Commission on human rights continues debate on self-determination


The Commission on Human Rights continued this afternoon its general debate on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien occupation, hearing speakers mainly focus on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Jammu and Kashmir.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia (also speaking on behalf of the Arab League), China, Cuba, Egypt, Mauritania and Qatar, among others, focused on the issue of the right of Palestinian people to self-determination, saying that the Israeli occupation had deprived the people of Palestine of the most basic internationally recognized right to establish their independent State with Jerusalem as their capital.

Saudi Arabia also said that the Wall that Israel was currently building was also termed as a separation Wall of racial segregation that further complicated the issue that had been extensively discussed in the Commission and other international fora for many decades.

China was of the view that the issue of Palestine constituted the core of the Middle East issue and the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination was the key to a comprehensive and equitable solution to the problem, while Cuba demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories and the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own State.

Egypt said the usurpation of the right of the Palestinian people to live in a situation of self-determination was an infringement of international law and a refusal of their rights, as well as a violation of United Nations resolutions. Israel occupied Palestinian towns by various means, and the Wall was a new border line, impeding East Jerusalem from becoming the capital of a new Palestine.

Mauritania also said that the situation of the Palestinian people remained disturbing, and their suffering and situation was not a matter of mere rhetoric, but a vital topic. The settlement of this issue was the keystone for the lasting peace of the region where so much blood had flowed.

Expressing concern about grave Israeli violations in the occupied territories, Oman said pressure should be brought to bear to end the construction of the separation Wall, to end the besiegement of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their infrastructure and culture.

The United States said the fundamental human right to self-determination should not be hijacked for other political purposes. The Commission should adopt resolutions that promoted and protected the right to self-determination, not ones that debased that fundamental human right.

And Israel supported the right to self-determination and the right of peoples to govern themselves worldwide as well as in the Middle East. Israel respected the right of her neighbours, the Arab States and the Palestinians, to self-determination. She expected equal and mutual recognition, not only of the de fact existence of the State of Israel but of her right to self-determination, hoping to attain that recognition through peaceful means. The Wall built by Israel was temporary and was meant to protect the country from acts of terrorism.

STATEMENTS

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, condemned the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which was a violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, disregarding international norms, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. Those violations had been aggravated by the building of a separation Wall, which was a real Wall of racial segregation. It also had hindered the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. The Commission could agree that the situation in the occupied territory had been deteriorating.

The only solution was that Israel understand that the establishment of a Palestinian State was not only right but also would serve its own interests. The peace initiative launched by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in Beirut in 2002, and adopted by the Arab countries, showed that there existed a sincere will to resolve the conflict. Israel had so far rejected all peaceful initiatives to overcome the problem, which was deplorable.

QI XIANXIA (China) noted that the right to national self-determination was the sole human right contained in both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. History showed that only when the people of a country were entirely free of colonial rule and foreign occupation could they truly become the masters of their own destiny and enjoy various human rights and fundamental freedoms. The realization of the right to national self-determination was the basis and prerequisite for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms. Moreover, the principle of national self-determination guaranteed free choice of a political system, an economic model and a path of development and safeguarded national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

No country should have the right to impose its own social system, development model or ideology on another. Similarly the right to national self-determination should not be used as a pretext for the division of sovereign States or the instigation of national hatred. The issue of Palestine constituted the core of the Middle East debate and the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination was the key to a comprehensive and equitable solution to the problem.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said the debate on the right to self-determination had been one of the Commission’s noblest and most worthwhile agenda items before the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa. During those debates, a wide range of Member States had not only preached self-determination, but had practiced it daily and had called for the rights of the people of South Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia to self-determination. However, the admirable traditions and past accomplishments of the Commission with regard to the right to self-determination had been perverted in recent years by the two resolutions annually introduced and adopted under this agenda item. The United States both opposed and deeply regretted that those resolutions distorted and twisted the Commission’s approach to self-determination.

The fundamental human right to self-determination should not be hijacked for other political purposes. In passing resolutions like those two, the Commission failed to demonstrate its respect for the right to self-determination. The Commission should recognize that there was no single path to democracy and that future representative Governments in the Middle East and elsewhere would reflect their own cultures. It should also recognize that there were essential principles common to every successful society, including limitations on the power of the State and the military, protection of freedom through the rule of law, room for healthy civic institutions, guarantees for religious liberty, privatised economies and the right to property, the prohibition and punishment of official corruption and investment in the health and education of the people. The Commission should adopt resolutions that promoted and protected the right to self-determination, not ones that debased that fundamental human right.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said fundamental freedoms and basic rights were denied completely by foreign occupation, and were severely harmed when actions were taken aimed at curtailing the fullest enjoyment of a people’s right to self-determination. A hegemonic power today gave itself the unilateral right of attacking militarily and without notice any country it wished or which it said threatened the world or its national interest. The Cuban people had suffered varied and serious actions by the United States against their enjoyment of the right to self-determination for more than 45 years. The situation was even more threatening given the presence of the current military regime which had stolen the elections from the American people. The causes of Puerto Rico and Palestine also stood out among cases of those denied the right to self-determination. Cuba demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories and the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own State.

Cognizant of the end of his service, Cuba thanked Special Rapporteur Ballesteros for his 16 years of labour, during which he had been able to visit the country to investigate the use and recruitment of mercenaries in terrorist operations articulated and financed by a Miami-based mafia of Cuban origin, among other activities. The important proposals submitted by the Special Rapporteur for the progressive development of the criminalization of mercenary activities were welcomed.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said the human longing for liberty and the constant human aspiration to live in freedom and peace, free from heinous occupation that imposed terror and agony into peoples soul, was the topic under discussion. The usurpation of the right of the Palestinian people to live in a situation of self-determination was an infringement of international law and a refusal of their rights, as well as a violation of United Nations resolutions. Social rights, including the right of development, were also infringed, and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were only the tip of the iceberg.

The Israeli occupation had infiltrated the West Bank and aimed to segregate Palestinian villages through the construction of the “Wall”. The Wall would directly affect 21,000 people. The Wall violated two major principles of international law, namely the right to self-determination and the violent occupation of others’ lands. Israel had occupied Palestinian towns by various means, and the Wall amounted to a new border line, impeding East Jerusalem from becoming the capital of a new Palestine. Israel had disregarded United Nations resolutions, and it was hoped that another resolution would be adopted during the current session that would send a clear message to the Israeli Government that people’s longing for liberty and independence was a serious element of their human rights, and that the Commission would not accept double standards in the face of the contempt and intransigence of the Israeli Government.

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said the question of Palestine was still a major source of concern in the sessional work of the Commission, even though one had hoped that the resolutions adopted by the Commission on that question would mitigate the horrific suffering to which the Palestinian people were subjected. The occupation had deprived the people of Palestine of the most basic internationally recognized right to establish their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. The “Wall” that Israel was currently building for purposes of racial segregation, on Palestinian land that was manifestly usurped by force, clearly illustrated not only the extent of the violations committed by Israel but also its expansionist intentions. The Wall was also further complicating the question that had been extensively discussed in the Commission and other international fora for many decades.

Israel was attempting to deprive the Palestinian people of their right to exercise self-determination and establish their independent State by implementing its unilateral segregation plan on the basis of the borders demarcated by the separation Wall, which was being built deep inside Palestinian territory. However, neither Israel’s attempts to disregard UN resolutions and the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, nor its ongoing murder of innocent civilians, would induce the Palestinian people to relinquish their right to establish their sovereign independent State.

MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said the right of peoples to self-determination was part of international humanitarian law and was a fundamental aspiration of all peoples. It was for this reason that the United Nations had from the outset focused on the enjoyment of this right. The Palestinian people, however, had not benefited from this, and had been deprived of their legitimate rights and their right to self-determination. Their right to the establishment of their own State had not been respected. The situation of the Palestinian people remained disturbing, and their suffering and situation was not a matter of mere rhetoric, but a vital topic.

Since its inception, the United Nations had not managed to restore legitimate rights to the Palestinians, and had thus failed to resolve this important conflict. The settlement of this issue was the keystone for lasting peace in the region where so much blood had flowed. There was a need to respect the rights of the Palestinian people, as the international community had so often urged, in the context of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. Achievement of peace would restore rights to the Palestinian people and bring security to the region. The establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State would be an appropriate solution to the impasse, and the international community should do everything possible to relaunch the peace process and guarantee this people their legitimate rights.

FAHAD AWAIDA AL-THANI (Qatar) said the right to self-determination had become of paramount priority and a pillar of human rights. Ignoring it constituted a violation of human rights. Noting that some had called for the dissolution of this agenda item, Qatar wished to say that it, too, would like to remove it from the agenda, but only after the Palestinian people had been allowed to affirm their right to national self-determination.

Israeli violations in the occupied territories were grave and a matter of concern. Pressure should be brought to bear to end the construction by Israel of a separation Wall, to end the besiegement of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their infrastructure and culture. The Israeli Government should be aware of the Palestinian presence on its land. Israel was duty bound to take practical steps to prove its good faith through the implementation of legitimate international resolutions, the acceptance of the principle of land-for-peace, and the acceptance of the right of return of the Palestinian people. Peace could not be ensured without the realization of all Palestinians’ legitimate rights.

DEBABRATA SAHA (India) said the right to self-determination, whereby peoples under alien subjugation, domination and exploitation could freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development, was a firm belief of India. Much road had been travelled, but one glaring and unfortunate exception was Palestine, for which India remained steadfast in its support.

The principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enjoined that every State refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of any other State or country. The right to self-determination should not be used as an instrument to promote subversion and erode the political cohesion or territorial integrity of Member States, and could not be abused to encourage secession and undermine pluralistic and democratic States. The right to self-determination could not be invoked as a smoke screen for opportunistic attempts at territorial aggrandizement through terrorism and violence.

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said self-determination constituted the foundation of human dignity, freedom and self-worth and occupied a pre-eminent position among the constellation of rights developed over the decades and listed in various instruments and declarations. Inviolable and inalienable, self-determination was a right that belonged exclusively to the people, and no other authority could exercise it on their behalf. Fifty-six years ago, the United Nations Security Council had adopted a resolution that provided for the self-determination of Jammu and Kashmir. The denial of Kashmir’s right to self-determination had spawned a struggle that continued to this day and had caused untold sacrifices. For forty-odd years, the people of Jammu and Kashmir had tried to achieve their right to self-determination through peaceful means. However, their patience had finally run out and continued suppression had unleashed the impulse for armed struggle. Now it was time to bring the cycle of violence and counter-violence to an end. Pakistan stood ready to reverse the course of confrontation in south Asia.

The peace process involving Kashmir should be consolidated to relieve the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. The dialogue to commence shortly offered an unprecedented opportunity to achieve an equitable settlement in Kashmir in accordance with the aspirations of its people. It was sincerely hoped that the dialogue would result in a just and lasting solution to the issue of Kashmiri self-determination.

SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain) said the right of peoples to self-determination was re-affirmed as one of the objectives of the Charter of the United Nations. The struggle of peoples to gain this right was continuing. The Palestinian people were still suffering from foreign occupation, and had been suffering for many years. There was no hope of a near ending to this occupation, and it violated the basic rights and freedoms of Palestinian citizens. The subjugation of the Palestinian people and others to systematic inhumane and degrading policies by the occupation authorities would not contribute to the maintenance of peace and security, but on the contrary would promote the tide of violence and extremism in the region.

Achieving peace in the region required urgent intervention from the international community in order to guarantee the basic rights of Arab citizens in the occupied Arab territories. Rejecting the option of peace would ultimately imply strengthening the option of war, which was not acceptable to the international community. It was now time to erase all these effects so that future generations could live in peace and security in the Middle East.

AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said the principle of self-determination had been a powerful force in international relations, and in the early days had inspired millions in the struggle against colonialism, foreign occupation and racism, including apartheid. The process was, however, not yet complete, and humanity could not remain complacent until those other peoples who continued to suffer under colonial subjugation or foreign occupation and racism were all free and universal implementation of the right was completed by their membership in the United Nations. Any attempt by the United Nations or any State or group of States to impose by a United Nations resolution any coercive measures which would impinge upon the complete control and use of its resources by a Member State would be a violation of the United Nations Charter and of relevant human rights instruments.

The road to peace and normalization of relations could not be achieved through imposition and brazen threats, but could only be reached through the sincere commitment of those who were mandated to preserve international peace and security to the values and principles of the Charter and the provisions of international law, respect for the rule of law, and the final and binding decision of Arbitration Commissions sanctioned by the Security Council.

ABDUL LATIF AL DORAIBI (Yemen) said the only people still suffering from colonialism were the Palestinian people. The building of the security Wall by Israel was a further violation of the rights of Palestinians. It also undermined international norms. Construction of the Wall, which was an act of racial segregation, not only violated the rights of the occupied Palestinians but also stood as an additional obstacle to the search for peace.

The wall had been a further sign of the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and an expansionist step.

ABDELBASET T. SAEED (Iraq) said the right of peoples to self-determination was one of the basic principles of international law, and was recognized as an indivisible and inalienable right. It was an international principle for countries, without discrimination.

Iraq was still under occupation and was endeavouring to recover its full sovereignty as per United Nations resolutions. The Constitution of Iraq was planned, as were free elections in which the people of Iraq would decide on a fair economic and democratic system in keeping with the new Constitution. This elected Government would replace the transitional Government. The new Constitution would guarantee territorial integrity, with no divisions, and it was hoped that this would bolster democracy and build a free country based on international law. It was hoped that international community would continue providing aid for Iraq.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syrian Arab Republic) said all were aware that the highest ranking of basic human rights was self-determination, which was the mother of all other human rights. Yet the Palestinian people continued to suffer the worst forms of suppression, injustice and oppressive practices.

It was necessary to ask why the right to self-determination was being denied to the Palestinian people and what steps the Commission could take to redress the situation. The members of the international community and the Commission were called upon to do more than confine to mere words their support for the rights of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples living under Israeli occupation.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said the whole problem in the Middle East could be summed up by the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. The path to self-determination could not in any way endanger peace and security. The League of Nations and other organs had recognized the right of peoples to self-determination since the last century. The Israeli occupation and the perpetration of acts against the Palestinian people had hindered the creation of a Palestinian State. In addition to the siege put in place by the Israeli forces, the destruction of the Palestinian institutions continued.

The Commission had called on the Israel authorities to withdraw from the occupied territories, but Israel had never complied with the Commission’s resolutions. Now the construction by Israel of a security Wall was another violation of international law.

/…

ABDULLAH AL-ASKAR (Kuwait) said the right to self-determination was a legitimate right and part and parcel of all other inalienable rights, and the enjoyment of this right could lead to the establishment of truth and justice. There should therefore be no obstacle to its enjoyment.

The occupation of the Palestinian territories had deprived the people of that land of the enjoyment of this right, and they should be allowed to exercise self-determination in accordance with the United Nations Charter and resolutions which had reaffirmed their inalienable right to a sovereign State. It was necessary for Palestinians’ rights to be restored to them. It was also hoped that the international community, with its peace initiatives, would make it possible for the Commission, at its next session, to conclude this issue so that Palestinian people would be able to enjoy the right to self-determination.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said Israel supported the right to self-determination and the right of peoples to govern themselves worldwide as well as in the Middle East. The story of the modern State of Israel was to a large extent the story of defending the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland, and the right to live in peace and in security. Israel respected the right of her neighbours, the Arab States and the Palestinians, to self-determination. She expected equal and mutual recognition, not only of the de facto existence of the State of Israel but of her right to self-determination, hoping to attain that recognition through peaceful means.

The issue of self-determination was central and important to the community of nations. The choice to continue through negotiations was the right choice, the choice to resolve the current difficulties through violence and brutal terrorism was not only flawed and unattainable but also morally repugnant. The Wall built by Israel was temporary and was meant to protect the country from acts of terrorism.

RAJMAH HUSSAIN (Malaysia) said Malaysia wanted to reaffirm its steadfast support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, under the legitimate leadership of President Yasser Arafat, and their legitimate and courageous struggle for the right to decide and be masters of their own destiny and to live freely in their own sovereign and independent State of Palestine.

The continuing and escalating Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people should be condemned, and it was the firm belief of Malaysia that the genuine commitment of parties to the peace process was indispensable for peace to be achieved in the Middle East. Malaysia called on all parties to the “Road Map” to fulfil their obligations so as to expedite a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem and spare the peoples in the region further suffering and misery.

AHMED MOHAMED MASOUD AL RIYAMI (Oman) said the right to self-determination was a basic foundation of the international order and the legitimate right of all peoples, especially those living under foreign occupation. Welcoming the fact that such noble principles were enshrined in international institutions, Oman remained alarmed by continued Israeli violations of international resolutions and international humanitarian law. The rights of the Palestinian people continued to be denied. The right to struggle against occupation was just and had always been supported by Oman. Oman urged Israel to comply with international resolutions and to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.

The Iraqi people were also being denied their basic rights. Oman reaffirmed once more its commitment to the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and reiterated the need for an end the occupation of that country.

SHEHAB MADI (Jordan) said the Palestinian people had been deprived of their right to self-determination as a result of the Israeli occupation, an occupation constituting a clear violation of international law and human rights. Continuing repression, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, and collective punishments aimed at changing the status quo in the occupied territories were still going on.

The Wall, in particular, was a violation of international law. It threatened the creation of a Palestinian State and jeopardized the peace process. Nevertheless, peace remained a strategic option for the Middle East, and the international community should help end the deteriorating situation there and revive the peace process.

KLAUS NETTER, of B’nai B’rith International speaking on behalf of Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, said for many years the Commission had cited principles and guidelines assuring the right to self-determination, and this had served to underscore the right of self-determination for a variety of people, including the Palestinian people. Within this debate, the right to self-determination for one specific people had been overlooked, negated, belittled and placed in a position of relativity with regard to the rights of other peoples: the Jewish people, whose inalienable right to self-determination did not limit the rights of any other people.

The Commission was urged to endorse the Middle East “Road Map”. It was critical that the Commission recognize and confirm unequivocally that the Jewish people’s right to self-determination was as unalienable as that of the Palestinian people.

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ELIEL MASSON, of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said the basic right of peoples to self-determination was self-evident. It was a truism to say that the principle of self-determination should apply to Israelis and Palestinians alike. The root of the present tragedy of the Palestinians was the constant refusal by a corrupt Palestinian leadership to accept United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which adopted a Partition Plan. Self-determination and peace could only come with an acceptance of the Other as an equal, and an official recognition by the Arab League of the inalienable and legitimate de jure existence of the State of Israel in a part of its historic homeland.

RIGHT TO REPLY

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking in a right of reply, said that once again the second meeting was opened by attacking his country. The Arab countries, instead of attacking Israel, should concentrate on the subject matter. When referring to the Wall, they should refrain from using “racial segregation” and other terms which did not correspond to the situation. The Palestinian Authority should disarm the terrorists and condemn incitement to acts of terrorism. The situation on the terrain was not as simple as some speakers might imagine.

/…

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine), speaking in a right of reply, said the Representative of Israel wanted to disseminate words of illusion in the Commission. He said that his Government wanted to solve the problem with Palestinian, which was misleading. The only solution to the conflict was Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestine. The Israeli delegation was now arguing that the territories were “disputable”. The international community could not believe such an idea.

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