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Human Rights Council holds urgent debate on raid by Israeli Defence Forces on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza

AFTERNOON
 
1 June 2010
 

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an urgent debate on the raid on a humanitarian aid convoy off the coast of Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces.

Kyung Wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, on behalf of the High Commissioner, said the Office of the High Commissioner was shocked that humanitarian aid would be met with such violence, and unequivocally condemned what appeared to be a disproportionate use of force. While details were still emerging, it was clear that the incident occurred in international waters, and that the Israeli military was highly excessive in its use of force. Yesterday, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner stressed the need for a full investigation into the incident, and the Security Council issued a statement that called for an investigation. In this context, any investigation must meet relevant international standards. It must be prompt, impartial, credible and independent.

Speaking as a concerned country, Israel expressed regret over any loss of life that occurred, but said the flotilla had not been on a humanitarian mission, but one of provocation and incitement. A state of armed conflict existed between Israel and the Hamas regime that controlled Gaza, and Israel had the right to protect its civilians from Hamas attacks, including the imposition of a maritime blockade. Israel provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla, while the ships had repeatedly been warned and offered to land the vessels in the Israeli port of Ashdod to transfer their aid through an existing land crossing. The flotilla organizers had made it clear that their primary goal was to target the maritime blockade, and Israeli soldiers used live ammunition only when they had no choice.

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, condemned this criminal Israeli act, which once again demonstrated and confirmed that Israel believed it was above the law. Indeed, such actions would not help improve Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or strengthen the ongoing peace process. As the event occurred in international waters, international law should have been observed. The Palestinian delegation insisted that a fact-finding commission be created to expose the truth on this latest attack by Israel. In the meantime, Israel should free all detained persons and should allow humanitarian assistance to reach the Gaza Strip. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel, had had a tremendously negative effect on the health and well-being of Palestinians living there. Israel should honor its obligations under international law and be punished accordingly for this most recent attack.

Turkey said the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid was hardly a threat to Israel, and treating humanitarian aid delivery as a hostile act, and aid workers as combatants, was totally unacceptable. Israeli actions could not be considered legal or legitimate and Turkey called on the Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attack, in order to ensure the accountability of those responsible. It was incumbent upon the Council to demonstrate that all were bound by international law, norms, and values, and Israel should immediately take the necessary steps that the international community was expecting; this would also help to prevent the undermining of the ongoing talks with a view to eventually reaching a just and durable peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Other countries called on Israel to release their nationals who were on the flotilla and were still being held. Speakers expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and said this act represented a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian populations in times of war. Numerous States commented on the need for a full and transparent international investigation of the incident to uncover the truth, determine responsibility and provide the victims with the necessary remedies and reparations. Many Council members called on Israel to end the blockade of Gaza and restore the movement and flow of commercial goods, humanitarian and reconstruction aid and persons to and from Gaza. States said that no country was above international law and allowed to disregard it with impunity, and Israel should fulfill its obligations to respect the rights of the occupied people as required by relevant international human rights instruments. Moreover, such acts of aggression only served to complicate the already fragile Middle East peace process.

The following countries spoke during the urgent debate: Egypt, Spain on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Brazil, France, Russian Federation, Norway, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Mexico, Cuba, Bahrain, Qatar, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Chile, China, Argentina, South Africa, Bangladesh, United States, India, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Japan, Republic of Korea, Italy, Pakistan, Djibouti, Tunisia, Kuwait, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Algeria, Venezuela, Greece, African Union, Morocco, Germany, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Holy See, New Zealand, Iran, Ireland, Sweden, Yemen, Lebanon, Paraguay and Oman.

The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 June for a full day of meetings, when it will continue with the urgent debate. The Council will then continue with the interactive dialogue on transnational corporations and corporate responsibility, the human rights implications of foreign debt, and the right to education.

Statement by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of the High Commissioner, said she wished to convey and echo the High Commissioner's profound regrets over the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli attack on the humanitarian convoy carrying aid to Gaza. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was shocked that humanitarian aid would be met with such violence, and it unequivocally condemned what appeared to be a disproportionate use of force. While details were still emerging, it was clear that the incident occurred in international waters, and that the Israeli military was highly excessive in its use of force. Yesterday, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner stressed the need for a full investigation into the incident, and the Security Council issued a statement that called for an investigation. In this context, any investigation must meet relevant international standards; it must be prompt, impartial, credible and independent.

Thousands of people in Gaza continued to suffer from a blockade that undermined human dignity and human rights, in particular the rights to food, shelter, work and education. In her most recent report on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the High Commissioner had recommended that Israel immediately lift the blockade, and this call was reiterated, so that the deteriorating human rights crisis could be immediately addressed with the urgency it required. This was one more in a series of actions that moved the Human Rights Council to act in response to violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The Israeli Government should take decisive action to demonstrate a clear commitment to the international community to abide by international law.

Statements from Concerned Countries

AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as concerned country, expressed regret over any loss of life that occurred yesterday and said that it would be appropriate to focus on the central issue. Israel asked if today’s meeting and outcome would contribute in any way to advance the goals of the Council and said that the efforts of moderate parties need to be supported in order to build upon the recently renewed peace talks between Israeli and the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip was still controlled by a terrorist organization that had ousted the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup. In the early hours of 31 May Israeli naval personnel boarded a flotilla attempting to violate the maritime blockade of Gaza. The assault against Israeli forces had been a premeditated act by IHH members, a Turkish organizing group with known radical anti-Western orientation. The attack on Israeli soldiers was beyond all doubt premeditated and the flotilla had not been on a humanitarian mission but one of provocation and incitement. They had used knives and clubs and shot two Israeli soldiers. Israel was justified under international law in acting against the flotilla. A state of armed conflict existed between Israel and the Hamas regime that controlled Gaza. Israel had the right to protect its civilians from Hamas attacks, including the imposition of a maritime blockade. Israel had provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla, while the ships had repeatedly been warned and offered the possibility to land the vessels in the Israeli port and to transfer their aid through the existing land crossing. The flotilla organizers had made it clear that their primary goal was to target the maritime blockade. Israel attempted to take control of vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and Israeli forces took the necessary steps to capture the vessel in an operation that clearly indicated vigilance and proportionality. Israeli soldiers used live ammunition only when they had no choice. The flotilla’s cargo was now in the process of being off-loaded in the Port of Ashod and the humanitarian items would be transferred overland to Gaza.

IMAD ZUHAIRI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said that legal measures should be taken against Israel for this recent crime. The international community needed to work to ensure that international law was respected. The Palestinian delegation condemned this criminal act, which once again demonstrated and confirmed that Israel believed that it was above the law. Indeed, such actions would not help in improving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or strengthening the ongoing peace process. As the event occurred in international waters, international law should have been observed. The Palestinian delegation insisted that a fact-finding commission should be created to expose the truth on this latest attack by Israel. In the meantime, Israel should free all detained persons and should allow humanitarian assistance to reach the Gaza Strip. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel, had had a tremendously negative effect on the health and well-being of Palestinians living there. Israel should honour its obligations to international law and be punished accordingly for this most recent attack.

Urgent Debate

AHMET UZUMCU (Turkey) said the Council was seized to address a grave incident which occurred yesterday in international waters; a civilian humanitarian convoy sailing to Gaza was attacked by Israeli forces, at least 10 civilians were killed, and several wounded. Israeli action was unjustified, and constituted a grave breach of international law. The flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid was hardly a threat to Israel. Treating humanitarian aid delivery as a hostile act and aid workers as combatants was totally unacceptable. Israeli actions could not be considered legal or legitimate. The Human Rights Council should unanimously condemn this appalling act by adopting the draft resolution submitted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group. The Council should also decide to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attack, in order to ensure the accountability of those responsible. The ships must be released, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to its destination be allowed. Israel must immediately end the blockade of Gaza in order to ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel, and medical material. It was incumbent upon the Council to demonstrate that all were bound by international law, norms, and values, and Israel should take immediately the necessary steps that the international community was expecting; this would also help to prevent that this grave incident undermine the ongoing talks with a view to eventually reaching a just and durable peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

HISHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemned the outrageous and unlawful Israeli attack on the flotilla carrying humanitarian and aid supplies to the Palestinian population in Gaza. The Non-Aligned Movement called for a full and transparent international investigation of the incident to uncover the truth, determine the responsibilities and provide the victims with the necessary remedies and reparations. This serious violation of international law was clearly unacceptable and brought once again to the fore the vital issue of ending the Israeli siege on Gaza and on all other Occupied Palestinian Territories. This Council and the international community should deliver a strong response and message on the urgent and immediate ending of the Israeli siege. This latest attack was yet another example of Israel’s total disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law and a belief that its actions enjoyed a particular immunity or some kind of exception from the obligation to respect international norms. For a long time the Gaza Strip had been suffering from a humanitarian disaster further compounded by the Israeli military operations of December/January 2009. The Non-Aligned Movement called on the Council to assume its responsibilities and to unanimously adopt a firm resolution condemning the attack of yesterday and to send a united political message that such behaviour was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. The people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were looking to this Council expecting a helping hand, a sense of humanity and fairness, a commitment to justice and an end to all suffering.

JAVIER GARRIGUES (Spain on behalf of the European Union) said the European Union expressed deep concern about the events that took place on May 31 and sent its condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. The European Union condemned the use of violence that had resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and supported the Security Council’s demands for an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them. The European Union also demanded the immediate release of the remaining ships and the civilians held by Israel. Fully recognizing Israel’s legitimate security needs, the European Union asked the State of Israel to promote the movement and flow of commercial goods, humanitarian and reconstruction aid and persons to and from Gaza. The European Union did not accept the continued policy of closure, which it deemed unacceptable and politically counterproductive. With the view of resuming direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the European Union called on all relevant parties to strive to prevent a further escalation of tensions.

ZAMIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Organization of the Islamic Conference wished to reiterate its strong condemnation of the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against these innocent people. These were blatant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law for which Israeli forces and its leadership were fully responsible and must be held accountable. Israel should no longer be allowed to hide behind the façade of fighting so-called terrorism to unleash a reign of terror on innocent Palestinians and now on other nationalities as well. The Organization of the Islamic Conference fully supported the call for independent, credible and immediate investigations into this violation of international law by Israel, with a view to taking strong legal action against those responsible. It also supported the call to immediately lift the inhuman and illegal blockade imposed on the people of Gaza since 2007. These murderous attacks were characteristic tools used by Israel to derail every peaceful effort and silence every voice of moderation and reason, and a brutal reminder to the international community of Israel’s continuing violations of all human rights and total disregard for international human rights and humanitarian laws. The Organization of the Islamic Conference hoped the Council would decide on the most appropriate manner to hold independent, credible and timely investigations into the matter. Israel should fully cooperate with the international independent investigations into these violations of human rights law with a view to fixing responsibility and holding accountable those responsible for these heinous crimes.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern about the grave attack yesterday by the Israeli forces against the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and supplies to the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This action represented a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian populations in times of war. The African Group welcomed the opportunity to discuss this issue and welcomed the Presidential Statement of the Security Council which condemned the act that had led to the loss of life and injury. Israel should fulfil its obligations to respect the rights of the occupied people as required by relevant international human rights instruments. Nothing less was expected of this Council than to stand for the time-honoured virtues of peace and justice and respect for human dignity. The African Group urged Israeli authorities to release, without delay, all the boats and personnel and to take concrete and strong actions against those responsible for these violations and condemnable acts against civilians.

HAMZA AHMED (Sudan) speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Arab Group was concerned about this atrocious attack on the Freedom Flotilla. The Arab Group thanked the strong position taken by the Council and condemned Israel for the attack. While the attack was clearly illegal, as it occurred in international waters, the real problem was the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Arab Group urged Israel to release those detained and to return the dead to their families and release the ships. The Palestinian people had suffered immeasurably from the blockade and the Arab Group demanded that Israel open up the borders and maritime access to Gaza. The accountability of the Human Rights Council was at stake and the Arab Group thanked all States for their strong words of condemnation and urged others to stop protecting Israel. The Arab Group announced that it had proposed a draft resolution, which they hoped would be adopted by consensus.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil) said this time, self-defence was hardly a legitimate excuse for violent actions. This meeting was a painful exercise for Brazil, which was friends with both Israel and Palestine. Brazil genuinely supported and believed in peaceful negotiations that would lead to a two-State solution, with the creation of a sovereign, democratic, independent, united and viable Palestinian State, coexisting peacefully alongside Israel, within secure, pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Relations of Brazil had issued a note vehemently condemning the attack, expressing condolences to the families of the victims, and calling for a full and independent investigation in light of international law and international humanitarian law. Brazil called upon Israel to immediately lift the blockade and to ensure unrestricted access into Gaza of humanitarian material and personnel, including food, fuel, medical treatment and reconstruction goods and services. This incident represented one of the many deleterious effects of the Gaza blockade on the enjoyment of human rights. While fully recognising Israel's right to defend its people and territory against all kinds of aggressions, within the realm of international law, Brazil urged Israel to reconsider its security policies - they were evidently not working for peace and, worse, they were not working for Israel.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said France condemned the disproportionate use of force during the Israeli military operation against the humanitarian flotilla destined for Gaza. France cautioned that before drawing any conclusions, it was necessary to determine what really took place and that was why it had called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent inquiry in this matter in line with international norms. This matter reminded the international community of two essential points, on the one hand, the necessity to establish humanitarian access to Gaza by lifting the blockade that was not only undesirable but also illegal. On the other hand, the international community was reminded that it was imperative to make rapid progress in the search for political solutions to the conflict. Otherwise, they would witness the escalation of ever more bloody incidents.

MARINA KORUNOVA (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation condemned the attack by the Israeli Defence Forces on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid. The ship under attack was carrying medicine, food and construction materials and should not have been the recipient of such an attack. The Russian Federation demanded a full and impartial investigation into this tragic situation. The use of armed force against civilians, especially in international waters, should not be accepted. Moreover, such acts of aggression only served to complicate the already fragile Middle East peace process. Real steps aimed at alleviating the socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip needed to be addressed urgently. Finally, the Russian Federation expressed its opinion that there should be an open border post into the Gaza Strip.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway) said Norway was shocked that Israeli naval forces had shot and killed civilians while boarding a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza, and condemned this use of military force against civilians. So far, there was little specific information about what actually happened. What was permitted in situations like this was clearly defined in international law - the rules of international law could not be set aside for political or military purposes. The circumstances surrounding this incident and the number of people killed underscored the need for an independent, international investigation. This meeting was a swift reaction by the Human Rights Council, and it was an important precedent. Norway expected the Council to respond in an equally effective manner to other serious incidents relevant to its mandate to protect human rights. A decision by the Council must add value to the overall response by the United Nations and be in full conformity with its mandate. It was vital that the closure regime imposed on Gaza was lifted so that humanitarian aid and other necessary assistance could reach the Palestinian population.

CARLOS ROBELO RAFFONE (Nicaragua) said that the violations of human rights and the most basic rules of international law committed by Israel against unarmed civilians in the mission of peace and hope required a firm condemnation of this Council. The brutal massacre committed by the Zionist regime against the humanitarian flotilla could not be tolerated once more not even by those countries which, because of their economic and political interests, closed their eyes in front of injustice. The United Nations had the responsibility to ensure that all the recommendations that were part of its mandate were implemented. The international community could not continue to witness those massacres while they sat in the Council drafting recommendations, the recipients of which just set them aside as if they were used toilet paper. If the United Nations was to guarantee peace and security in the world then they must ensure that multimillion dollar budgets were put aside to combat poverty, hunger and unemployment. The time had come for the United Nations to take up its responsibility and undertake decisive measures to restore order. Nicaragua expressed its solidarity with Turkey and the families of the victims and with the Palestinian people who had suffered decades of injustice.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that yesterday’s attacks in the international territorial waters off Gaza represented a blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel. Indonesia condemned the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces who stormed the Mavi Marmara ship, which was transporting much needed aid to people in the Occupied Gaza Strip. Indonesia was also distressed to learn that many of the humanitarian activists, including several Indonesian citizens, were now being detained by Israel, the occupying power. The international community must work together to ensure that Israel was held accountable for its serious crimes and that the welfare of the Palestinian people continued to be a matter of the highest priority on the human rights agenda. No country was above the law and the unjustified blockade of the Gaza Strip constituted both a clear violation of international law and fundamental human rights and denied the Palestinian people access to humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical treatment.

ARTURO HERNANDEZ BASAVE (Mexico) said Mexico had decisively condemned the armed attack carried out in international waters against civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and regretted the loss of life. This incident was a severe violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law, international humanitarian law, and violated resolutions of different United Nations bodies, including those asking Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The Government of Mexico called for an investigation, and a lifting of the blockade and a free-flowing distribution of humanitarian aid. The Government should provide information on the whereabouts and situation of civilians on board the flotilla who had been detained or wounded. The Human Rights Council must take a stand on these violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Mexico stated the importance for United Nations bodies to be able to respond in a timely and appropriate way to such situations, and that countries cooperate so that United Nations bodies could be effective.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that this session of the Council started yesterday with the terrible news of the attack by the Israeli army in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Cuba condemned in the strongest terms this attack and the fact that it took place in international waters was even more worrying since it violated the principle of freedom of navigation. Concrete measures must be taken and impartial international investigation that would identify those responsible and bring them to justice must take place. Victims and their families must receive reparation and the occupying power must put an end to its policies, lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and renounce its genocide policies against the Palestinian population in Gaza and all occupied territories including East Jerusalem. International powers that provided Israel with the cloak that shield it from its responsibility would have to answer to history.

MUNA ABBAS RADHI (Bahrain) said Bahrain insisted that the use of force against civilians who only wanted to bring humanitarian aid should be condemned as it violated international humanitarian law. The international community should take its responsibility in light of these terrorist attacks and independent investigations should be conducted into these events. Bahrain called upon the international community to take its legal responsibility to put an end to the occupation and lift the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people, and called upon this Council to adopt unanimously the draft resolution.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said Qatar wished to express sincere solidarity with the families of the dead and wounded, and stood by them. Yesterday, through live coverage, a barbaric act was witnessed perpetrated on those trying to provide humanitarian assistance to those who were in dire need of it, with the death of more than 10 people and the wounding of scores. Israel had forced many of the humanitarian activists to return home corpses in coffins. The crimes that were committed yesterday reminded all that there was an unjust deed, an open wound which continued to bleed in the Gaza Strip, and anyone who spoke of freedom, justice and democracy should break this siege, so that the noble blood of the victims did not flow in vein. The flotilla presented no threat to Israel or to any other nations, and thus the claims of Israel that some members on the ships were extremists were rejected. Israel was guilty of using live fire against unarmed civilians in international waters where international law guaranteed the freedom of sailing. The Council should hold Israel accountable for this illegal action and for its crimes. The international community should ensure that international justice examined the perpetrators of this crime and their actions, as this was clearly a violation of international law and an act of piracy. All detainees and wounded must be immediately released to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

MAYSA URENA MENACHO (Bolivia) said Bolivia most decisively condemned the criminal attack of the Israeli Defence Forces on the flotilla that was bringing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population that continued to suffer from the inhuman blockade of Gaza. This brutal attack against defenceless civilians was a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Bolivian Government offered its deep condolences to families of victims and to the people and Government of Turkey. It reconfirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people, in particular the residents of the Gaza Strip. This Council must demand an investigation of this criminal act and a punishment of the perpetrators. No country could be above international law and Israel must immediately release those detained during the attack on the convoy. The Council had the moral duty to demand that Israel put an immediate end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said once again Israel had committed a massacre, and all of this on the eve of the opening of the Human Rights Council, highlighting Israel’s complete disrespect for the lives of civilians. Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the act committed by Israel yesterday, which reflected Israel’s inhuman practices and prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the Palestinian people. The international community should take action and respond to this aggression. Yesterday, many people were shocked by the attack on the convoy which was intended to bring medical aid to the Palestinian people who suffered and lacked access to medical goods. Saudi Arabia called upon the international community to ensure that Israel lifted its blockade and respected its international obligations. The international community should take these steps in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Saudi Arabia welcomed the High Commissioner’s statement which condemned Israel’s actions and called for an independent investigation. Saudi Arabia called upon all members of the Human Rights Council to support the draft resolution before the Council.

SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said Jordan welcomed the convening of this urgent debate on yesterday’s attack by Israeli forces against innocent civilians who risked their lives for being human rights defenders, humanitarian workers and peace activists. Jordan condemned the heinous attacks on the freedom convoy as a flagrant violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in total disregard for humanity. It was ironic to note that pirates received better humanitarian treatment than humanitarian workers, activists, and defenders. Jordan deplored the tragic loss of life and the injuries resulting from this despicable attack. Jordan welcomed the Presidential statement of the Security Council, and called for the faithful implementation of its provisions. This statement and others stressed the imperative to launch an independent, credible, and full investigation into the events, in compliance with international standards. Jordan also supported the call to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, and to free the detainees immediately. This was a crucial point for the Council, and it should strive to follow up on the situation.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) said Chile condemned the use of force in all its forms and especially in the incident that had taken place yesterday in international waters. The responsibility of this Council was to be seized with situations such as this. Chile reiterated its standing commitment to the peace process in the Middle East via a constructive dialogue and negotiated solutions towards two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and with respect for international law.

QIAN BO (China) said China supported the Human Rights Council in giving continued attention to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including east Jerusalem. China condemned the recent grave attacks perpetrated by the Israeli navy which had led to serious casualties. The Middle East process was at a standstill at present and the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remained alarming. This incident had further exacerbated the already very difficult situation. China urged Israel to restore a normal life to the people in the region. China had always held that political negations were the only solution and therefore hoped that both sides would continue peace talks.

ALBERTO J. DUMONT (Argentina) said Argentina condemned the attack by Israeli forces on the vessels taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, leading to the deaths of many civilians, and the wounding of more. This needed to be understood in the context of the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip, which robbed the Palestinian people of their dignity. The prohibition on the freedom of movement and clear restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid were facts. The need to avoid a vacuum in protection when faced with violations of human rights and the urgency for the Council to act speedily in the face of human rights violations was the reason for the holding of this special sitting. An exhaustive investigation of the events should be carried out - it should also be prompt, independent and credible. There should be an immediate stop to acts of violence which made the situation in the Middle East even worse, and there should be a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, an easing of sanctions, and an improvement of the flow of humanitarian aid.

KGOMOTSO DAPHNE RAHLAGA (South Africa) said South Africa strongly condemned all military aggression by Israel against innocent civilians, including those in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. South Africa’s Government had strongly criticized the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 and had consistently urged the Israeli Government to lift its siege of Gaza. It was the siege itself that had prompted the international community to organize such relief efforts to the territory and therefore Israel stood solely responsible for the loss of life during this action. The South African Government recalled the Goldstone report which had been highly critical of Israel’s military actions in Gaza with the resultant loss of life of civilians. South Africa called for a concerted effort to bring about a broader solution to the question of Palestine, which would contribute to the establishment of peace in the region.

MD. ABDUL HANNAN (Bangladesh) said that what had happened to the humanitarian convey carrying relief material to Gaza was appalling; operations had targeted unarmed innocent civilians who intended to bring relief materials to lessen the plight of the Palestinian people under blockade for a long time. Bangladesh condemned these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms and called for international action against the perpetrators as well as for an immediate and credible independent international inquiry into the operation. There was also a need for a sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza and for unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza, the delegation said. The international community had the collective responsibility to pressurize Israel to end the blockade; if the international community failed to take prompt and decisive action, all would be complicit in unlawful Israeli policies that were challenging the survival of the entire Palestinian people living in occupied Gaza.

EILEEN C. DONAHOE (United States) said the United States’ Government was deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regretted the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the May 31 incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships. The United States expected a credible and transparent investigation, and strongly urged the Israeli Government to investigate the incident fully. The United States remained deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and the deterioration of the situation there, including the humanitarian and human rights situation. All parties should behave responsibly and uphold their international obligations. The situation in Gaza was unsustainable, and was not in the interest of any of those concerned. Mechanisms were in place for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza - these non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. The United States would continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel's legitimate security concerns. Ultimately, this incident underscored the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that could lead to a comprehensive peace in the region.

GOPINATHAN ACHAMKULANGARE (India) said that India deplored the loss of life and injuries caused by the violent action yesterday on ships carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza. India remained deeply concerned about such incidents, which had the effect of serving as avoidable obstacles to the peace process. India urged both sides to work to defuse the situation and requested that Israel investigate the incident and cooperate with the international community. The solution to the Palestinian issue should be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Road Map resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine.

LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE (Uruguay) said Uruguay condemned the military actions undertaken by Israeli forces against a convoy of vessels that navigated in international waters and headed for the Gaza Strip. The Government of Uruguay also expressed its deep concern at the lamentable loss of human lives and expressed its solidarity with the families of victims. It requested a rapid and independent investigation of what had happened and urged the Israeli Government to cooperate in that investigation in compliance with its international humanitarian obligations. Furthermore, humanitarian aid should be immediately re-established for the civilian population of Gaza.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said it was right that the Human Rights Council should address this situation of concern, and should support the statement by the Security Council with a strong, consensual outcome. The United Kingdom believed it was a matter of grave concern that Israeli actions should end in such a heavy and tragic loss of life. There was an unambiguous need for Israel to provide a full account of what occurred, and why the death toll was so high, and to establish whether enough was done to prevent deaths and unnecessary injuries. There should be a prompt, international and credible investigation into the events. The incident should be viewed through the perspective of the intolerable situation in Gaza, where the closure was unacceptable and counterproductive, and should be lifted immediately, as per United Nations resolutions. The international community must meet its responsibilities and alleviate suffering in Gaza. All should help with economic aid and reconstruction and development. It was essential that the proximity talks progress, and that the parties enter into discussions as soon as possible. It was important that there be no resort to further violence, and that the situation not be allowed to deteriorate further. The crossings should be opened to allow unfettered access to Gaza. Israel must allow the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods, and persons to and from Gaza, consistent with United Nations resolutions. All parties should comply with the call for renewed and urgent efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace.

SHINICHI KITAJIMA (Japan) said Japan welcomed the urgent debate and was shocked that people onboard ships carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip were victimized as a result of a confrontation with the Israeli Defence Forces. Japan condemned the violent acts of this tragic incident and urged that a full investigation be conducted and that the situation be fully clarified. Japan called upon all parties concerned to use the utmost constraint and refrain from activities that could result in a cycle of violence. Japan reiterated that it would continue to extend humanitarian assistance as well as support to the efforts towards the promotion of the Middle East peace process and would like to work with the international community to promote and protect human rights in this region.

SANG-KI PARK (Republic of Korea) said the Republic of Korea deeply regretted the tragic loss of lives and the injuries resulting from the use of force during Israel’s military operation against the convoy sailing to Gaza and expressed its deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims. The Republic of Korea called for prompt, credible and transparent investigations in line with international standards into the incident. The Republic of Korea also urged the parties to refrain from any unilateral and provocative actions, which could lead to a cycle of violence and hamper the ongoing proximity talks. Dialogue represented the only way to bring peace to the Middle East. The Republic of Korea reasserted its commitment to do its part in the shared responsibility to maintain peace and security and promote and protect human rights.

LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy) said Italy was gravely concerned about the events that took place on 31 May, and deplored the acts of violence that occurred during the Israeli operation in international waters which resulted in the loss of many lives and a great number of wounded. This act of violence had no justification, and needed to be condemned. An immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and their circumstances was necessary, and Israel should take all necessary measures to cast light on the dynamic of these dramatic events. While confirming Israel's legitimate needs for security, Italy underlined the appalling humanitarian situation of the Gaza people, as was the need to guarantee their human rights. Italy called upon Israel to promote and facilitate an immediate and unconditional flow of humanitarian and reconstruction aid as well as commercial goods and the movement of persons to and from Gaza. All parties should avoid any escalation of tensions and turn to the negotiating process in a constructive spirit in view of a comprehensive and final solution to the conflict.

ZAMIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said Pakistan strongly condemned the assault by the Israeli Defence Forces on the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla. This unwarranted and unprovoked military action by Israel against a humanitarian mission constituted a flagrant violation of international law and norms and values of humanity. Pakistan expected the international community to take note of this brutal act and to ensure the safety and security of all persons who were on this humanitarian mission. Pakistan supported calls for an independent, credible and immediate investigation with a view to taking strong legal action against those responsible for this violation of human rights and humanitarian laws. Finally, Pakistan said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had become intolerable and unacceptable and that Israel should support, not undermine, an amicable solution of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the Security Council resolutions, the Quartet’s Road Map and the targets outlined in the outcome of the Annapolis Summit.

MOHAMMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) expressed Djibouti’s very serous concern following the grave and deadly attacks launched by Israeli military forces against the humanitarian convey. With that attack against civilians, which could not be justified on any grounds, Israel had once again violated international law and confirmed that it was not interested in peace talks to succeed. The international community recognized that the blockade was equivalent to collective punishment. Djibouti supported all mechanisms aimed at delivering goods to the people of the Gaza Strip. Djibouti urged Israel to release all Palestinian detainees and said the international community could not accept that intransigence became a norm.

ABDELWAHEB JEMAL (Tunisia) said this was a very difficult situation after Israel attacked a humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters. Tunisia strongly condemned this attack, which led to numerous victims, and rejected any hostile act that was indeed a flagrant violation of international law and the will of the international community. Such acts only exacerbated the situation and undermined the peace efforts. Tunisia was against the collective punishment carried out by Israel, and demanded that the blockade of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip be lifted, and that the Palestinian people be allowed to build an independent State. To attack human rights defenders from 40 countries was a blatant violation of international law. The Human Rights Council should adopt the draft resolution unanimously.

DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said Kuwait demanded the immediate release of all detainees and their safe return. Israel should release immediately 18 Kuwaiti detainees, among them six women, who had been on this peaceful humanitarian mission to assist Palestinians. Although the Spokesman of Israel’s Foreign Ministry proclaimed the aid convoy Freedom Flotilla was a violation of international law, Kuwait believed that the real violation of humanitarian law was the siege and occupation of Gaza.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland) said Switzerland was strongly concerned following the incidents that had occurred yesterday in international waters and was shocked by the number of deaths and wounded. In line with the Geneva Conventions, Israel had the obligation to ensure that the civilian population in the occupied territories received supplies in terms of food, medical, humanitarian, and other goods. All humanitarian aid must reach its destination without interference, and it was essential that crossing points be established for these goods.

MOHAN PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said Sri Lanka strongly condemned the attack yesterday by the Israeli security forces on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and deeply regretted the loss of life and injuries resulting from this use of force in international waters. This incident was yet another reminder that a just and peaceful resolution to the issue of Palestine in all its aspects was the only way forward to achieve a durable solution to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to bring security to the greater Middle East region. There was also an urgent need to put an end to the continuing blockade on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. The international community should intensify its efforts to address the urgent humanitarian situation in the occupied territories in order to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinian people. All parties should forge an early solution based on the two-State settlement envisaged by all, to establish a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine.

HASHIM OTHMAN (Malaysia) said Malaysia expressed its solidarity with the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and joined others in condemning the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Israel against the humanitarian activists on board the Gaza bound humanitarian ship. The assault in international waters was a flagrant and serious breach of international law. Malaysia called upon Israel to immediately lift the media blackout and to make public the identities of those killed and injured. This latest Israeli action underscored the need for the international community to act concertedly to push the occupying power to end the inhumane blockade against Gaza, whose population continued to suffer from a deepening humanitarian crisis.

ZEHOR HASSAN MOHAMMED (Sudan) said Sudan supported the statements made by the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General and expressed indignation at this violation of international law which was a violation of all international instruments. Sudan was shocked, as were all countries, at this outrageous attack, and asked Israel to free detainees and the vessels, as well as to allow the flow of aid to the population in Gaza. Sudan also asked the Human Rights Council to take up its responsibility and compensate the families of the victims. It presented its condolences to Turkey and Palestine. Sudan hoped that the blockade on Gaza and all Occupied Territories would be lifted and said it supported the draft resolution.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said Algeria paid tribute to the victims of the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla. Victims of the crime that they were discussing today were humanitarian workers who tried to break the blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007. Israel committed two violations, first against the people who tried to help and secondly against the population of occupied Gaza. The step taken by Israel yesterday represented a new crime, piracy in international waters, and had further endangered stability of the region. Algeria had condemned this crime and called on the Council to condemn it too and to fulfil its mandate. The Council must demand the release of those detained and must demand an international inquiry in the events, retribution for victims and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said Venezuela condemned this horrific nocturnal attack and expressed its solidarity and sympathy with the families of the victims. The world was once again witnessing blatant human rights abuses and impunity caused by the Israeli Defence Forces. Venezuela reaffirmed its undying commitment to the self-determination of the Palestinian people and condemned the terrorist and criminal actions perpetrated by the Government of Israel.

GEORGE J. KAKLIKIS (Greece) said Greece deplored the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the military operation in international waters against the flotilla of activists sailing to Gaza. At this time of mourning, Greece extended its sincere condolences to the families of the victims for their tragic loss and wished those injured a speedy recovery. Greece condemned the disproportionate use of force during the said military operation and expected from the Israeli authorities that they allow the immediate, safe and unhindered departure of all civilians, including Greek passengers, and that they release Greek vessels.

KHADIJA RACHIDA MASRI (African Union) said that once again the Human Rights Council was meeting to discuss acts by the Israeli occupying power which continued to violate the rights of the Palestinian people and international law with fully impunity. The Commission of the African Union was deeply shocked by the deadly raid carried out by the Israeli security forces against the convoy and this operation against a peaceful convoy was a serious violation against international norms. The Commission of the African Union strongly condemned this act and called for an investigation to establish responsibilities. Those arrested by Israeli armed forces should be immediately released. The Commission of the African Union reiterated its solidarity with the Palestinian people conforming to resolutions and pertinent decisions of the international community.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said Morocco was deeply shocked and concerned at the attack by Israel and extended its condolences to the families of the victims. Morocco was very concerned that Israel had once again used a disproportionate use of force. This was a flagrant violation of international law and humanitarian norms, in particular since the attack took place in international waters. Morocco called upon Israel to immediately release all detained civilians as well as the vessels. There was no doubt that this action undermined and threatened the Middle East peace process. Tragedy yesterday meant that it was absolutely imperative that the Quartet Road Map and relevant United Nations resolutions be respected and upheld.

REINHARD SCHWEPPE (Germany) said Germany was highly concerned about the incident which had occurred Monday morning in international waters in the Mediterranean and deeply regretted the loss of lives and injuries that occurred in the course of the military operation. That incident had affected German citizens, including members of the Federal Parliament who were on board the vessels. Germany called upon the Israeli Government to grant consular access and assistance to all persons who were on board the ships and to immediately release all German citizens. Germany referred to the Presidential statement of the Security Council and called for a comprehensive, transparent and impartial investigation of all circumstances of the incident.

PETER WOOLCOTT (Australia) said Australia was shocked and saddened by this terrible incident and deplored the violence and loss of life. Australia called on Israel to undertake credible investigation into the incident. The continuing humanitarian situation in Gaza was of deep concern to Australia. Gaza’s border controls should be eased for the purpose of the delivery of humanitarian supplies and aid. Australia understood that Israel had genuine security concerns. Australia would continue to lend its strong support to efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations.

OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) said the United Arab Emirates expressed its sincere condolences to the victims of the shocking Israeli attack, who died for noble causes. This act of aggression was a frank and blatant violation of human rights and humanitarian law, including international maritime law. The United Arab Emirates demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees from the Freedom Flotilla.

WENDY HINTON (New Zealand) said New Zealand condemned the violence and the loss of life and joined the call of other countries for an investigation. This violent event underscored the fact that the situation of Gaza was not sustainable and New Zealand urged efforts to find a solution.

SEYED MOHAMMAD REZA SAJJADI (Iran) said Iran welcomed the convening of the Human Rights Council’s urgent debate on this issue. This Israeli attack was inhuman, a flagrant breach of international law and an international crime. Those responsible for the crime should be tried immediately. No concrete measures had been taken until now and the aggressors continued to systematically violate human rights. Iran urged the international community to increase its pressure on Israel in order to end the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip. The international community also had to ensure the uninhibited provision of humanitarian aid to Palestinians, who had suffered under Israeli occupation for the last six decades.

GERARD CORR (Ireland) said Ireland deplored the disproportionate and unacceptable action by the Israeli Government. It was important to once again recognize the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Furthermore, the blockade imposed by Israel effectively amounted to collective punishment of the people of Gaza, constituted a violation of international humanitarian law, and imposed needless and grave suffering on the entire population. Apart from agreeing to an immediate, full and impartial enquiry, Ireland also called on Israel to provide total and complete consular access to the persons in the convoy.

HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said Sweden condemned the actions of Israel’s armed forces against the humanitarian convoy. While Sweden recognized Israeli’s security concerns, it was clear that the Israeli actions were in violation of international law. Sweden called for a concerted action of this Council. The investigation that many called for today should be international and should investigate violation of all laws, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Sweden requested that Israel deliver all the humanitarian aid to its destination. These tragic events underscored that Israeli policies towards Gaza had been counterproductive and sustainable solution must now be found. The blockade of Gaza must now come to an end.

IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said Yemen thanked the Council for the interest it had shown for the plight of the Palestinian people and for the discussion of Israel’s attack on the humanitarian flotilla. Yemen also expressed its sincere condolences to the concerned families and condemned the attack as well as Israel’s policy of violence against the population of Gaza Strip and other Occupied Palestinian Territories. That was a total disregard of the principles of international humanitarian law and highlighted Israel’s aggressive attitude. Those aggressions were simply another step in the long list of criminal acts committed against the Palestinian people, which also included the blockade that violated the Geneva Conventions. Yemen called upon the Council to consider the possibility of conducting an independent investigation and hoped the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.

NAJLA RIACHI ASSAKER (Lebanon) said it was impossible for Lebanon to express its outrage with words. Although Lebanon supported the international condemnation of Israel, statements were ineffective with Israel. This was indeed a criminal act that would be added to Israel’s long list of atrocious acts. The attack on the flotilla was an unjustifiable act of aggression in international waters and constituted a threat to international security and stability. Lebanon therefore called on all international powers to put an end to the intransigence and called for the immediate release of the detainees, the ships and the cargo.

FEDERICO A. GONZALEZ (Paraguay) said Paraguay expressed its indignation at the attack perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the humanitarian convoy in international waters. The Government of Paraguay rejected any type of aggression, condemned the use of force and called for a peaceful and constructive dialogue in order to avoid any loss of life. Paraguay supported the actions of the Secretary-General and the Security Council to undertake a complete investigation of the events and avoid escalation of violence.

YAHYA SALIM AL-WAHAIBI (Oman) said Oman deplored the attack against the convoy that had been intercepted by Israel’s naval forces in international waters on Monday, leading to numerous victims, mainly civilians. Oman condemned this criminal act and called upon the Human Rights Council and the international community to live up to their responsibility, show support to the people of the Gaza Strip, and alleviate their suffering.

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For use of the information media; not an official record