Human Rights Commission adopts resolution on Israeli settlements and Israeli practices in occupied territories

Palais des Nations, Geneva.


The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted four resolutions on practices fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination; Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan; Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory; and on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Under its agenda item on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, the Commission adopted a resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan by a roll-call vote of 39 in favour to two opposed, with 12 abstentions. In the text, the Commission expressed grave concern at the continuing Israeli settlements and related activities, in violation of international law; and demanded that Israel, the occupying power, comply fully with its legal obligations.

In a resolution on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour, to ten opposed, with 14 abstentions, the Commission condemned the use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians. The Commission demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, and that it cease the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.

And in a resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 32 in favour to two opposed, with 19 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel, the occupying power, to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan.

Speaking as concerned countries on the three resolutions were Israel, Palestine, and Syria. Commenting on the resolutions were Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Honduras, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Guatemala, Italy (on behalf of the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary) and Argentina.

Action on Resolutions on Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2005/L.2/Rev.1) on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestine territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 39 in favour to two opposed, with 12 abstentions, the Commission expressed grave concern about the continuing construction, contrary to international law, by Israel of the wall inside the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and expressed its concern in particular about the route of the wall in departure from the Armistice Line of 1949. It also expressed grave concern at the continuing Israeli settlements and related activities, in violation of international law, including the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, the confiscation and destruction of property, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads; at the new construction plan by the Government of Israel announced on 21 March 2005 for a project of 3,500 additional housing units in Maale Adumim and the planned expansion of two other settlement blocks in the West Bank; and at the continued closures of and within the occupied Palestinian territory and the restriction of the freedom of movement of people and goods.

The Commission called upon Israel to take and implement serious measures, including confiscation of arms and enforcement of criminal sanctions, with the aim of preventing acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and other measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians and Palestinian properties in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; and demanded that Israel, the occupying power, comply fully with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice. Moreover, the Commission urged the parties to seize the opportunity offered by the current political context to give renewed impetus to the peace process and to implement fully the Road Map endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1515 (2003), with the aim of reaching a comprehensive political settlement in accordance with the resolutions of the Council.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (12): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Togo and United Kingdom.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) speaking in a general comment on behalf of the Arab Group, thanked all co-sponsors of the draft resolution, and the States which had taken an interest in the resolution who had sought a constructive dialogue for a content reflecting the importance of this very grave matter that had an effect on the human rights of the Arab peoples as well as the human rights of all Palestinians. The important message was that the continued settlements were an obstacle to peace, and the Arabs sought peace for all Arabs, Palestinians and the neighbours in Israel. All should support the draft resolution and send a clear message for peace.

ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel), speaking before the vote as a concerned country, urged that the Commission to vote against the resolution as such a resolution would create a disincentive for the Palestinians to move on in implementing the first phase of the Road Map on stopping terrorism, because the resolution was disconnected from the reality on the ground and because it was prejudging the outcome of the future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A text was recently adopted by a gathering body. That text had condemned a certain State’s occupation of territories as well as the building of houses and facilities. It had called for this country to end its occupation and to cease creating facts on the ground by force, and changing the character and the demographic composition. It called for the dismantling of all facilities built on those territories and which were considered as violations of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Delegates must be thinking that this occupying country could only be Israel. But this text was of the Arab League at the last Arab Summit in Algiers regarding the three islands, the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.

The text of the current resolution by the Commission recalled the principles on interim self-government arrangements agreed in Oslo in 1993. However, it deliberately failed to mention what had been agreed upon, namely that the issue of the settlements would be left to the Permanent Status negotiations. The resolution, which the Commission was about to vote, singled out a country and had far more to do with political and non-human rights matters than with settlements. By voting in favour of the resolution, the Commission was prolonging its anomalies. He called that the Commission not to vote in favour.

MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said listening to the statement of the distinguished Representative of Israel, one would think it was the Palestinian people who were the occupiers, and the Israelis who were the occupied. He had referred to the question of terrorism. What had more to do with terrorism than occupation itself? Palestine agreed that there were double standards. However, they affected Israel because of the protection extended to it. Israel was out of step with the rest of the world. The Israeli occupation of the Arab and Palestinian territories was the only occupation that had been going on for decades in recent history, and the Palestinians yearned for the day that it would end. The question of talking about what was agreed in the Oslo Agreement was camouflage and brainwashing, and it did not work in the Commission.

The distinguished delegate of Israel had talked about Oslo and what was agreed there. He had not been there, and the speaker had himself been involved in the negotiations, and knew exactly what was written there. The speakers also knew what was said by President Bush to President Sharon, that he should respect the Road Map. Palestinians accepted the Road Map, as did the international community, but the Israelis were continuing the construction of settlements around Jerusalem, and this was illegal. The Israeli delegate had talked about the Gaza Strip. The Road Map said that Israel would retain exclusive control over the external land of the Gaza Strip. It was clear that Israel was not meeting its commitments. Palestinians wanted Israel to leave, and leave forever, and live with the Palestinians as good neighbours. Palestinians had been rewarded for their good faith by the deaths of three children playing simple games of football on the border. This was not the act of a State that should be respected at the Commission. All members should judge Israel by what it did, and not by what it said.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), speaking as a concerned country, said that foreign occupation was the worst form of violation of human rights, the worst form of racial discrimination, and the worst form of aggression, as attested by United Nations instruments. The Israeli Government wished to contradict those facts, those principles drawn from the Charter of the Organization and other international instruments. Israel had attempted to convince the international community that the principles did not relate to it, and that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and of the Syrian Golan must be accepted as a fact, and even as a good thing. That was the Israeli responses to the many resolutions and messages sent to Israel by the international community over the decades.

The establishment of Israeli settlements constituted a continued declaration of war, and an aggression on human rights instruments, he added. The utter disregard shown by Israel for the relevant resolutions of the Commission over the decades challenged the voice of the most important human rights body in the world. The civilians under occupation had suffered enough from the oppressive Israeli occupation. There had been enough attempts to bypass the demands of the international community. To talk about peace on the one hand, and to aggress that peace on a daily basis on the other hand, was the hallmark of the Israeli Government. At the same time that Arab States had been meeting for the Beirut Summit, Israel had been committing the Jenin massacre. And after the Algeria Summit, the Israeli response had been the building of new settlements around Jerusalem and in the north of the occupied territories to make it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian State. That was Israel’s understanding of human rights.

J. BENJAMIN ZAPATA (Honduras), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the draft resolution described part of the story and bias was expressed in the text against one of the parties. It was not balanced, and it seemed that it would not lead to a solution to the problem. The text failed to reflect the origin of the conflict. Honduras understood the sufferings of the peoples. The resolution would not help to resolve the problem nor would it facilitate a means so that both countries resolved their problems in a common accord. For those reasons, Honduras would abstain from voting.

PAUL MEYER (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it considered the establishment and maintenance of Israeli settlements and the construction of the barrier to secure them to be contrary to international law and against a permanent and comprehensive settlement to the issue. It had therefore welcomed Israel’s withdrawal this year, and this should be supported. Israel had a right to defend its citizens and territory, but violations of human rights that had negative effects were to be deplored, as Canada had always done. Only a negotiated settlement would find peace for the region. There was much in the resolution that Canada could support, however the reference to armed settlers’ violence in the absence of any reference to Palestinian violence and to the right of Israel to defend itself from terrorism was not appropriate. Neither should the resolution quote selectively from the decisions of the courts. Canada would therefore abstain this year on the resolution.

RUDOLPH E. BOSCHWITZ (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the delegation of the United States objected to the draft resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, as it had in the past, due to the imbalance of the anti-Israel resolutions. The presence of this item on the Commission’s agenda was inappropriate and unfair. The present item dealt solely with one Member State, while all other Member States activities were covered under the subsequent item. It was also grossly unfair that only one of the 191 Member States of the United Nations could not be a member of the Commission on Human Rights and other United Nations panels. The Secretary-General had noted the incongruity and unjustness of the situation, and the necessity to correct it, in a recent speech on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Allied forces in 1945.

The draft lacked any balance, and took no account of and made no reference to events on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians, he said. Only in a revision, made yesterday and only in a negative and begrudging manner, did it refer to the fact that Israel intended soon to withdraw fully from Gaza and from other settlements in the West Bank. This was being done with the encouragement of the United States Government, which would continue its support and involvement in bringing the tragic Middle East conflict to an end. There had been much talk about the credibility of the Commission, he concluded. Imbalanced and unjust resolutions of this type did much to bring that credibility into question. The United States would vote against the resolution, and asked other members of the Commission to join it.

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2005/L.4) on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour to ten against, with 14 abstentions, the Commission condemned the use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, resulting in extensive loss of life, vast numbers of injuries and massive destruction of homes, properties, agricultural lands and vital infrastructure; urged all Member States signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention to express the inadmissibility of the ongoing violation of the rights of Palestinian civilians, especially women and children, stipulated in these instruments, and to demand their effective observance by Israel, the occupying power; requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints owing to denial of access by Israel to hospitals; and requested the High Commissioner to demand, in accordance with her mandate, the immediate release of Palestinian detainees, including women, children and the sick, and the investigation of reported cases of torture, harassment or ill-treatment and the bringing to justice of Israeli officers involved in the abuse of detainees.

The Commission also requested Israel, the occupying power, to facilitate the forthcoming Palestinian legislative elections in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and demanded that it refrain from all acts that interfered in, obstructed or impeded these elections; demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice and as demanded in resolution ES-10/15 and resolution ES-10/13 of 21 October 2003, and that it cease the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, dismantle forthwith the structure situated therein, repeal or render ineffective all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, and make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall; and called for the boycott of firms involved in the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (29): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (10): Australia, Canada, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (14): Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

NAELA GABR (Egypt), speaking in a general comment, thanked all the countries that had co-sponsored the draft resolution, by which they gave a clear message of the credibility of the Commission and its interest in upholding human rights for all peoples of the world. The Commission was the highest body entrusted with the promotion and protection of human rights, and it was its duty to send a clear and unequivocal message of its interest in protecting the rights of all. The people of Palestine were suffering from the breach of all their rights. One State was standing alone before the peoples of the world: and that was Palestine, whose people were standing alone. The international community should support them, and ensure the enjoyment of all their rights. This would be the first step both for Palestine and for peace building.

The Arab people were looking for peace and were extending an olive branch, but peace required peace and justice as the building blocks. A balanced resolution was based on justice, and international law. This was the position of Egypt, and justice and legitimacy should support Palestine. The ceasing of the practices against the Palestinian people by Israel was required, and there should be a peaceful relationship in the region and respect for the rights of the Palestinians, as this was the building block for peace.

ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said at the beginning of the session, Israel had had been a dream — a dream that the encouraging developments currently taking place in the Middle East would be reflected accordingly in the Commission. However, in reading the text of L. 4 on which the Commission was about to vote, the Israeli delegation could only express its deep sense of frustration that its dream had not come true. If the intention of the authors of the draft was to bring the parties closer to peace, they had failed. Peace could not be achieved by accusing only one side, when the responsibility lay with both. The resolution was one of four regarding Israel. Could anyone think of another country that had the “privilege” of such special attention? Had the Commission exhausted the list of countries that were gross violators of human rights and had it found that only Israel was left?

The resolution did not even mention the deliberate terrorist attacks and suicide bombings targeting and killing innocent civilians. That was a problem of double standards — “Deux poids et deux measures”. It was about time that the Commission rose above its narrow political perspective and recognized that, in any conflict, there were always two sides, that suffering was not the monopoly of either side, and that the resolution of a conflict was not aided by the adoption of biased resolutions. He called on the Commission to reject the resolution in order to help open a window of hope and to create a message of peace that could be sent from the Commission to the peoples of the region.

MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned party, said the Palestinian people had been suffering from occupation for many decades. Yet it seemed some parties wished to implement human rights everywhere in the world, except in Israel; they wished to force all to accept human rights, except for the Israeli occupying force. He had been heartened to hear the Israeli Representative speaking in Arabic, and he apologized for not knowing Hebrew. However, he wished to reiterate that the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, had no option but peace — and not just any peace, but a just peace based on bringing the occupation to an end.

The Israeli Representative had wondered why the Commission continued to take up the present agenda item. To the Israeli Representative, he wished to say, “put an end to the occupation, and no resolution would be tabled on Israeli human rights violations. Instead there would be a resolution full of praise for Israel for ending the illegal occupation and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people2. Palestine was also glad to hear the Israeli Representative speak of the treatment of women and children. Palestinian women had had to give birth at Israeli checkpoints, in full view of Israeli soldiers, who were armed to the teeth. They had been deprived of access to hospitals. All women, in all parts of the world, deserved dignified treatment.

The Palestinians had already accepted the presence of Israel on 87 per cent of Palestinian land, he concluded. Israel must leave the Palestinians alone on the remaining 22 per cent. Asking why Israel was attempting to “Judesize” Jerusalem, he said that if the city was to be a joint capital, then it must be open to all. The era of empires had come to an end; Israel was not as strong as the Roman Empire. Peace must be the option, and the occupation must come to an end.

IAN DE JONG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the European Union remained deeply concerned by continued violations of human rights in the occupied territories. Israel’s presence and military occupation in the occupied territories, including the illegal presence of Israeli settlers in those territories, had led to repeated human rights violations, and to the killing and injury of civilians. Notwithstanding its right to fight terrorism, Israel bore full responsibility for preventing, investigating and sanctioning such human rights violations.

The European Union reiterated its strong and unequivocal condemnation of all terrorist acts, and welcomed the commitment of both parties, at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, to stop all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, military activities and destruction, provocation and incitement, as well as the determination of both parties to work together in a spirit of understanding and cooperation. The Union called on both parties to take rapid steps to fulfil this commitment, and reiterated its attachment to the implementation of both parties obligations under the Road Map, in particular the call to freeze all settlement activities.

The European Union had supported General Assembly resolution 59/124, on which the present draft was based, he noted. However, the present draft differed in important ways from the General Assembly text. It was not balanced and did not sufficiently reflect the current situation. Important encouraging developments had taken place since last autumn. While the European Union could add its voice to the many concerns expressed in the present draft, it would not be able to support it.

RUDOLPH E. BOSCHWITZ (United States), speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, recalled the earlier comments by the United States on the imbalance of resolutions condemning Israel, and the incongruity of an entire agenda item being devoted to Israel. Regarding the present draft, he noted that the wording had been moderated from previous years. And colleagues had informed him that the entire atmosphere of this year’s Commission was better than previous sessions. However, the draft was still immoderate and unnecessarily unbalanced; the United States’ objections therefore continued.

The draft referred to the “recent reports of the Special Rapporteur on human rights”, but failed to mention the positive steps that the Special Rapporteur had noted, he added. There was no reflection of the short, but moving, speech made by the Palestinian Representative, who had said “We hold out our hand to our neighbour Israel to live in peace”. Nor was there any recognition of the Palestinian Representative’s later remarks to the Commission to the effect that Palestine looked forward to living at peace with its neighbour, Israel. Two examples had been given at the time, those of the French and Germans, and the Danes and Swedes, both of which had now lived in peace for many years. It was regrettable that the sponsors of the draft could not hold their fire, and let the parties make progress. Instead, they offered yet another resolution, which did nothing to advance the peace process, and which could even inhibit that process while further eroding the credibility of the Commission. The United States asked its fellow members of the Commission to vote against the draft, and not to allow the work of the Commission to cast a shadow over the Middle East peace process.

PAUL MEYER (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Canada had consistently called on Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians. The draft resolution was disconnected from the reality on the ground, and Canada would vote against the text.

J. BENJAMIN ZAPATA (Honduras), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said for a resolution which was apparently seeking to promote and protect human rights and to foster an atmosphere conducive to peace and settlement of the conflict, some of its contents and language was unbalanced and inappropriate, and seemed to turn a blind eye to what was actually happening in the region. These peace objectives did not seem to be reflected in the draft resolution which included incendiary language, and this type of resolution should not be issued by a body like the Commission. In order to foster human rights, a favourable environment should also be fostered, in which the parties could achieve peace. All those involved should be included. Resolutions were part and parcel of the reform process of the Commission, and it should take its own steps to contribute towards the reform. Honduras would vote against the resolution for these reasons.

LARS PIRA PEREZ (Guatemala), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said he wished to reaffirm support for the Palestinians, who continued to live without peace and security and their right to self-determination. The international community should take advantage of new opportunities for peace in the Middle East, including those arising from the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit. It was the appropriate time to take the Road Map as the basis for continuing negotiations. The work of the Commission should take these opportunities into account, and support the parties’ engagement for peace. Thus, it was regrettable that the present text did not reflect the improved situation, and included language that could be detrimental to the peace process. Guatemala would abstain.

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2005/L.15) on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 32 in favour to two opposed, with 19 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel, the occupying power, to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council, in particular resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council, among other things, decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel should rescind forthwith its decision; and called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasized that the displaced persons of the population of the occupied Syrian Golan must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their properties.

The Commission further called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, to release all detained citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and to desist from its repressive measures against them and from all other practices mentioned in the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. The Commission was also determined that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan were null and void, constituted a flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and had no legal effect. Moreover, the Commission decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-second session, as a matter of high priority, the item entitled “Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (32): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (19): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

NAELA GABR (Egypt), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Arab Group wanted rights be restored to those who had been deprived by the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories. The Arab Group had always extended its hands for peace. The Arab Group wanted to see peace restored to the people under the principle of “land for peace”. Israel should respect the Road Map, which was intended to bring peace to the region. The Sharm-el-Sheikh Summit was also relevant to the peace process. The speaker said that Israel should stop its human rights violations in the occupied Arab territories and allow the process of peace to continue. The language used in the draft resolution reflected the need for peace in the Middle East.

ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel) speaking as a concerned country said this draft resolution left the speaker somewhat perplexed, as it seemed to confuse who was the arsonist and who was the fire fighter. Israel had come in possession of the Golan Heights in 1967, after years of aggression from there, which had turned the lives of Israeli citizens into a living hell. Today the Golan Heights had become a centre of peace and vitality. Syria was the main supporter and assistant of the Hizbollah terrorist organization, which worked from Syrian territory, striking against Israel with impunity. Over the past weeks, there had been no change in Syria’s harsh language, nor a glimpse of hope. Israel had always expressed its desire to resume negotiations with Syria in order to reach peace in the region.

If there was a topic that spoke poignantly of human dignity, it was the fate of the missing Israelis and their remains. Syria and Lebanon should release information about the missing Israeli soldiers, missing in action 22 years ago, and others. What could be a better humanitarian gesture, a better confidence-building measure, than the repatriation of remains so they could finally rest in peace in Israel? These were humanitarian issues which Syria could contribute towards solving, but it had not done so. The counter-productive resolution would not help with bringing peace to the region that Israel was striving for. Syria should make the decision to contribute to the construction of peace with tangible acts. The sole purpose of the resolution was to perpetuate tension instead of solving it, and all should vote against it.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), speaking as a concerned country, said the humanitarian situation of the victims of the Israeli occupation must be the issue, not the humanitarian situation of the Israeli occupier. Israelis had come to live in Syrian villages, in the houses of Syrian families, which had been expelled by the occupation. The Israeli occupation had prevented Syrian citizens living under the occupation from exporting or marketing their apple crops outside the Golan. Eighteen Syrian prisoners had been kept in detention for years for refusing Israeli identity and nationality. One prisoner had been sentenced to 27 years for demonstrating against the occupation. The occupation predated the establishment of the Hezbollah party.

Syria continued to fight terrorism, and had joined a number of conventions and instruments to fight terrorism, many more than Israel, he said. Syria fought terrorism much more than Israel, and was much more aware of the prerequisites for peace. In one year, President Assad had presented three separate initiatives for peace, and the Israelis response had been “not possible”. There were hundreds of cases of disappeared persons; they were either dead and buried or locked in Israeli prisons, but none knew their whereabouts. All those opposed to the draft resolution denied the fact that justice was necessary for the establishment of peace. The Commission must force Israel to comply with international legitimacy. The international community must bring pressure to bear on Israel to resume the peace process with Syria without prejudice, and to end the occupation of the Syrian Golan.

RUDOLPH E. BOSCHWITZ (United States), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said while the text of the resolution was improved from past years, the United States still found it to be unbalanced. Like the previous two, it also failed to take into account the recent dramatic progress during the last six months in the West Bank and Gaza, and in the Middle East in general. Remarkably, this resolution expressed “grave concern over the halt in the peace process”. The reality was that new opportunities to advance the goals of peace and security in the region were occurring almost daily. To achieve this goal, all parties, including the Commission, should break with the past and set out on a new path. The Palestinian Authority and Israel had already taken the first steps down that path. In free and fair elections, the Palestinian people had chosen a new leadership that was committed to ending extremist violence. Israel had committed to disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank and to support the Palestinian Authority’s political, economic and security reform efforts. The international community at the London Conference had stepped forward to assist the Palestinian Authority’s reform efforts.

The Commission had the responsibility to advance these peace efforts, but regrettably the resolution failed to grasp this opportunity and in fact served to undermine it. Resolutions such as this sought to vilify only one party rather than advance the cause of peace. The United States remained committed to providing the leadership and support needed to resolve this tragic conflict, and would not endorse measures that failed to advance towards that goal.

IAN DE JONG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the European Union regretted that it would not be able to support the current draft. The European Union underlined the need to respect and safeguard the human rights of persons living in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, but felt that the text had needed a stronger focus on the human rights question for the European Union to be able to support it.

PAUL MEYER (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said while there were elements of the resolution with which Canada agreed, other unconstructive elements had precluded its support in the past. Changes to this year’s text did not ameliorate Canada’s traditional concerns with the resolution. Canada recognized that the Golan Heights were occupied territories and did not recognize permanent Israeli control over the territories occupied since 1967. Canada also supported the concept that the peace process should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. However, the resolution did not provide the full context or a balanced assessment of the situation in the region. It was for that reason that the Canadian delegation had again abstained on the resolution.

PAOLO BRUNI (Italy), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote on behalf of United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and Hungary, said there was disappointment that the text on Israeli settlements could not have been supported this year as it had been in past years, as concern remained on this topic, and that of the construction of the separation barrier. The resolution did not sufficiently reflect progress on the ground over the last 12 months, and there were two important elements missing: disengagement as a significant step towards implementation of the Road Map, and the commitment of both parties to stop all acts of violence including acts of terror. This was why the five countries had decided to abstain.

SERGIO CERDA (Argentina), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Argentina had voted in favour of the draft on Israeli settlements. Argentina emphasized its condemnation of all acts of violence and terrorist acts, and felt that that condemnation should have been properly reflected in the text.

Related Links

  • 61st session, Commission on Human Rights, Geneva (14 March-22 April 2005)