Human Rights Council decides to urgently dispatch a high-level fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun

Palestinian women mourn during the funerals of 20 Palestinians who were buried in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, November 7, 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)


The third special session of the Human Rights Council concluded its work this afternoon after adopting a resolution in which it expressed its shock at the horror of Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun and called for bringing the perpetrators thereof to justice; expressed its alarm at the gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by the occupying power, Israel, and called for urgent international action to put an immediate end to these violations; and decided to dispatch urgently a high-level fact-finding mission to be appointed by the President of the Council to travel to Beit Hanoun.

In a resolution adopted by a roll call vote of 32 in favour, eight against and six abstentions, the Human Rights Council called for immediate protection of the Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in compliance with human rights law and international humanitarian law. It also urged all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against civilian populations and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949.

The Council said the high-level fact-finding mission would assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors, and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults. The mission was requested to report to the Council no later than the middle of December 2006 on progress made towards the fulfilment of its mandate.

The Representatives of Syria, Australia, Lebanon, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Yemen, Colombia, Organization of Islamic Conference, Holy See, African Union and Norway took the floor this afternoon in the general debate as did representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: World Union for Progressive Judaism, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Amnesty International, B’nai B’rith International, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, United Nations Watch, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, Human Rights Watch and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Speaking in general comments and explanations of the vote before and after the vote were Canada, Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Guatemala, Finland on behalf of the European Union, Ecuador, Algeria, Canada, Japan, Uruguay, Argentina, France, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Peru and Brazil.

The resumed second session of the Human Rights Council will start on Monday, 27 November and will be immediately followed by the third session.

Resolution

The resolution, while taking note of the sense of shock expressed by the Secretary-General on the Israeli military operations carried out in Beit Hanoun on November 8, expresses its shock at the horror of Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun while asleep and other civilians fleeing earlier Israeli bombardment; condemns the Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, as well as medics in Beit Hanoun and other Palestinian towns and villages, and calls for bringing the perpetrators thereof to justice; denounces the Israeli massive destruction of Palestinian homes, property and infrastructure in Beit Hanoun; expresses its alarm at the gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by the occupying power, Israel, and calls for urgent international action to put an immediate end to these violations including those emanating from the series of incessant and repeated Israeli military incursions therein.

The resolution calls for immediate protection of the Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in compliance with human rights law and international humanitarian law; and urges all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against civilian population and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949.

It further decides to dispatch urgently a high-level fact-finding mission to be appointed by the President to travel to Beit Hanoun to, inter alia, assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors, and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults; and requests the fact-finding mission to report to the Council no later than the middle of December 2006 on progress made towards the fulfilment of its mandate.

The resolution was adopted by a roll call vote of 32 in favour, eight against and six abstentions. Cameroon was absent.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (32): Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Against (8): Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and United Kingdom.

Abstentions (6): France, Guatemala, Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Statements

KHALIT BITAR (Syria) said Israel had proved to the entire world that through its policies it was destroying the Palestinian people. The latest attack in Beit Hanoun had made it evident and was another example of Israel’s terrorizing policies. There was now a challenge before the international community to bring Israel to accountability for these crimes. The Human Rights Council must provide immediate protection to the Palestinian people under occupation. Syria called upon the Council to adopt the draft resolution as a prerogative to place human rights in Palestine as a priority.

CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said Australia was deeply saddened by the Beit Hanoun incident and extended its condolences to the bereaved families of the victims. Australia understood that Israel had said it highly regretted the deaths of civilians and it welcomed Israel’s announcement that it would undertake a full investigation into the incident. Australia shared the international community’s deep concern at the escalation in violence since the kidnapping of Corporal Shalit in June and the increasing number of casualties in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Australia urged all sides to exercise utmost restraint to avoid actions that led to further violence or had an adverse humanitarian effect on the civilian population. Australia was concerned by the one-sided nature of this special session, which did not acknowledge the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel nor Israel’s right to defend its own population against these attacks. It was vital that the rocket attacks ceased. Australia recommended the Human Rights Council in the context of the session to act responsibly and to promote and protect human rights in a balanced and even-handed way. The singling out of one side only for blame in a complex situation was unhelpful and would do nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East.

GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon) said it seemed that Israel had been escalating its aggression in Gaza despite the various condemnations sounded by the international community. It was clear through these latest attacks in Beit Hanoun that the systematic Israeli practice of targeting civilians was still in place. Israel had hastened to give justifications. Israeli rockets had assassinated the peace process and the rights of Palestinian citizens without conscience. It was impossible to understand those States who had not yet condemned Israel for these actions. Lebanon called upon the Human Rights Council to provide a solution for this problem and respond to the Palestinian grievances.

CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was seriously concerned about the gross human rights violations committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and strongly condemned these transgressions. Recently, indiscriminate shelling in Northern Gaza and Beit Hanoun had killed 19 civilians, including women and children and wounded more than 60, destructed a number of civilian facilities and created a harsh humanitarian crisis. As in the past, Israel had been trying to justify this atrocity on the pretext of “self-defence”.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea believed that lasting peace was key to a fair solution to the Middle East question, including Palestine. It supported the position of the countries in the Middle East that they themselves should play the role of the masters in resolving regional problems in an impartial manner through dialogue and cooperation in accordance with the United Nations Charter and principles of international law as well as a series of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions.

ABDELMALEK AL RAYANI (Yemen) condemned the constant Israeli aggression committed against Palestinian civilians and the massacre in Beit Hanoun, as well as the persistent demolishing of homes and other unfair practices targeting civilians. The perpetrators of these acts must be brought to justice. The sending of a fact-finding mission by the Human Rights Council would be an act of great importance.

CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS (Colombia) expressed its solidarity with the people of Palestine and deplored the attacks in Beit Hanoun, in which civilians were killed. It also expressed its sympathy to the families of the victims. Colombia said that it was important to go back to the negotiating table to avoid future violations of human rights in the region.

BABACAR BA (Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that all members of the OIC had condemned the heinous acts carried out by Israel. The Council was once again called on to deliver a firm and clear message to Israeli authorities who continued to defy the international community on an ongoing basis. The massacre carried out in Beit Hanoun was just one episode in a vast campaign of murder and systematic attacks. The regrets expressed by Israel further expressed the cynicism and manifested their absolve for these heinous crimes. It was time for the Council to maintain its credibility to explore new initiatives to bring Israel to respect the basic rules of all States in a civilized world.

SILVANO TOMASI (Holy See) said in the short history of the Human Rights Council, it had been persistently challenged by violations of human rights in several places. It appeared that a priority of the Council should be to promote a dialogue to build confidence. The tragic spiral of violence in the Palestine and Israel should come to an end. Both parties must recognize their respective humanity and fully respect of human rights conventions and international humanitarian law. The international community should act to support the peaceful coexistence of both peoples. The international community should promote a peaceful environment. Instability worsened the situation of the civilian population in both countries. Pope Paul Benedict XVI had expressed the wish that God would enlighten Israel and the Palestinian authorities to put an end to the bloodshed and start
negotiations towards a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.

KHADIJA R. MASRI (African Union) condemned the Israeli military attack in Beit Hanoun, and expressed its indignation on account of the flagrant and systematic violation of human rights and of international humanitarian law. It was imperative for the international community to urgently address the tragic situation in Palestine and bring to an end Israeli aggressions that continued to take the lives of innocent civilians. The Council should face up to the challenge as a result of the recent Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The African Union endorsed sending a high-level fact-finding mission urgently to assess the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip, and particularly in Beit Hanoun.

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) expressed condemnation of the massive use of military force by the Israeli Forces in their attempts to stop the firing of homemade rockets from Gaza. It was recalled that more than 300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, many of them children, had lost their lives since the end of June. The international community was once again witnessing Israeli military retaliations which were disproportionate and contrary to international humanitarian law, and which only served to cultivate hatred and continued armed resistance. There was no military solution to this conflict. Norway urged the efforts of President Abbas to establish a national unity government which would reflect the demands as set out by the Quartet. Norway strongly urged restraint in carrying out retaliations that would hamper the efforts towards dialogue and peace.

DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said action must be taken to stop the killings and displacements. In order to understand the events in Gaza there was an urgent need to consider the implications of the Charter of Hamas. The Charter quoted Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, of which the Hamas was a wing, as stating “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”.

ROY BROWN, of International Humanist and Ethical Union, said that the international community should seek a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a renewed sense of urgency. Progress on this front rested on the recognition of both the Palestinian and Jewish national aspirations and on the establishment of two fully sovereign and independent states co-existing side by side in peace and security.

PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said Amnesty reiterated its serious concern about the grave violations and abuses of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel. The attack on 8 November in Beit Hanoun was only one in a series of Israeli attacks that had claimed the lives of more than 600 Palestinians, more than half of them unarmed civilians – including more than 100 children, and have wounded hundreds more since the beginning of 2006. Amnesty called for the establishment of an independent mechanism with a presence in the affected areas to monitor and oversee compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

KLAUS NETTER, of B’nai B’rith International, also on behalf of Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, voiced their deep dismay over the convening of this special session of the Council. Israel had expressed regret over the incident in Beit Hanoun and had also stated that it would undertake an investigation over the incident. The Council, in adopting the
current draft resolution, would perpetuate its one-sided and institutional bias against Israel. They urged fair-minded States to oppose this one-sided draft resolution.

RAJL SOURANI, of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said he had just came from Gaza where the human rights situation had never been worse. The level of killing and destruction was unprecedented by all means and standards. The Centre called for full respect of the Geneva Convention and for the protection of civilians in Palestine. There was a need for an effective international protection force to protect the people of the systematic war crimes against them.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said the special sessions of the Council denouncing Israel were more regular than the regular sessions concerning everything else in the world, and said this should be reversed. Reflection upon the actions of the one completed regular session, held in June, suggested, however, this may not be so simple. It was recalled that the regular session had created a special, permanent agenda item to denounce Israel, for all future sessions. The resolution being presented was entirely one-sided and ignored the systematic Palestinian firing of Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel.

LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, condemned the Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip, and said that the international community should not tolerate in the twenty-first century that a military and economic power continued to arm and support Israel in its effort to annihilate a whole civilization in the Arab world under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

SARAH LEAH WHITSON, of Human Rights Watch, called for an impartial investigation into the Israeli shelling leading to the death of 19 civilians. This was not an isolated incident. Almost all shelling attacks on Gaza had targeted civilians. The Israeli Defense Force’s policies had fallen far short of international standards. The Human Rights Council should hold a special session devoted to the situation in Darfur and should meet additional challenges to address human rights abuses whenever and wherever they were committed.

HANAN SHARFELDDIN, of International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, speaking on behalf of Union of Arab Jurists and Arab Lawyers Union, said that the massacre in Beit Hanoun as well as other violations of human rights were not acceptable to the international community, and that it should act immediately to redress the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They stated that the terrorist was the occupier and the freedom fighter was the one resisting the occupation.

General Comments Before Vote

PAUL MEYER (Canada), referring to the programme budget implications, said the document issued by the Secretariat to that effect was an indication that there was a need for additional time to consider the draft resolution. The delegate asked for clarification about the financial implications encompassed by the draft resolution being considered.

ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel) said Palestinians in the Gaza strip had acquired very sophisticated weapons to attack Israel. The only result of this resolution would be devaluating the mechanisms of the Council and exacerbating extremism. Those who supported this resolution did not support the cause of peace in the Middle East.

MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine) said the statement made by the delegate of Israel was reversing the facts. It was Israel which had sent millions of Palestinian refugees around the world and which had occupied Palestine. The tactics employed by Israel was to convince the Palestinian to accept occupation and the annexation of Jerusalem, which no one accepted, including the United States. The weapons that Palestine possessed were not significant, as had been claimed. The Palestinians were the victims of the occupation which should come to an end. Human rights and international humanitarian law should apply across the board to both Palestinians and Israelis.

Explanation of Vote Before the Vote

PABLO MACEDO (Mexico), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Mexico condemned the artillery attacks on Beit Hanoun which led to the death of 18 people, including women and children. Mexico also expressed deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a result of the Israeli occupation. It condemned the indiscriminate and disproportionate military action carried out by Israel. At the same time, Mexico condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Mexico would vote in favour of the resolution.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTÍNEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Guatemala was deeply concerned about the conflict in the Middle East and deeply regretted the loss of human lives and destruction of property. The conflict and the situation being experienced by the Palestinian people called for broad attention by the Human Rights Council to allow for positive action on the ground and thus lead to a lasting peace. Otherwise, the Council would not be fulfilling its role. Guatemala would abstain in its vote.

VESA HIMANEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the European Union had repeatedly expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. It condemned the Israeli attacks in Beit Hanoun, as well as the Palestinian rockets attacks into Israel and called for the immediate cease of hostilities. The Council should address violations of human rights wherever they occurred in a fair manner. The resolution did not fully reflect the situation taking into account the concerns of all the parties involved in the conflict. Therefore, the European Union would not support the resolution.

JUAN CARLOS FAIDUTTI ESTRADA (Ecuador) said Ecuador would support the resolution as it was of the view that it was well within the mandate of the Council to uphold and protect human rights and legal protection, as established in the Geneva Convention pertaining to the protection of civilians. On both sides of the conflict human lives were being lost and the Human Rights Council was obligated to protect the right to life. Ecuador supported all efforts to avoid any future incidents of these types, including that which occurred in Beit Hanoun. Ecuador was of the view that it was a moral imperative to establish the immediate responsibility of the perpetrators to these actions. The rule of law must be achieved through concrete action.

Explanation of Vote After the Vote

ICHIRO FUJISAKI (Japan), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Japan was deeply concerned about the situation in the Gaza Strip. It had urged utmost restraint, from both Israel and Palestine, to avoid further violations of human rights. The resolution was not fully balanced. Therefore, Japan decided to cast an abstention vote. Nevertheless, Japan continued to be deeply involved in humanitarian aid in the region, and reiterated its commitment to support the peaceful solution of the conflict.

RICARDO GONZALEZ ARENAS (Uruguay), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, noted that Uruguay voted in favour since the resolution contained points that were within the purview of the Council aimed at rejecting the human rights violations committed against the civilian population of Palestine perpetrated by Israel. The Council should try to avoid the systematic use of voting over resolutions and only use it as a last resort since the voting did not adequately reflect the concerns expressed. It was essential to reestablish a climate of confidence and dialogue in the consideration of these issues.

ALBERTO DUMONT (Argentina), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, noted with satisfaction that the paragraph suggested by another delegation was included in today’s resolution and this expressed flexibility on the part of the delegations sponsoring the resolution. Argentina expressed deep concern over the situation in the Gaza Strip and called upon Israel to deter from worsening the humanitarian situation in the area. At the same time, it called upon Palestine to stop launching rocket attacks on Israel. In that sense, Argentina wished that the resolution had been more balanced in reflecting with equal emphasis the violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian groups. Argentina said that the Council should strengthen its mechanisms to promote the human rights worldwide, and as much as possible the Council should adopt resolutions by consensus.

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, expressed concern over the tragic events that had taken the lives of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and particularly in Beit Hanoun. Actions affecting civilian populations were in violation of international humanitarian law and particularly the Geneva Conventions. These actions should come to a stop. France condemned the Israeli indiscriminate artillery attack on urban areas. Although it was legitimate for Israel to act in self-defence, Israel must exercise maximum restraint over its military operations to protect the Palestinian civilian population, and it must fully respect international humanitarian law. In addition, France condemned Palestinian rocket attacks into residential areas in Israel as well as the call by some Palestinian armed groups to renew suicide attacks. The Palestinian Authority should guarantee public order and combat terrorism. France thought that it could have been possible for the Council to adopt a text that also condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel and call all parties to an immediate cease of hostilities. France was concerned about the way special sessions were taking place and the fact that it was not possible for the Council to adopt resolutions by consensus. In casting an abstention vote, France hoped to appeal to all Council members in that respect.

SARALA FERNANDO (Sri Lanka), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said Sri Lanka had persistently expressed support for the people of Palestine to establishing their own State. Sri Lanka, which had voted in favor of the resolution, had been firmly committed to upholding human rights and international humanitarian laws in all situations. Sri Lanka was no stranger to suffering from trauma as a result of terrorist attacks. There should be a revitalized expression of peace.

BLAISE GODET (Switzerland), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Switzerland felt that it was not possible to support an unbalanced text, in spite of last minute improvements. One of the tasks of the Council was to denounce violations of human rights wherever they happened. For this reason, Switzerland had abstained.

ALEJANDRO NEYRA SANCHEZ (Peru) said Peru was concerned over the escalating violence in the Middle East and condemned the attacks in Beit Hanoun, which killed 18 Palestinian civilians. Peru urged all parties to cease violence and establish international humanitarian law as a way of protecting civilian populations. Peru hoped that the mission being sent to the region would help to mitigate the suffering of the civilian population. However, it was unclear whether the attacks were intentional or not and therefore Peru warned against any prejudging before the mission concluded its work. Violence, irrespective of its motivation, should not be tolerated. It was imperative upon all countries to fully comply with international laws and Peru hoped that this dialogue would help to relieve the crisis. The promotion and protection of all human rights was of utmost importance and should be the focus of efforts of the Council to reaching a lasting solution to the crisis.

SERGIO FLORENCIO (Brazil), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Brazil voted in favour of the resolution. The disproportionate military action of Israel in Beit Hanoun was unacceptable. Violence only fuelled conflict. Brazil called upon the international community to assist the Palestinian people to address the humanitarian crisis, including the large number of Palestinians in detention in Israeli prisons. It also called for the return of the captured Israeli soldier and an end to Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel, and resumption of diplomatic negotiations.

Related Links

  • Human Rights Council