15 October 2009
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (the OPT) remains of grave concern. There is strong evidence indicating that all parties to the conflict—in different ways and with different effects—have committed and continue to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Many of these violations have been documented in my report to your last regular session, which I also submit today for your consideration.
Allow me to discuss two issues that require all our attention, namely the situation in East Jerusalem and the continuing blockade of Gaza.
In the past weeks, there have been numerous clashes in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The stringent restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians wishing to enter this Mosque must be lifted in order for members of the Palestinian community to exercise their right to worship.
In East Jerusalem home demolitions continue. My Office has called for an immediate halt to the recent wave of eviction orders and demolitions of Palestinian houses in the occupied territory. OHCHR views these practices as violations of both international humanitarian law and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Despite condemnation expressed by the international community, the tragedy of losing their homes continues to be inflicted on many Palestinian families.
Turning now to the situation in Gaza, I wish to express once again my dismay at the continuing blockade that severely undermines the rights and welfare of the population there. The living conditions of Gazans keep deteriorating as a result of restrictions on the import of services and goods, including basic food and fuel supplies. The blockade prevents the delivery of essential building materials and thus hampers the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure destroyed during Israeli military attacks in December 2008 and January 2009. It constitutes collective punishment of the Gaza population, in violation of international law. It must be lifted. Israel must allow the free movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza and between Gaza and the West Bank.
A culture of impunity continues to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel in relation to violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. I have pointed this out in my report to this Council. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Goldstone, made a similar assessment.
Let me take this opportunity to reiterate my support for the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, including its call for urgent action to counter impunity. I encourage the Council and the broader international community to give full consideration to the Fact Finding Mission’s report. I also wish to underscore the necessity for all parties to carry out impartial, independent, prompt, and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law in compliance with international standards.
For those in detention, the widespread recourse to military justice systems, which do not meet international standards of due process, remains of grave concern. Due process and the rights of those in any form of detention must be respected at all times.
Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and for human rights violations, as well as respect for human rights, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace can be built.
The reactions from victims and concerned people and organizations to the postponement by this Council of its deliberations are compelling evidence that addressing impunity for human rights and international humanitarian law violations is essential to preventing further violence and shoring up the peace process. I encourage all Members to have a constructive role in supporting accountability for serious violations.
In seeking a political solution to the decades-long conflict, the international community must anchor its efforts in international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law.
To conclude, all human rights are equal for all human beings, and no party can claim that, in defending or supporting its own population, it is allowed to disavow the rights of others. All parties have an obligation to respect the human rights of their own people, of their own neighbours, of all.
Let me reiterate that respect for human rights is an imperative in building a solid foundation for both justice and peace. I hope you will emphasize this basic principle in your deliberations.