps of all land mines left behind in southern Lebanon.


15. Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) and its acceding States, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, ...


25. Human rights and fundamental freedoms continued to be severely curtailed in the Syrian Arab Republic, notably as a result of the 40 year state of emergency. There were still hundreds of prisoners of conscience, military courts were used to try civilians and the EU remained concerned about the fate of many Lebanese prisoners. It urged the Syrian Arab Republic to extend the positive measures taken in recent years and to ratify the major human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.


36. Ms. MILLAR (Australia) ...


40. Australia urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return without delay to the negotiating table in order to end the tragic cycle of violence and realize the achievable goal of two States living side by side within secure and recognized borders. The Palestinian Authority must end suicide bombings and incitement to bloodshed. While Australia supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, including through the building of a security barrier, it did not support targeted assassinations. Defensive measures should not increase Palestinian hardship, exacerbate tensions or pre-empt final status negotiations on borders.


86. Mr. OBEID (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the statement by the representative of Ireland on behalf of the EU reflected the use of double standards. Although the EU claimed to be concerned about human rights and had condemned many human rights abuses in various parts of the world, disappointingly, nothing had been said of the violations that were taking place in Europe or the fact that legislation was being adopted that effectively abolished certain human rights. It was also disappointing that nothing had been said about the human rights violations resulting from the sweeping measures of collective punishment that were being imposed by Israel in the occupied territories and that the EU had failed to call for the release of the Syrian prisoners being detained in Israeli jails. It was regrettable that the work of the Commission had become so politicized.

87. A state of emergency had been declared in the Syrian Arab Republic when part of its territory had fallen under Israeli occupation. He would have expected the EU to understand Syria’s position on the matter, given that much of Europe had been under occupation at a certain point in history.

88. With regard to the Lebanese detainees in Syria, he explained that all the prisoners in question were being detained on the basis of legal judgements because they had committed acts in violation of public order. It was an issue for the Syrian and Lebanese authorities to resolve between themselves. There was no need for the EU to become involved. However, he pointed out that Syria had always been open to partnership and dialogue with the EU.


94. Mr. SOUFAN (Observer for Lebanon) said that his Government had established a commission to monitor the situation of Lebanese detainees, regardless of their place of detention. The commission had received a significant amount of credible information regarding the Lebanese detainees in Syria. Thanks to the fraternal relationship between Lebanon and Syria, the matter would be resolved as soon as possible.

95. Mr. SHEHADA (Observer for Palestine) said he rejected the statement by the representative of Australia describing Israel’s measures as “defensive”. Although she had called on the Palestinians to outlaw suicide bombings, she had failed to mention the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which was the most serious breach of human rights. It was difficult to understand how a country with a strong democratic tradition could approve of the security barrier in the occupied Palestinian territories. By condoning the construction of the wall, Australia was giving its seal of approval to the segregation of families and the denial of access to medical care. The wall had been described by some as being a “wall of racism” and had been condemned by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 as an unlawful act of annexation in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a crime against humanity. Australia should stop confusing the criminal with the victim and should call upon Israel to halt its criminal acts.


98. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that, even before the thematic debate under agenda item 9, Israel had once again come under the OIC’s attack. He urged the OIC to refer to a note that had been circulated in the Commission the previous day, which stated that Israel was not holding any Lebanese detainees as so-called hostages or for bargaining purposes. There was therefore no grounds for the Commission to discuss the subject of Lebanese detainees in Israel under agenda item 9.

99. Having heard the distinguished ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic refer to the “occupation”, for a moment he had thought that reference was being made to another kind of occupation, namely that of the occupation of one Arab State by another. Could the Syrian refusal to establish full diplomatic ties with Lebanon with resident ambassadors, as was customary between two amicable sovereign and independent States, be explained by the fact that it did not wish to recognize Lebanon as an independent State?

100. He recalled that Syria had lost possession of the Golan Heights through two wars of aggression conducted against Israel in 1967 and 1973. If the Syrian Government wished to regain its lost territories, it should sit down with the Israeli authorities and try to negotiate peace.


104. Mr. SOUFAN (Observer for Lebanon) said that the diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon were maintained by the people of those countries themselves, who were bound by ties of fraternity and complementarity. Israel should not try to distract attention from the fact that it was guilty of serious human rights violations.

105. Mr. OBEID (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that he would like to reply to the representative of the Israeli Occupation Forces who was present in the room.

106. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel), speaking on a point of order, said that, despite their differences of opinion, he had referred to the observer for the Syrian Arab Republic as “distinguished ambassador”. He expected to be addressed with equal respect.

107. The CHAIRPERSON said that he had made his position very clear about the use of appropriate language in the Commission. He expected all delegations to put their arguments forward clearly and forcefully, but they should avoid unnecessarily insulting or abusive terms.

108. Mr. OBEID (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that Israel appeared to be incapable of understanding the nature of the peaceful and fraternal relationship between Syria and Lebanon. Syria considered Lebanon to be an independent and sovereign State, to which it was bound by very strong ties. It did not feel it was necessary to have an ambassador in Lebanon. Neither did it have an ambassador in Switzerland; that did not mean that Syria was occupying Switzerland. Instead of criticizing Syria, Israel would do better to implement the numerous United Nations resolutions that called for the cessation of Israeli occupation.


The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

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