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Human Rights Council discusses Human Rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories

Human Rights Council  
MIDDAY

10 June 2013

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting today held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, followed by a general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories.

Introducing his report, Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said that the Palestinian right of self-determination had been deferred and denied for far too long.  The report called attention to the situation in the Gaza Strip and the worrisome treatment of thousands of Palestinians detained or imprisoned.  Mr. Falk called for the establishment of an inquiry into the situation of Palestinians detained or imprisoned by Israel, with a broad mandate to examine Israel’s track record of impunity for prison officials.  Israel’s occupation continuously intruded upon Palestinian rights and systematically facilitated Israel’s annexationist policies which were not advancing peace in the Middle East and should be repudiated.

Palestine spoke as the concerned country and the President noted the absence of Israel in the room.

During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, speakers condemned Israel’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and expressed concerns at the persistence of settlement activities and human rights violations, including restrictions on movement, arrests and harassment of Palestinians, and the particular effects on children.  They highlighted the need to put an end to impunity for human rights violations.  Speakers regretted the deterioration of the situation in Gaza due to the ongoing blockade and the loss of civilian lives.  Some delegations echoed the proposal of the Special Rapporteur to investigate the activities of businesses connected with Israeli settlement activity.  Others complained about the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the presence of political considerations in his report.  Mr. Falk was accused of being anti-Semitic.

Speaking in the discussion were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union, Mauritania, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria on behalf of the Arab Group, Indonesia, Iceland, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iran on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Iraq, Qatar, Cuba, Ecuador, Angola, Venezuela, Kuwait, Chile, Morocco, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Syria, Algeria, Turkey, Iran, Maldives, Zimbabwe, the United Nations Children’s Fund and Malaysia.

Defence for Children International, United Nations Watch, Union of Arab Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Federation for Human Rights League also took the floor.

During the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, delegations recalled the numerous resolutions adopted by the Council on the situation of the Occupied Arab Territories and regretted the continuous violations of human rights, including those to self-determination, life, freedom of movement, and the situation of people living under occupation.  Speakers emphasised the situation of women and children, in particular, those held in detention by Israeli authorities.  Speakers also condemned the failure of Israel to abide by the Council’s resolutions and to collaborate with its mechanisms, in particular the Universal Periodic Review.  Delegations called on the Council to take additional measures to protect the rights of people living in the occupied territories and for the international community to bring pressure to bear on Israel to comply with international obligations.  Even though the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was supposed to be concerned with all violations of human rights in the area, his report was a war against Israel and ignored completely human rights violations by Fatah.  

Speaking as concerned countries were Palestine and Syria.  The President of the Council noted Israel’s absence from the room.

Participating in the general debate were: Algeria on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Gabon on behalf of the African Group, Brazil on behalf of India, Brazil and South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Russia, Algeria, Norway, Sri Lanka, China, Jordan, Tunisia, Cuba, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Senegal, Yemen, Bangladesh, Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: United Nations Watch, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, International Commission of Jurists, Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, Union of Arab Jurists, CIVICUS, Press Emblem Campaign, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Maarij Foundation Peace and Development, International and Student Movement for the United Nations, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations in a joint statement, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Trouro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, Liberation and International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

The Council this afternoon, at 4 p.m., is holding a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (A/HRC/23/21).

Introduction of Report by Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories

RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, introducing the report, said 46 years ago today Israel’s occupation of Palestine had begun which for Palestinians meant 46 years of living without the protection of laws, respect for their human rights, and with stifling restrictions on all aspects of their lives.  Their right of self-determination had been deferred and denied for far too long and the international community must question whether those providing countless billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weaponry to Israel were advancing peace in the Middle East.  The occupation of Palestine had facilitated Israel’s continuous annexation of Palestinian territory and enabled it to demolish Palestinian homes and populate Palestine with an estimated 650,000 of its own citizens in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.  It had also provided the context for Israel’s regime of collective punishment of 1.75 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and ensured that Israel could carry out its policies toward Palestine with near total impunity, disregarding international laws and standards and United Nations resolutions and decisions, and refusing even to uphold its obligations to cooperate with the United Nations in relation to Palestine.

The report called attention to the situation in the Gaza Strip, particularly with regard to water and sanitation facilities.  According to the United Nations report Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020 due to health and environmental concerns caused or aggravated by Israel’s blockade.  With 70 per cent of the population dependent on international aid for survival and 90 per cent of the water unfit for human consumption, drastic and urgent changes were urgently required if Palestinians in Gaza were to have their most basic rights protected.  The report also addressed the treatment of thousands of Palestinians detained or imprisoned by Israel which continued to be extremely worrisome.   Particularly alarming was Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children in detention which routinely violated the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The Special Rapporteur called for the establishment of a commission of enquiry into the situation of Palestinians detained or imprisoned by Israel and recommended that such an enquiry have a broad mandate to examine Israel’s track record of impunity for prison officials and others who interrogate Palestinians. 

The report also updated the Human Rights Council on the situation of Israel’s settlements in occupied Palestine.  In 2012, the settler population had increased by 4.5 per cent and grew faster than the population in Israel proper.  It seemed clear that the current Israeli Government intended to continue its expansion of the settlement enterprise, with an additional 60,000 square meters of land near Nablus seized two weeks ago.  In closing, Mr. Falk stressed that Israel’s occupation of Palestine was not static; it continuously intruded upon Palestinian rights and systematically facilitated Israel’s annexationist policies which were not advancing peace in the Middle East and should be repudiated.

Statement by Concerned Country

The President of the Council recognized that Israel was not present in the room to take the floor.

Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur and his team for the excellent and comprehensive report, which reflected the situation on the ground.  Palestine endorsed the final conclusions and recommendations of the report and the international community was called upon to implement these, in view of their importance in realizing the rights of the Palestinian people, while Israel continued to violate them on a massive scale.  Palestine noted the conclusions and recommendations, in particular Israel’s legal responsibility towards the Gaza Strip as the occupying force.  Much information was provided on the situation of Palestinian detainees.  Their immediate and urgent release had to be guaranteed.  The expansion of the settlements, as noted in the report, was a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  All such illegal activity ran counter to international law and had to come to an end.  Palestine renewed its call to compel Israel to respect international law and to abide by its standards.  Israel was called upon to release Palestinian detainees and prisoners immediately.  It was necessary to refer to the importance of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, which continued to be valid as long as there was occupation.  Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur about what ways and means could be used to compel the Israeli authorities to demonstrate compliance with legal obligations and the recommendations contained in the report. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned Israel’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and called on it to comply with its obligations under international law and stop immediately all human rights violations in the occupied State of Palestine.  Concern was also expressed at the ongoing Israeli settlements.  The Working Group on business and human rights should investigate the activities of businesses which were connected with Israeli settlement activity. 

European Union said that it was aware of the lack of cooperation from Israel with the Special Rapporteur but regretted the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the presence of political considerations in the report.  The Guiding Principles on business and human rights should be applied globally, including by European companies in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The European Union called on all parties to comply with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Mauritania condemned the systematic violence practiced by Israel against the Palestinian people, which included demolishing sacred Christian and Muslim sites of worship.  Mauritania also condemned the construction of settlements, the restrictions imposed on freedom of movement, and the arrests and harassment of Palestinians, all of which constituted a flagrant violation of international law.  It was alarming and unacceptable that Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with the Council.   

Egypt reiterated its full support for the conclusions and recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur in his report and hoped that the Human Rights Council would ensure their implementation.  Israeli settlements represented a violation of Palestinian rights and freedoms and Egypt called on the Council to put pressure on Israel to cease settlement activity, withdraw all settlers and ensure accountability for all crimes and violations committed by the settlers against Palestinians.

South Africa welcomed the attention paid in the report to the role of business that profited from Israeli settlements and called on Israel to immediately dismantle illegal settlements and adhere to its obligations under international law.  Could the Special Rapporteur expand on his proposal for the establishment of a mechanism to support Special Rapporteurs subject to defamatory attacks, especially those that diverted attention from the substantive human rights concerns relevant to their mandates?

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, called on the international community to ensure the implementation of recommendations contained in Mr. Falk’s report and condemned Israel for the lack of cooperation with this mandate and other United Nations human rights mechanisms.  Israel had a responsibility over people and territories it continued to occupy in flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.  The United Nations must take prompt and urgent action to ensure accountability as a means to ensure justice.

Indonesia shared the sentiment of frustration of not only the Special Rapporteur but also the international community in general, as Israel continued its non-cooperative and non-compliant attitude.  Indonesia was in agreement with the recommendation that the international community should investigate the activities of businesses that profited from Israel’s settlements and take appropriate action to end any activities in Occupied Palestine and ensure appropriate reparation for affected Palestinians.

Iceland said that the continued and excessive use of administrative detention by Israel was particularly troubling, as was the treatment of children in detention.  Iceland called on the Israeli authorities to heed the United Nations Children Fund’s recommendation to establish an independent investigation into reports of ill-treatment of children in the military detention system.  The continued policies of Israeli settlement expansion constituted a serious disregard for international law and Iceland called for a change in Israeli actions in this respect.

Jordan said that the continuing denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and continuing practices of Israeli settlements, blockades and demolishing of houses, among others, were violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The international community was called upon to take immediate action to address the violation of human rights of Palestinian detainees.  It had a moral and legal responsibility to enable the Palestinians to set up an independent and viable State.

Lebanon condemned Israeli persistence not to follow the recommendations put to it, concerning, among other things, the occupied Gaza Strip.  Lebanon welcomed the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur in his report, and expressed concern about Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons.  Lebanon drew attention to enterprises benefiting from the illegal colonization of Palestinian territories by Israel, and said that further efforts were needed to shed light on the issue.

Tunisia urged all parties to facilitate the Special Rapporteur’s mission.  Tunisia was concerned about the systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people and Israel’s persistence not to cooperate with human rights mechanisms.  The international community should look into business activity in Israeli settlements, reparations should be provided to the Palestinians affected and such businesses should cease their activity.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned Israel’s persistent non-cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and said that Israel persistently disregarded its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  Iran condemned the construction of settlements, the targeted assassination of Palestinians, and the use of excessive force by Israel, and said that the international community had failed to deal with human rights violations in Palestine.   

Iraq strongly condemned the flagrant violation of the rights of the Palestinians by Israel and its non-cooperation with the Human Rights Council.  The Israeli settlement activities aimed at changing the demographic makeup of Palestine and Iraq stressed the obligation of the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop this practice.

Qatar expressed concern about the persistent non-cooperation of Israel with the Human Rights Council and called on the Council to put pressure on Israel to grant access to the Special Rapporteur so that he could fulfil his mandate.  Qatar supported the proposal made by the Special Rapporteur to establish a commission of inquiry into the detention of Palestinians by Israel and asked how the recommendations contained in the report could be implemented, particularly by the Human Rights Council.

Cuba deplored Israel’s reprisals against the Palestinian people and the dramatic increase in settlements and noted the difficult situation of the people of Gaza, which was worsened by the 2012 Israeli’s military operation pillar of defence.  Cuba asked the Special Rapporteur what steps the Human Rights Council could take to implement his recommendations concerning the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the situation of Palestinians in Israeli detention.

Ecuador reaffirmed its unease regarding the lack of observation of the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The legally binding Security Council resolutions had been ignored by Israel.  The construction of the separation wall, proclaimed as illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice, was worrying.   Ecuador said it was worrying that the international community had not taken strong measures to oblige Israel to respect its obligations under international law. 

Angola voiced its concern at the deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular in the Gaza Strip, due to the blockade imposed by Israel.  Angola was in favour of a negotiated peace process to reach a fair and lasting solution, and this should be based on a two-State solution with respect to the 1967 borders. 

Venezuela said that Israel had denied the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people for over 60 years.  The ongoing and sustained use of military force by Israel continued to seriously affect the free exercise of the right to self-determination of the Palestinians.  Venezuela condemned the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and the attacks which had cost the lives of innocent civilians.  Venezuela deplored the destruction of the agricultural sector, the demolition of housing and arbitrary detention.

Kuwait deplored Israel’s continuing acts of violence in Palestine, condemned the defamation of the Special Rapporteur, and said that Israel was violating international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The report by the Special Rapporteur had reaffirmed the inhuman treatment of Palestinian people by Israel and had outlined serious human rights violations across a number of areas as well as crimes committed by Israeli settlers.   

Chile said that it was necessary to put an end to the acts of violence against Palestinian people and deplored the blockade on the Gaza Strip which had serious consequences on its population.  Chile deplored the lack of political will to put an end to Israeli settlement activity, which was in flagrant violation of international law, and called for the immediate cessation of all settlement activity which violated the rights of Palestinian people.     

Morocco said that Israel violated international human rights law and international humanitarian law by continuing the expansion of its settlement activity and by trying to consolidate the status quo at the expense of the rights of Palestinians.  Morocco condemned Israeli policies which aimed to distort the cultural heritage and identity of Jerusalem and to eliminate the Christian and Muslim element by imposing restrictions on the freedom of movement.

Bahrain called upon the relevant parties to implement recommendations contained in Mr. Falk’s report and was concerned that Israel continued to violate international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular.  The expansion of Israeli settlements represented a violation of international law and Bahrain condemned the destruction by Israel of over 200 homes and the displacement of many Palestinian families since the beginning of the year.

Bangladesh said that reports of widespread mental difficulties being experienced by virtually the entire juvenile Palestinian population were appalling.  It was important for the Council to take an unequivocal stand on the flagrant defiance of international law, particularly on the violations of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel.  Bangladesh was concerned about defamatory attacks against the Special Rapporteur, which should be addressed in all seriousness.

Saudi Arabia said that the various reports such as the report of the Special Rapporteur confirmed the tragic situation in which the Palestinians found themselves.  Israel was continuing to flout the resolutions and international mechanisms in place and continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.  Saudi Arabia reiterated its conviction that the settlements in occupied Palestinians territories by Israel ran counter to international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Djibouti said that it was deeply concerned about the failure of Israel to cooperate in the implementation of the mandate, and urged the Council to request Israel to allow the Special Rapporteur to undertake his most important work.  The continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza further compounded the existing social and economic conditions.  Israel was called upon to end the blockade and cease the expansion of settlements. 

Syria thanked the Special Rapporteur for his courage and determination to show reality as it was including violations of international humanitarian law.  Israel was refusing to collaborate with the mechanisms of this Council to ensure the well-being of the Palestinian people.  Those who were trying to protect Israel should note that it continued to expand illegal settlements and to carry out other flagrant violations of international law.  The Council must face the realities and condemn Israel for its actions.  Syria expressed solidarity with the Special Rapporteur amidst the smear campaign launched against him.

Algeria said it had reviewed with interest the report of the Special Rapporteur and noted that the occupying power continued to refuse to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Algeria reiterated full support for the Special Rapporteur and his mandate, which would only end with the end of the occupation.  The Special Rapporteur had provided a useful analysis, including the attacks of Israel on the Gaza Strip and repercussions on the area.  The report referred to continued violations of social, economic and political rights, including the right of movement and access to places of worship.
 
Turkey supported the independence of the Special Rapporteur and condemned the attacks conducted by pro-Israeli lobbying groups against his mandate.  The report reflected the sufferings of the Palestinian children severely affected by the systematic violations of their rights, including the inhumane treatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails.  Israel’s ever expanding provocative settlement activities remained the major obstacle before the resumption of negotiations.  

Iran said that the report outlined the consistent and systematic expansion of settlements, the dreadful conditions of the Palestinian detainees, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and indiscriminate attacks on innocent Palestinians in different Israeli operations.  The United Nations human rights machinery must identify deficiencies and weaknesses crippling the capacities of the international community to put an end to ongoing apartheid and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Maldives condemned the continuing human rights violations in the Palestinian territories and called on Israel to immediately halt them and resume cooperation with the Human Rights Council.  The Maldives was extremely concerned about detention practices carried out by Israel which included torture and ill treatment and the continued holding of prisoners without charge through the illegal notion of administrative detention.

Zimbabwe cherished the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer State to the United Nations General Assembly which would pave the way for the realization of the long-delayed self-governing State for the Palestinian people.  Zimbabwe was taken aback by the continued unlawful annexation of Palestinian lands and by demographic manipulations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which posed fundamental threats to international humanitarian law and the right to self-determination.

United Nations Children’s Fund called for greater focus to be placed on protecting and fulfilling the rights of Palestinian children, especially the most vulnerable, and highlighted several areas of critical concern.  Measures to protect and fulfil children’s rights were achievable, practical, and would benefit wider populations by limiting the spread of disease and environmental degradation, increasing human potential and productivity, and the establishment of a more peaceful, tolerant and stable society. 

Malaysia said that the international community should not be content with only empathizing with the suffering of the Palestinian people; it had the legal and moral responsibility to end the human rights and international humanitarian law violations by Israel against Palestinians.  Malaysia condemned Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and deeply regretted that the Security Council had not been able to look into the issue despite its capacity to do so under the United Nations Charter.

Touro Law Centre recalled that the Special Rapporteur complained in his report about being defamed and the call for an investigation into the truth of the charges made against him.  However, after reviewing actions by the Special Rapporteur, including speeches and other writings, the Special Rapporteur was found, amongst others, to be anti-Semitic. 

Defence for Children International urged an end to the use of solitary confinement on children detained in Israeli detention facilities, that all relevant Israel civilian and military laws ensure the prohibition of solitary confinement, and that every detention facility, including Al Jalame and Petah Tikva, were opened to unbiased external inspection.

United Nations Watch questioned the Special Rapporteur for his links to books considered to be anti-Semitic and a recent article that seemed to justify terrorist attacks.  “You can investigate us but you will have to investigate the State of Palestine as well,” United Nations Watch concluded.

Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement, regretted to learn about the continued lack of cooperation from Israel and found deplorable efforts to attack the Special Rapporteur’s character rather than engaging with him.  They fully supported the call for an investigation into business activities profiting from Israeli settlement activities.   

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that in recent months, Palestine had been required to desist from seeking its right to self-determination.  The Cairo Institute expressed deep concern that this essential forum for the Palestinians to highlight Israel’s violations would be used as a bargaining chip for Israel to re-cooperate with the Council.

BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights firmly believed that a sincere human rights-based approach had to take into consideration all Palestinians, including refugees, who fell victim to Israel’s grave breaches of international law and should not base itself on the forced fragmentation of the Palestinian people.  Only a holistic approach would bring about the long overdue solution.

A Palestinian human rights defender, speaking on behalf of the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said that he had been able to witness the situation in Israeli prisons from the inside, where basic rights were denied.  Those responsible for such and other violations mentioned should be held accountable before the International Criminal Court. 

International Federation for Human Rights League, in a joint statement, welcomed the fact that the report reflected concern on the access to justice for Palestinians in the occupied territories.  Numerous legal, procedural, and practical obstacles in the Israeli civil and criminal legal system contributed to the systematic denial of the right of Palestinian victims to effective judicial remedy.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, thanked delegations for the suggestions made for further steps that needed to be taken on behalf of the Palestinian people.  All comments would be taken into consideration in further work under the mandate.  One of the most persistent suggestions was the need for the Council, and the United Nations generally, to take further steps to ensure Israeli compliance with international law.  While the violation of Palestinian fundamental rights was generally recognised, there remained questions about what could be done about this continuing ordeal confronted by the Palestinian people under occupation.  There was no easy answer to that question and it was essentially a matter of political will.  When the political will existed in the United Nations this could be very effective, as demonstrated by the call for the protection of the Libyan civilian population in Benghazi when exposed to a humanitarian catastrophe.  How did this political will get mobilised so that concrete steps could be implemented to overcome the severe violations suffered by the Palestinian people.  In particular, the time had come for both the Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross to examine the particular difficulties faced by a people under occupation for a period over five years; the Geneva Conventions did not contain provisions for the consequences of a prolonged occupation. 

The entire occupied people suffered a continuing assault on their human dignity by this kind of occupation and Mr. Falk hoped that the Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross would do something that acknowledged this situation, working towards the creation of a complementary international treaty to deal with prolonged occupations.  It was also overdue for art. 1 obligations of the Geneva Convention to convene the parties in the case of continued non-compliance of obligations; and this was a test to the commitment of membership to the international community and the Geneva regime.  There was also an important emphasis in the report and also in the comments made during the discussion that the viability of Gaza needed urgent attention and could not be left to the mercies of the continuing occupation.  In conclusion, Mr. Falk emphasized the importance of Israel’s lack of cooperation with this mandate which set a terrible precedent for future investigation and violated Israel’s obligations.  The obligations under the Council should be taken seriously.  Concerning the repetition of defamatory remarks it was important to reflect on the responsibilities of non-governmental organizations accredited to the United Nations and the protection needed for Special Procedures’ mandate holders to discharge their mandate.

REMIGIUSCZ A. HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that the criterion for participation of non-governmental organizations was their accreditation by the Economic and Social Council, and reminded again that there was a need for everyone to be respectful.

General Debate

Statement by the Concerned Countries

The President of the Council recognized that Israel was not present in the room to take the floor.

Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, said that Palestinians had suffered grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  Israel’s occupation must stop.  Israel’s continued refusal to recognise the right to self-determination of the Palestinians and its expansion of settlements and military check-points, as well as the building of the separation wall and the Gaza blockade, among others, were all violations of international law.  Israel was requested to recognise the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, to stop and dismantle the building of the separation wall, to recognise the right of return of refugees without selectivity or conditionality, to stop all settlement activities and to stop any attacks by settlers.  Israel was also requested to stop all measures to annex and Judaise Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of worship.  All changes by force by Israel were illegal and thus retroactively null and void.  Israel was not above the law, it was under the law.  Sooner or later, international law had to prevail.  Israel had to stop taking a special role in the Human Rights Council, with regards to its non-cooperation with the Council.

Syria said that hydrocarbons were been exploited in the occupied Golan and that, in a futile attempt to consolidate its occupation and in violation of international law and the Geneva Convention, Israel continued to develop wind power infrastructure to generate electric power in violation of the sovereignty of the occupied territories.  Syria recalled the tragic situation experienced by the Syrian prisoners who languished in Israeli jails and condemned the fact that Israel continued to refuse to host a special commission of inquiry into Israeli practices and the appeals of the head of the commission.  Syrian Golan was an occupied Syrian territory that would not be ceded and would eventually return to Syria.  Syria appealed to the Council to take a firm stance on Israel’s human rights violations as an occupying power and to go beyond condemnations and lip service, and urged States to live up to their commitments under international law.

General Debate on Situation of Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israel continued its occupation in total disregard of United Nations resolutions and relevant agencies.  It followed a systematic approach based on the violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law.  Violations by settlers took place before the eyes of the occupation authorities, proving their racism towards the people and the land of Occupied Palestine.  The international community had to shoulder its responsibilities to put an end to the situation.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the prolonged occupation of Occupied Palestine remained a key obstacle to the achievement of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned Israel’s illegal practices against the Palestinian people, including arbitrary detentions.  Settlement expansion had accelerated in the past several months, which it also condemned, along with Israeli settler violence against Palestinians.

Iran speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement maintained that the prolonged occupation of Palestine by Israel remained the main obstacle to the realization of the inalienable right of the Palestinians to self-determination and the establishment of a sovereign and independent State.  The Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed the need to put an end to the occupation.  Furthermore, it extended all its support to the Palestinian leadership to put an end to the occupation.  Israel had to be held accountable.

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the report showed that Palestinians’ rights continued to be trumped by settlement activities, established and maintained by a system of segregation and discrimination between settlers and the rest of the population in the occupied territories.  The African Group called for an immediate stop of settlement activities and the dismantling of the separation wall.  Gabon reiterated the solidarity expressed by the Heads of State of the African Union for the Palestinian people and hoped for the achievement of peace on the basis of a two-State solution.

Brazil, speaking on behalf of India, Brazil and South Africa Forum, regretted the lack of cooperation by Israel and said that the economic and social conditions of the population in Gaza, in particular regarding food security, was alarming.  The Forum also expressed concerns about the indiscriminate use of force by Israeli sources, the situation of prisoners held in detention, and the continued expansion of settlements and exploitation of Palestinian natural resources were being exploited.  The occupation remained the main cause underlying human rights violations.  There were no alternatives to a two-State solution to the conflict and the Forum reiterated their support for the request of Palestine for full Membership to the United Nations.

United Arab Emirates encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue with the mission to remove the veil concerning what was happening in the occupied territories, including the situation arising from limitations to freedom of movement, the proliferation of checkpoints and ill treatment of Palestinians arising from this situation.  The right to freedom of movement was enshrined in international instruments and Israel had used national security as a pretext to justify the existence of roadblocks and the further building of settlements.

Maldives said that Israel’s continued defiance of international law as demonstrated by its illegal settlements remained the key obstacle to the realization of the inalienable right of Palestinian people to self-determination.  Maldives stressed that the culture of impunity should end and reaffirmed its position that without a Palestinian State there could never be Palestinian rights.  Maldives would lend its unconditional support to Palestine’s bid for membership in any international organization.

Kuwait said that the Palestinian people still saw their basic rights denied by the occupying power and that the scale of human rights violations was worrying.  The Palestinian population no longer had access to their natural resources and violence was perpetrated against Palestinian children.  Palestinians had the right to have a viable Palestinian State.  Israeli settlements were impeding the resolution of the crisis and should cease immediately.  

Malaysia said that Israel blatantly disregarded human rights and humanitarian obligations.  The Palestinian people had been deprived of their independence, freedom and human rights for too long and it was inconceivable that such a situation continued in the new millennium.  It was regrettable that the Security Council had not been able to resolve the issue despite having the ability and a mandate to do so.  Malaysia demanded that Israel lift immediately its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. 

Qatar condemned Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine, the massacres committed against Palestinians, and detention conditions that violated international laws.  Israel’s discriminatory policies included the development of settlements and modification of the composition of the population in the Occupied Territories.  Qatar condemned ongoing attacks on sacred sites and efforts to modify the religious and cultural characteristics of Jerusalem.

Russia said it continued to be an advocate of a diplomatic settlement on the basis of the peaceful coexistence by both States and called on Israel to resume its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review.  Russia condemned the unilateral steps taken by Israel prejudging the final status, including the expansion of settlements.  Russia stressed that the question of Jerusalem should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Algeria said that this debate allowed the Council to review human rights developments in a region under the longest occupation.  Algeria drew the Council’s attention to the situation of prisoners and limitations of movement, in particular the restriction of access to religious sites.  The Council was called upon to implement its resolutions and recommendations.  To achieve the desired peace, Israel’s occupation and human rights violations should be brought to an end.  

Norway called on all parties to comply with international human rights and international humanitarian law.  Of particular concern were forced evictions and the damaging of private property.  Israel, Palestine and the de facto authority in Gaza should all comply with international law.  Gaza should impose a moratorium on executions and women in Gaza should be treated as equal to men.  Palestine and Gaza should cease all violations of the right to freedom of expression.

Sri Lanka said that it had long advocated the recognition of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and remained steadfast in its support to Palestine for its just struggle to achieve the right of statehood within the framework of a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, coexisting peacefully alongside Israel.  Sri Lanka was troubled by the repercussions of the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. 

China said that the Palestinian issue was the core of the Middle Eastern problem; it remained unresolved and was a source of instability in the Middle East.  It was the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State within their 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.  In order to resolve the problem, Israelis and Palestinians should meet each other halfway and engage in a process of peaceful negotiations.  The international community should also provide the necessary support to the process.

Jordan said that Israel continued with its practices and human rights violations in the occupied territories, continuing the denial of the rights of Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of an independent State.  Israel continued to carry out arrests and impose constraints on restrictions on movement, as well as many other policies contrary to international law.  Jordan called on Israel to cease all practices that constituted a violation of international law.

Tunisia had on many instances urged Israel to stop its ongoing violations, including those related to racial discrimination.  Tunisia stressed the increasing discrimination, including recent legislation designating special buses for Palestinian individuals, as well as legislation on inheritance and land ownership.  These practices and laws recalled the apartheid policies in South Africa and targeted directly the rights of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territory, including the right to citizenship, freedom of expression and religion. 

Cuba said that Israel’s breaches of international law, including arbitrary detentions, did not make the headlines in the international media and were not addressed by those promoting interventionist approaches for the alleged protection of rights.  This was evidence of the hypocrisy of Western countries that fashioned themselves as human rights defenders.  

Iran said that thousands of Palestinians had been illegally imprisoned and that the Israelis had demolished Palestinian houses as part of Israel’s expansion.  The flagrant violation of the human rights of Palestinians, particularly women and children, remained a major concern.  The report by the Special Rapporteur was a reminder of the historical obligation of the international community to defend more effectively the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Lebanon strongly condemned Israel’s boycotting of the Council.  The silence of the international community on the matter was unjustifiable and undermined the credibility of international human rights mechanisms.  Silence was almost like applauding Israeli acts which were clearly in breach of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The international community should make Israel respect the rights of the Palestinian people. 

Saudi Arabia said that the Arab-Israeli conflict had bearings on international peace and Israel continued to display a lack of goodwill and humiliated day after day the Palestinian people.  Israeli settlements were a violation of Palestinian rights.  They encircled the West Bank and impeded access of Palestinians to their resources.  Their presence made it impossible to convince Palestinians that peace would come.

Iraq reaffirmed the importance of the resolutions adopted by the Council in earlier sessions; however, the occupation persisted and there had been an increasing number of victims, in particular women and children.  One could only note the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the plans for large changes to the geographical structure of this region.  The Council had the duty to take additional measures to ensure respect for the rights of the Palestinian people.

Bahrain said in spite of the fact that the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in 1991 and, despite its provisions, Israel continued to pursue discriminatory policies against Palestinians.  Palestinians had seen their childhood violated and faced abuse and inhuman treatment and lived in permanent terror and fear because of barbaric attacks by the guards and the imposition of forced confessions.  The situation of Syrian children in the occupied Golan was also of concern. 

Oman said that the Palestinian people continued to languish under the Israeli occupying yoke and the practices which deprived them from their most elementary rights.  An entire people had been deprived of their most fundamental rights, including the rights to self-determination and life and the Council had not lived up to its duty.  Israel had announced the construction of thousands of new settlement units in flagrant violation of international law.

Senegal said that Israeli violations in Palestine were multi-faceted and were being committed on a daily basis.  The acute problem of the Israeli settlements and Palestinian prisoners was of major concern.  Senegal appealed to Israel to bring its actions in line with its international obligations in order to ensure that Palestinians could fully enjoy their rights.  Senegal reaffirmed its support to the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish a viable, independent State with secure borders. 

Yemen condemned all violations affecting the Palestinian people, particularly the illegal occupation of their territories by Israel, which required a firm response from the international community.  The ongoing building of settlements in the occupied territories was a violation of the fundamental rights of Palestinians.  Of major concern were also the reported cases of torture of Palestinian prisoners.  The Israeli occupation was an obstacle to finding a lasting peaceful solution in the Middle Peace. 

Bangladesh said that the people of Palestine were in a dire situation and the prolonged violation of the human rights of Palestinians was a constant concern for the international community.  The Palestinian people had the right to live a life of dignity and enjoy all human rights like all other peoples.  The Council should unequivocally condemn the illegal actions of Israel.  Bangladesh welcomed the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer State in the General Assembly last year.

Libya said that for the past six decades Palestinians had suffered from the results of Israel’s occupation, including the occupation of land and restrictions on the use of their national resources.  The international community should put pressure to bear on Israel to uphold resolutions and be accountable for its actions and Libya reaffirmed the need to help the Palestinians establish an independent State and enjoy their right to self determination.

Sudan said Israel continuously acted as if it were above the law and refused to cooperate with human rights mechanisms to which it was a member, including the Council itself, and this was evidence that Israel did not hold the Council in respect.  Israel had been practicing an apartheid policy that violated human rights, as recognised in the report.  Sudan reaffirmed its condemnation concerning Israel’s lack of cooperation with the mandate, and called on the Council to respect its mechanisms.  

Egypt was deeply saddened to see a historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people that the international community had not been able to address.  The challenges faced by the Palestinians were mounting and Israel shamefacedly continued to carry out violations, develop settlements, disfigure East Jerusalem, and violate the rights of Palestinians.  The Council bore responsibility to take effective immediate measures to ensure the release of prisoners held in inhuman conditions in Israeli facilities.   

United Nations Watch asked whether today’s debate was really about human rights.  Today’s meeting was entirely focusing on Israel and, even though the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was supposed to be concerned with all violations of human rights in the area, his report was a war against Israel and ignored completely human rights violations by Fatah.  

Commission of the Churches on International Affairs - World Council of Churches said that Palestinian children were confronted with harassment on their way to school every day and there had been an alarming increase in attacks on schoolchildren in recent years.  Israel should facilitate access of all children to school and stop demolishing schools and related structures. 

International Commission of Jurists said that for decades Israel had implemented a widespread policy of arbitrary detention affecting thousands of Palestinians, including the abusive use of administrative detention.  The Council had the responsibility to take action to hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights abuses in the area.

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples drew attention to the widespread and repeated abuses of Palestinian children committed by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and said that the problem of child arrest was particularly worrying.  Palestinian children in Israeli detention suffered from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which appeared to be systematic and institutionalized.

Union of Arab Jurists condemned the occupation which was the worst form of violation of the rights of people and had established an apartheid war, all of which ran counter to international instruments.  The international community should bring pressure on Israel, particularly on the issue of settlements.  The people of the Syrian Golan had the right to recover their occupied land in line with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation expressed concern about the measures undertaken by Israel to silence civil society organizations and independent media which included the restrictions of foreign funding and the enforcement of the Military Order 1651.  Israel’s intentional targeting of journalists who had covered the operation pillar of defence was a concern that needed to be urgently addressed.

Press Emblem Campaign was concerned about the difficulties facing journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Restrictions on the freedom of movement and freedom of expression were major concerns for journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  Journalists had been recently killed but no independent enquiry had been launched into those incidents.  

BADIL – Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that Israeli authorities regularly neglected their obligations to provide medical care to Palestinian prisoners, contrary to the Geneva Convention, and many prisoners had died as a result of Israeli medical neglect or torture.  No official investigation into the deaths had taken place.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that the presence of Israeli settlers in Hebron made the life of Palestinian people a disaster.  Their right to freedom of movement was constantly violated, the unemployment rate was now over 70 per cent, and more than 1,000 families had been forced to leave the area.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that Israel continued to demolish Palestinian homes and properties which displaced families and continued to ignore the right to life of Palestinians.  There had been more that 1,000 injuries and eight killed in the West Bank in 2013.  Violations of children’s right by Israel were among the gravest, as was the systematic violation of the rights of Palestinian prisoners.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that in the follow-up to the reports by the fact-finding mission and the Special Rapporteur, the Human Rights Council should establish an observatory in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to document all forms of collaboration with illegal Israeli settlements, which should also provide an ongoing inventory of concrete measures to halt that collaboration.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists expressed discontent with the recent statements by the Special Rapporteur who was required to act independently.  The Special Rapporteur should not be allowed to complete his mandate because of the lost trust in him and his neutrality.  Did the Special Rapporteur truly believe that establishing yet another commission of inquiry would resolve the conflict between the people of Palestine and Israel? 
Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, in a joint statement, said that the Special Rapporteur Mr. Falk had made anti-Semitic remarks on at least three occasions and, as a mandate-holder, he was causing too much damage to the prestige of the Council.  The Council, therefore, should remove his mandate and countries should abstain from speaking under the biased item 7.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the Office of the High Commissioner should consider offering its services to help find a resolution to the conflict between the Palestinian people and the other parties involved.  The Council could help fulfill the aspirations of all the parties involved in the conflict for a better tomorrow.

Trouro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust said that the Council should abolish agenda item 7 and place the consideration of Israel together with all other 192 United Nations Member States under agenda item 4.  The Council should also amend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Israel to include investigation of human rights violations by all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Liberation said that the Palestinian people had been living under the brutal occupation regime for 46 years now.  There were thousands of Palestinians held in detention, many without any charge, which was a grave violation of their rights.  The construction and expansion of settlements continued in the Negev, East Jerusalem and elsewhere and had a profound negative impact on the Palestinian economic rights.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers expressed deepest solidarity with the Special Rapporteur Richard Falk for the defamatory attacks he had suffered in the fulfilment of his mandate and urged the Council to defend its mandate holders from such irresponsible and dishonest accusations.  The international community should fully implement his recommendations and establish commission of inquiry into the situation of Palestinians in detention.
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For use of the information media; not an official record