Human rights situation of Palestinians still “dire”, General Assembly told

Palestinian children cover themselves against the rain in front of the Israeli army near the works of the wall during a demonstration against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Bal’in November 4, 2005. (MAANnews/Mushir Abdelrahman)


Despite some positive developments this year in the aftermath of the Sharm el Sheikh summit and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, witness testimony pointed to a dire human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, said the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, as the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin its consideration of the Special Committee’s report.

He said it was therefore essential that Israel and the Palestinian Authority took all action possible to build trust among and across communities on the basis that the two-State solution of independent States of Israel and Palestine, existing side by side, would soon be a reality. In this context, he pointed out that once again the Special Committee had not been allowed by Israel to visit the Occupied Territories and assess, at first hand, the human rights situation in Palestine. After 37 years of denying access for the Special Committee to the Occupied Territories, Israel should revisit the reasons behind such a refusal.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine said the Special Committee’s report presented a disturbing account of the grave human rights violations being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian population. The occupation had denied the Palestinians of their most basic rights and freedoms. The lack of accountability on the part of Israel, she said, was a clear statement that the occupying Power had a “complete disregard for Palestinian life”. On the issue of Gaza, she said that since the Israeli disengagement had been unilaterally planned and implemented, it had failed to recognize any Palestinian concerns and had left many critical issues unresolved.

The representative of Syria said Israel continued its occupation of the Golan, violating the rights of his people despite the international community’s refusal to accept the annexation. Israel had proved its enmity to peace through its expansionist policy and the construction of further settlements.

Jordan’s representative condemned the resurgence of suicide operations and the murder of civilians whatever the circumstances. He called on the parties to stop violence and show restraint, and said Israel must show the highest restraint while the Palestinian Authority was reforming the security section.

Other speakers said that the presence and continued construction of illegal settlements and the separation wall were seriously undermining the territorial integrity and contiguity of the Palestinian territory and were thus making the vision of a two-State solution nearly impossible.

Also speaking before the Committee this morning were the representatives of United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kuwait, Cuba, Malaysia and India.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 8 November, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the Special Committee’s report.

Background

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, it had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the thirty-seventh report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/60/380).

The report reflects the substance of information gathered during the Special Committee’s mission to Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic from 25 June to 9 July. The Special Committee met there with 46 witnesses representing Palestinian non-governmental organizations from the Occupied Territories and Israeli non-governmental organizations, as well as individuals from Syria. The report notes that, as in past years, the Special Committee was not authorized by Israel to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Section V of the report, summarizing the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, focuses on issues of particular concern in the light of the testimonies and material received: the right to self-determination; the right to freedom of movement; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to just and favourable conditions of work; the right to health and to education; the right to life, to liberty and security of persons; the right to freedom of opinion and of association; and the right to worship.

According to the report, witnesses drew attention to the combined effects of military occupation, continued construction of the wall on substantial portions of Palestinian land and the impact of Jewish settlements, which deprived whole communities from means of livelihood and jobs, as well as of access to schools, universities, health and social facilities and families. The report states that the witnesses implied in their testimonies a common feeling that Palestine was suffocating and going through a kind of silent death, unnoticed by the world. The disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip was seen by many as an ambiguous unilateral gesture that had not been negotiated with the Palestinians or within the Quartet, and that might even strengthen the Israeli hold on other parts of the West Bank.

The report says that during the Special Committee’s visit to Damascus, it received various documents from the Syrian authorities on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan. These included a statement from the Syrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation affecting all aspects of the life of families and communities, caused, among other things, by expansion of Jewish settlements, diversion of water resources, high taxes on agricultural resources, landmines and destruction of the Arab cultural identity.

In conclusion, the Special Committee reports that the year was marked by hopes expressed by Palestinians in the aftermath of the Sharm el Sheikh summit in February, and the announcement of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Although the Gaza withdrawal took place in a remarkably efficient way, hopes for progress in the Occupied Palestinian Territories tended to vanish in the face of persistent negative factors, such as the military occupation of the West Bank, the unabated construction of the separation wall, the severe infringements on freedom of movement, the steady expansion of Jewish settlements, and the relative silence and inaction of the international community regarding the implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations to the General Assembly, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It states that the Israeli Government should, among other things, recognize the de jure and de facto applicability of the Fourth Geneva convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, stop its policy of destroying houses and property, and the confiscation of large portions of land that affected the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian State, facilitate the reopening of the Gaza airport and seaport, and pursue the implementation of the Road Map.

The Palestinian Authority should, among other things, exert control over Palestinian armed groups, arrest and bring to justice those responsible for the planning of, or participation in, attacks against Israeli or Palestinian civilians and pursue implementation of the Road Map.

The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Special Committee (document A/60/294), submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 59/121. The report gives an overview of meetings of the Special Committee and the activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI) on the issue.

According to the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/60/295), no reply had been received to a note verbale from the Secretary-General, dated 14 July, to the Government of Israel, requesting information on any steps the Government had taken, or envisaged taking, concerning the implementation of Assembly resolution 59/124. Reacting to a note verbale sent by the Secretary-General on the same date to all permanent missions, the Permanent Mission of Cuba condemned the construction of a separation wall as one of the gravest breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It also condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements, the construction of new ones and the confiscation of Palestinian land, among other things, and it called for action by the Security Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Another report of the Secretary-General, on the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/60/296), was submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 59/122. The report states that on 14 July, the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to the Government of Israel, requesting that it inform him of any steps the Government had taken or envisaged taking concerning the implementation of the resolution, to which no reply had been received. In reply to a 14 July note verbale sent by the Secretary-General to all permanent missions, the Government of Lebanon emphasized the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and states that it had called for a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/60/297), Israel had not replied to a note verbale, dated 14 July, in which the Secretary-General requested that the Government inform him of any steps it had taken, or envisaged taking, concerning the implementation of Assembly resolution 59/123.

As stated in the Secretary-General’s report on The occupied Syrian Golan (document A/60/298), Israel had not replied to a similar note verbale, dated 15 July, regarding implementation of Assembly resolution 59/125. The Government of Lebanon sent a reply to the Secretary-General’s note verbale of the same date sent to Member States.

Related Links

  • Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/60/380)
  • UN Special Committee: “UN should be more innovative in its approaches to the question of Palestine” (28 October 2005)