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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
15 July 2009

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New YorK

Background release



The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will convene a United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine on 22 and 23 July 2009 at the United Nations Office at Geneva. The theme of the Meeting is “Responsibility of the international community to uphold international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the wake of the war in Gaza”.

The objective of the Meeting is to discuss questions related to Israeli violations of international humanitarian law during the recent hostilities in the Gaza Strip and determine how the international community can uphold norms of international humanitarian law and fulfil its obligations with regard to ensuring protection of civilians. Participants will look at the responsibility of Governments and intergovernmental organizations to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, the principle of universal jurisdiction, as well as the options for individual and collective action by Governments. The role of the United Nations, parliaments, civil society, academic and other institutions, and the media in promoting awareness and respect for and upholding international humanitarian law and human rights law will also be examined.

The Meeting is being organized in keeping with General Assembly resolutions 63/26 and 63/27 of 26 November 2008. Invited to the Meeting will be internationally-renowned experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of United Nations Members and Observers, parliamentarians, representatives of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, the academic community, representatives of civil society organizations, as well as the media.

The opening session will take place on Wednesday, 22 July, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room XVI of the Assembly Building of the Palais des Nations. Statements are expected to be made by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General; Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee; Rudy Salles, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean; and a representative of Palestine. The opening session will be followed by plenary sessions during which experts will make presentations on specific issues. Each plenary will have a discussion period. The official languages of the Meeting will be English, Spanish and French. Documentation will be available, to the extent possible, in these three languages.

Plenary I, entitled “The results of investigations of Israeli conduct during the war in Gaza”, will begin in the morning of Wednesday, 22 July, at 11:15 a.m. The session will provide insight into investigations which are ongoing or have already taken place, such as by the United Nations Board of Inquiry; the mission of the League of Arab States; the Fact-Finding Mission of the Human Rights Council, as well as findings of missions by Special Rapporteurs, parliamentarians and other groups. Speakers will include John Dugard, Head of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza of the League of Arab States; Ali Hashan, Minister of Justice of the Palestinian Authority; George Vella, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Middle East of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean; David Hammerstein, Member of the European Parliament; Ran Yaron, Director of the Occupied Palestinian Territories Department of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel; and Bill Van Esveld, from the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.

Plenary II, entitled “The responsibility of Governments and intergovernmental organizations in upholding international law”, will start at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 22 July. During the session, experts and participants will discuss the obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law; options for individual and collective action by Governments; the principle of universal jurisdiction; and the role of the United Nations. Speakers include Jan Borgen, Director of the International Law and Protection Programme of the International Commission of Jurists; Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva; Charles Shamas, Senior Partner in the MATTIN Group, Ramallah; John B. Quigley, Professor of International Law at the Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University; Nathalie Tocci, Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Affairs in Rome; Moufed Mahmoud Shehab, Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Egypt; Mark Brailsford, Senior Protection Coordinator, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and Phyllis Bennis, Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Network for Palestine and Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday morning, 23 July, at 10 a.m., plenary III, entitled “The role of parliaments and civil society in advocating adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law”, will look at the impact parliaments could have on respect for international law; on how civil society organizations can make a difference through monitoring, witnessing and reporting; and at the role of the media. Speakers include Phyllis Starkey, Labour Member of the British Parliament for Milton Keynes South West; Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza; Daphna Golan-Agnon, Senior Researcher at the Minerva Center for Human Rights of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Fatmeh El-‘Ajou, Advocate at Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Pierre Galand, Chairman of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine; Rania Al-Madi, Consultant with the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Yizhar Be’er, Executive Director of Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel; Nasser Al Laham, Editor in the Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem; and Gideon Levy, Columnist with the Haaretz.

The closing session of the Meeting will take place on Thursday, 23 July, at 5:15 p.m. The report of the Meeting will be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat.

Participants are requested to register with the Secretariat either at its Office or prior to entering the conference room. The main Secretariat is located in Office A.265 on the second floor of the Assembly Building. The telephone numbers of the Secretariat at the Palais des Nations are +41 22 917 6511, +41 22 917 6512, +41 22 917 6513; the fax number is +41 22 917 0716.

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For information media • not an official record

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