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Human Rights Council begins General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories

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2020年6月15日

15 June 2020

Holds General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights present reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, which was followed by a general debate on this agenda item. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council held a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented four reports under agenda item 7 concerning the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. She stated that they showed the persistence of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan. She expressed serious concern regarding the excessive force used by Israeli Security Forces and the heavy burden placed on the already impoverished community and overstretched health facilities and social services in Gaza. She concluded by emphasizing the concern regarding the shrinking space for civil society throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, asked States who boycotted the work on agenda item 7 to review their decision. It was pleased that the report on the database of companies had been presented, despite the delay, and despite the fact that many companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories were not on the list, which must be updated on an annual basis. Israel had intensified its attacks against civilians and prohibited members of the media from reporting on attacks on Palestinians.

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, recalled that the international community had called on Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan, notably through several Security Council resolutions that called on this country to backtrack from the occupation. For more than 50 years, the occupation had continued, disregarding the United Nations Charter and the various United Nations resolutions. The support of the United States had accelerated the occupation policies and the annexation of Eastern Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers recognized the two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine as the best roadmap for solving this crisis, and welcomed the publishing of the database of businesses working in Israeli settlements. Speakers also condemned the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, as well as the plans to annex further territories in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Speaking in the general debate were the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Niger on behalf of the African Group, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tunisia on behalf of the African Union, Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Qatar, Afghanistan, Libya, Mexico, Bangladesh (video message), Bahrein, Namibia, Chile, Sudan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Senegal, Mauritania, Iraq, Saudi Arabia (video message), Djibouti, South Africa, Ecuador, Cuba, Malaysia, Luxembourg, Kuwait (pre-recorded video message), Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Russia, Iran, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Turkey, Oman, Algeria, Maldives (video message), Lebanon, Yemen, China, Sri Lanka (video message), Switzerland and Ireland.

Also speaking was the Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine (video message), and the following non-governmental organization representatives : Defence for Children International and Lutheran World Federation.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council held a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.

In the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers emphasized the need to preserve the Universal Periodic Review, the only intergovernmental mechanism that dealt with the human rights situations of countries on an equal footing. The Universal Periodic Review could contribute to the eradication of selectivity, politicization and double standards in the field of human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare vulnerabilities and human rights violations, speakers said. In that context, it was crucial to ensure that actions taken by authorities in the field of human rights in the context of the Universal Periodic Review were effective.

Speaking in the general debate were Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, State of Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, India on behalf of a group of countries (video message), Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Croatia on behalf of the European Union, Libya, Brazil, Bahrain, India, Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, Tunisia, Iran, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Georgia, Ethiopia, Belarus and Bolivia.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: UPR Info, International Catholic Child Bureau, Franciscans International, Africa Culture Internationale, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Association pour les Victimes Du Monde, European Centre for Law and Justice, African Green Foundation International, ABC Tamil Oli, Tourner La Page, Tamil Uzhagam and Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV.

The Council will meet again on Tuesday, 16 June at 10 a.m. to conclude its general debate on the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. It will then hold a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

Speakers emphasized the need to preserve the Universal Periodic Review, the only intergovernmental mechanism that dealt with the human rights situations of countries on an equal footing. The Universal Periodic Review could contribute to the eradication of selectivity, politicization and double standards in the field of human rights. Speakers urged caution to prevent the instrumentalization of this mechanism for political ends. It was important for States to implement the recommendations put forward. Civil society was one of the pillars ensuring the success of the Universal Periodic Review. Speakers condemned reprisals against individuals, non-governmental organizations and groups that collaborated with human rights mechanisms. Members States should recommit to the Universal Periodic Review, as it helped strengthen national human rights institutions and legislation. More broadly, this mechanism represented an excellent opportunity to bolster the promotion and protection of human rights. It was crucial that recommendations considered the specific situation of States, including security and financial aspects.

Technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights, for the States that desired to receive such support, constituted a sound basis to achieve the goals set out in the Universal Periodic Review. All States should continue to support this mechanism, and foster reviews in a spirit of respect and cooperation, an approach which stood in sharp contrast with some of the unilateral and punitive practices of the international human rights architecture. Human rights defenders as well as journalists should be shielded from reprisals when they contributed to the Universal Periodic Review. The COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare vulnerabilities and human rights violations, speakers said. In that context, it was crucial to ensure that actions taken by authorities in the field of human rights in the context of the Universal Periodic Review were effective. Speakers noted that climate change would have a significant impact on the human rights situation in countries, and Universal Periodic Review recommendations should be elaborated accordingly. Without proper follow-up mechanisms, the potential of the Universal Periodic Review to promote and protect human rights was significantly diminished, speakers stated.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/43/67).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Database of all business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/43/71).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/43/69).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1 (A/HRC/43/70).

Presentation of Reports on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented four reports under agenda item 7 concerning the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. The reporting period of the twelfth periodic report on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (A/HRC/43/70), from 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019, provided an overview of recurring violations of international humanitarian law by Israel as well as by Palestinian armed groups; and violations of international human rights law by all three duty-bearers, namely Israel, the State of Palestine and the de facto authorities in Gaza. Throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, the reporting period was marked by the ongoing shrinking of civic space as the three duty-bearers continued to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The report highlighted serious concerns regarding lack of accountability and excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces, with thousands of Palestinians injured, and 131 killed by Israeli forces. The blockade of Gaza and other practices that may amount to collective punishment continued, further violating a range of human rights. The report also highlighted human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and the de-facto authorities in Gaza such as arbitrary arrest, gender-based violence and discrimination.

The report on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/43/67) found that during the reporting period, settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, had accelerated. The construction of outposts, demolition and destruction of Palestinian property and the resulting displacement had continued at a fast pace. The number of incidents of settler violence against Palestinians had reached its highest level since 2013, rising to 352.

For the report regarding human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan /A/HRC/43/69), both Syria and Iraq had responded to the request to provide information.

Finally, the High Commissioner said the report on the database of business enterprises involved in activities in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (A/HRC/43/71) found 112 business enterprises to be involved in one or more of the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the fact-finding mission on the matter. Undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in consultation with the Working Group on business and human rights on issues relating to process and methodology, the report recommended the establishment of a group of independent experts, with a time-bound mandate, to update the database.

In an overview of the reports, Ms. Bachelet stated that they showed the persistence of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan. She expressed serious concern regarding the excessive force used by Israeli Security Forces and the heavy burden placed on the already impoverished community and overstretched health facilities and social services in Gaza. She concluded by emphasizing the concern regarding the shrinking space for civil society throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, called on States that boycotted the work on agenda item 7 to review their decision. State of Palestine was pleased that the report on the database of companies had been presented, despite the delay, and despite the fact that many companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories were not on the list, which must be updated on an annual basis. Israel had intensified its attacks against civilians and prohibited members of the media from reporting on attacks on Palestinians. Large-scale arrest campaigns were still underway. Over 5,000 Palestinians were still in prison, including children. The occupying power was continuing its efforts to change the status of East Jerusalem and to take action on Al Aqsa mosque and other religious sites. Mr. Netanyahu had stated that settlements would continue. All States had rejected initiatives taken, including by the United States, as violations of the United Nations Charter. President Trump’s vision for the region had opened the way for the extreme right in Israel to annex the Jordan valley and build more settlements starting the beginning of next month. This was an affront to international peace and security, constituting a racist apartheid separation. Fact-finding missions in Palestine must continue, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international community were called on to pressure Israel to allow mandate holders to visit Palestinian territories.

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, recalled that since the first day of the occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan, the occupying power had destructed villages and forced the inhabitants to leave. It had also stolen the natural resources of these areas. The international community had repeatedly called on Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan, notably through several Security Council resolutions that called on this country to backtrack from the occupation. For more than 50 years, the occupation had continued, disregarding the United Nations Charter and the various United Nations resolutions. The support of the United States to Israel had accelerated the occupation policies and the annexation of East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan. The Human Rights Council should embrace its responsibility and stand up against the occupation of the Syrian Golan. Syria called upon countries to review their biased position in favour of Israel. It condemned Israel’s looting of natural resources in the occupied territories. Syria also condemned the practice of demolishing houses to compel residents to move, as well as the practice of forcing residents of the occupied Syrian Golan to register their properties in Israel, a policy that violated their right to property. Syria called for access to healthcare for the residents of the occupied Syrian Golan, and urged the Council to update the database on business and enterprises in the occupied Syrian Golan.

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

In the general debate, speakers highlighted the lack of progress on this agenda item, emphasizing a lack of accountability for Israeli actions and reiterating their support for the people of Palestine, including their right to self-determination. A number of speakers urged the international community to exert pressure on Israel in view of its violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories, condemning Israel’s use of force against Palestinian protesters, women and children, including the use of live ammunition. Many speakers recognized the two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine as the best roadmap for solving this crisis. Speakers welcomed the publishing of the database of businesses working in Israeli settlements and expressed the hope that it would be updated annually. Despite this publication, speakers noted that the expansion of Israeli settlements continued, underlining that these actions, as well as current Israeli plans to illegally annex further territories in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, were encouraged by the rhetoric of the United States. The deterioration of the situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic was noted by speakers, some of whom condemned Israel’s attempts at using it to further expand its illegal settlements. One speaker noted that despite the pandemic, the number of Palestinian women and children in Israeli prisons had increased between January and March. Speakers also stressed the importance of international laws and United Nations resolutions in any mutually acceptable peace deal, underlining the moral responsibility of the Council to resolve the current crisis.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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