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        Economic and Social Council
8 August 2002

Original: French


Fifty-eighth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Monday, 15 April 2002, at 3 p.m.

Chairperson : Mr. LEWALTER (Germany)


later: Mr. JAKUBOWSKI (Poland)




CONTENTS ( continued)









The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.


1. Mrs. ROBINSON (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) recalled that, on 5 April 2002, the Commission on Human Rights had adopted resolution 2002/1, requesting her to head a visiting mission to travel quickly to the occupied territories and to submit its findings and recommendations to the Commission at its current session.

2. Immediately after the adoption of that resolution, on 5 April, she had transmitted it to the Permanent Representative of Israel and had begun consultations on the composition of the mission. On Monday, 8 April, she had announced that Mr. Felipe González, former Prime Minister of Spain, and Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, former Secretary-General of the African National Congress of South Africa, had agreed to join her. After the other members’ arrival in Geneva on 8 and 9 April respectively, the full team had met to discuss developments on the ground and the programme for the mission. The members of the mission had briefed the Expanded Bureau of the Commission on their contacts with the Permanent Mission of Israel and on the planned programme for the mission. On 11 April, the Chairperson of the Commission had sent a letter to the Permanent Representative of Israel.

3. She had spoken several times to the Permanent Representative of Israel to request the cooperation of the Israeli authorities with the visiting mission. On 9 April, the Permanent Representative had written to her to tell her that her letter of 5 April would be forwarded immediately to Jerusalem. He had also said in his letter that careful consideration would be given to her communications, that he would be in close contact with her Office and that he would keep her informed of any developments regarding a possible visit and its parameters. Immediately after receiving that letter, the members of the mission had replied in writing that they had agreed to visit the area at short notice in view of the urgency attached by the international community to the need to act to protect the lives and fundamental freedoms of both Palestinians and Israelis and that they believed the mission should be seen in tandem with the peacemaking efforts already under way. They had also issued a communiqué. Since then, contact had been maintained but there had been no reply to the request for cooperation addressed to the Israeli authorities, so that the mission had not yet been able to set out on its visit. However, visas had been requested for the members of the mission and their accompanying staff and arrangements had been made to allow them to depart at any time.

4. While awaiting the agreement of the Israeli authorities, the mission had requested the secretariat to gather information from the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stationed in the region and also from other United Nations and humanitarian organizations. She had set up a task force to coordinate the gathering of information on the human rights situation in both the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. The secretariat had also arranged a meeting between the members of the mission, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Dugard, and the Coordinator of the OHCHR office in Gaza, Ms. Oyediran. The members of the mission had also met representatives of various United Nations organs and other specialized agencies present on the ground and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

5. The international community had not been idle during the past week in the face of such a serious situation. On 10 April, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Secretary of State of the United States and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union had issued a joint statement after a meeting in Madrid. Shortly afterwards, the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had visited the region, where he had met both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. In addition, on 15 April, three ICRC teams had received permission to enter the Jenin refugee camp, where the fighting had been particularly intense. The number of victims was not known.

6. The situation continued to deteriorate. Two more suicide attacks had been perpetrated recently. Israeli military operations on an exceptional scale had been carried out in the towns of the West Bank, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced and causing enormous material damage. In Bethlehem, the stand-off continued.

7. That tragic slaughter of Palestinians and Israelis must stop. Some way of accounting for the deaths and destruction must be found. The visiting mission would be a first step in that direction. The international community could not tolerate the indiscriminate killing of Israeli civilians or the unjustified slaughter of Palestinians and the destruction of their infrastructure. Nothing could justify waging war on civilians. The international community had a duty to protect life. As the Secretary-General had said, the United Nations could not remain neutral in such circumstances. The Secretary-General had written to Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat, asking them for a solemn undertaking to respect human rights. She intended to do the same.

8. It was important to be patient and not to lose hope that the Israelis and Palestinians would return to the path of peace. In that respect, she welcomed the recent statement by Mr. Arafat in which he condemned the suicide attacks and all murders of civilians and she noted that the Israeli Supreme Court had ordered that the bodies of those killed in Jenin should be returned to the Palestinians for burial.

9. It should never be forgotten that the sole foundation of international order and security was respect for human rights standards and humanitarian law. Force should not be allowed to prevail over the law.

10. In conclusion, she expressed her gratitude for the Commission’s support for her personally and for her two colleagues. The letter that the Chairperson of the Commission had just received from the representative of Israel, in which the latter said that the planned mission was still under serious consideration in Jerusalem, held out hope that the mission would indeed go ahead.

11. The CHAIRPERSON thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other members of the visiting mission for taking the trouble to address the Commission. He was confident there was a good chance that the mission would go ahead and assured the High Commissioner of the full support of the Commission.

The meeting was suspended at 3.30 p.m. and resumed at 3.35 p.m.

12. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had deteriorated since the vote on Commission resolution 2002/1. The Israeli attack on the Jenin camp had caused over 500 deaths and hundreds were wounded or missing. There was a risk of further massacres by the Israeli army, which had just sealed off other Palestinian camps around Nablus. Every minute, Palestinians were dying and had to watch as their institutions and homes were destroyed by the Israeli war machine.

13. He knew that the High Commissioner and her team were doing their best to visit the occupied territories as quickly as possible, but the Israeli Government, which was also preventing journalists and international delegations from visiting Jenin, did not want the visit to take place. It was trying to hide the traces of its crimes by removing the bodies of hundreds of victims in refrigerated lorries to bury them in common graves in Israel. The visit to the region by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, was a pretext. Mr. Powell was no substitute for the High Commissioner and her team. He had not been asked to inquire into the human rights violations and crimes against humanity that were being committed every day. The High Commissioner should be able to visit the occupied territories as soon as possible. The Commission should assume its responsibilities in order to enable the international community to put a stop to those human rights violations.

14. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the Commission could not continue to remain silent and inactive in the face of the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. He proposed that the Commission should adopt an emergency decision worded in the following way:

The Commission on Human Rights

Expresses its deep dismay that its resolution 2002/1 of 5 April 2002 has not been implemented, even though the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has continued to deteriorate owing to the absence of a positive response from the occupying Power;

Calls for the immediate implementation of its resolution 2002/1 of 5 April 2002;

Urges the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report urgently to the Commission on Human Rights on the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory on the basis of authentic reports from all concerned organizations present in the occupied territories.”

15. Mr. PEREZ-VILLANUEVA Y TOVAR (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed the Union’s support for the High Commissioner in the exercise of the extremely difficult mandate entrusted to her as a result of the exceptional gravity of the situation in the occupied territories. He was sure that the common objective of all Commission members and observers was to contribute in a practical and effective way to putting an end to the human rights violations and loss of human life on both sides. To achieve that, the Commission’s decisions must be based on as broad a consensus as possible and must not interfere with other initiatives under way in the region. The Union wished at all costs to avoid the discussion turning into another round of sterile accusations that did a disservice to human rights institutions and the Commission in particular. Any decision should contribute in a practical way to improving the lot of the victims. The Union took note of the proposal by the representative of Pakistan but needed time to study it in detail.

16. Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) said he had always thought that all members of the Commission on Human Rights were on the side of the victims of human rights violations wherever those violations occurred, and yet the Commission was once again indulging in a formal dialectic exercise, despite having already lost its credibility in the light of the international initiatives being undertaken. He paid particular tribute to Mr. Saramango, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who had launched an appeal on behalf of the Palestinian people, and to all those who, regardless of their nationality, had rallied round the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Arafat, whose very life was threatened. While the violations committed bore the hallmarks of genocide and crimes against humanity, the members of the Commission were still wondering whether to adopt a Chairperson’s statement or a binding resolution. In that regard, he pointed out that the Commission’s resolutions were never binding except on weak countries. The Commission should demand the opening of humanitarian corridors to alleviate the suffering of the victims. The High Commissioner and her team should try to visit the territories, even without having obtained visas. It might be necessary to set up an international peace force to prevent a genocide. In any case, he supported the proposal by the representative of Pakistan.

17. Mr. VEGA (Chile) said that, if it was to defend human rights in the occupied territories, the Commission needed to act with great firmness but also with a certain amount of prudence. Its aim should be to ensure that resolution 2002/1 was implemented without delay, and thus to help reduce the number of victims.

18. Ms. GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) recalled that her delegation had not voted for resolution 2002/1. She took careful note of the letter addressed to the High Commissioner by the Israeli Ambassador on the feasibility of a mission. Unlike the representative of Pakistan, she did not believe the Commission had remained silent on the human rights situation in the occupied territories. That issue, on which the Bureau of the Commission was still working, had in fact been considered under agenda item 8 and had formed the subject of a special debate. Moreover, it was extremely important that the Commission should complete its work. Like the representative of Spain, she stressed the need to take account of other important initiatives such as the visit by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, and to study more closely the draft decision proposed by the delegation of Pakistan.

19. Mr. LIU Xinsheng (China) said the High Commissioner’s mission would prevent the human rights situation from getting even worse in the occupied territories. He therefore supported the proposal by the representative of Pakistan. He also hoped that all the parties concerned would do whatever was necessary to ensure that the visit of the High Commissioner could go ahead as soon as possible.

20. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) endorsed the statements made by the Palestinian and Pakistani delegations, and reaffirmed that the Commission should assume its responsibilities and help the High Commissioner to discharge the task entrusted to her by resolution 2002/1. He agreed with the representative of Algeria that the Commission needed to maintain its credibility and to take a decision as quickly as possible on the proposal by the delegation of Pakistan.

21. Mr. AKINSANYA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it was regrettable that the High Commissioner was unable to visit the occupied Palestinian territories in accordance with resolution 2002/1. Given the gravity of the situation, which required a quick decision, he supported the proposal by the delegation of Pakistan.

22. Mr. NORDMANN (Observer for Switzerland) said that the High Commissioner’s mission to the occupied territories was necessary if the Commission was to form an accurate picture of the facts and events in the occupied territories rather than rely on the contradictory accounts received so far. He hoped that the mission would be able to go ahead as quickly as possible and that the High Commissioner would be able to assess the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories. The minimal and universal rules of humanitarian law must be observed in all circumstances in order to limit the effects of the violence. He shared the great concern expressed by the members of the Commission and the determination of the High Commissioner and her team to visit the occupied territories.

23. Mr. FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said it was regrettable that the High Commissioner had been unable to visit the occupied territories, essentially because of the Israeli Government’s failure to cooperate. He pointed out that the High Commissioner’s fact-finding mission had an international mandate that complemented current or future bilateral initiatives. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was intolerable and an in-depth inquiry should be held into the Jenin massacre. His delegation supported the proposal by the delegation of Pakistan and was prepared to adopt it immediately.

24. Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the OIC member States, said that he would have preferred the Commission to have reached a decision at once, but he was prepared to leave more time for the delegations which so desired to study his proposal more closely.

25. The CHAIRPERSON suggested that consideration of the draft decision should be postponed until the following meeting.

26. It was so decided.

The meeting rose at 6 p.m.

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