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Human Rights Council hears oral update on Georgia and holds interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestinian territories

Human Rights Council

16 July 2020

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting heard an oral update on cooperation with Georgia, and held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.  It also concluded an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the report on Georgia to be presented at the forty-fifth session of the Council would outline the activities of the Senior Human Rights Adviser, report on serious human rights gaps in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and highlight developments on the administration of justice, combatting torture and discrimination, and promoting gender equality.  The report would also highlight challenges to human rights protection in the context of COVID-19.

Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the human rights of communities in the occupied areas were restricted due to the ongoing installation of physical barriers along the occupation line, restrictions of freedom of movement, kidnappings, torture and ill treatment, and absence of adequate medical care.  This was especially concerning in light of COVID-19, and Russia’s continuing violations of human rights and the ceasefire agreement. 
Russian Federation spoke in right of reply at the end of the consideration of agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.

The Council then held an interactive discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

S. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said Israel continued to not grant him access to the occupied Palestinian territory, nor did it engage with him at any level.  The refusal to cooperate with this mandate by the Government of Israel was in no one’s best interests, and certainly not in the interests of the cause of human rights.  The spectre of further annexation by Israel now loomed over the occupied territory.  Annexation was a fundamental violation of international law. 

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said Israel’s prolonged colonial exploitation was the direct cause of the suffering of the Palestinian people.  The vision of peace and prosperity put forward by the United States administration denied the rights of the Palestinian people.  This vision gave the green light to the Israeli Government to signal its decision to occupy more Palestinian territories.  Collective punishment amounted to war crimes according to the Rome Statutes, and the blockade of Gaza was one of the worst forms of collective punishment. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said collective punishment was a flagrant violation of human rights, and Israel's refusal to cooperate with the mandate should not be allowed to continue.  Citing the withholding of bodies, destructions of homes, impediment of freedom of movement and the siege on Gaza, settlement expansion and extrajudicial killings committed by Israel, speakers said the international community must act.  Other speakers noted that an entire agenda item was dedicated to Israel, the only country to which such a situation applied, pointing out that Israel had provided Palestinian territories during the COVID-19 pandemic with training and testing kits. 

Speaking were the State of Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Tunisia, Malaysia, Qatar, Djibouti, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Libya, China, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Senegal, Venezuela (video message), Cuba, Kuwait (video message), Namibia, Syrian Arab Republic, Iran, Chile, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Jordan, Indonesia, Botswana, South Africa, Morocco, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Turkey, Sudan, Egypt, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Niger, Nicaragua, European Union, Germany on behalf of group of countries, Spain and Syria. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Ingenieurs de Monde, Amnesty International (video message), World Evangelical Alliance, European Union of Jewish Students, ADALAH - Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (video message), Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Institute for NGO Research (video message), Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man (video message), United Nations Watch, and Lutheran World Federation.

The Council then concluded the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.  The interactive dialogue started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Speakers welcomed the report that confirmed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide among and within countries would intensify existing discrimination, including along racial lines.  Speakers supported the Special Rapporteur’s call to develop and adopt a programme to advocate the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action across the world.

Taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Minority Rights Group, Joint statement : Minority Rights Group, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities, Lutheran World Federation, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Amnesty International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, China Society for Human Rights Studies, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, and International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations.

Speaking in right of reply at the end of the consideration of agenda item 3 on the promotion and protection of all human rights were India, Myanmar, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Council will next meet at 3.30 p.m. to start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Presentation on Cooperation with Georgia

Documentation

The Council has before it the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on Cooperation with Georgia (A/HRC/43/L.7).

Presentation

GEORGETTE GAGNON, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the report that would be presented at the forty-fifth session of the Council, would outline the activities of the Senior Human Rights Adviser, report on serious human rights gaps in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and highlight developments on the administration of justice, combatting torture and discrimination, and promoting gender equality.  The report would also highlight challenges to human rights protection in the context of COVID-19.  The authorities of Georgia and health professionals were commended for their intensive efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak, and for keeping the number of infections and fatalities among the lowest in the Europe and Central Asia region.

On 1 November 2019, the State Inspector institution had started exercising its mandate as an independent body to investigate allegations of violations by law enforcement agents.  Issues identified by domestic and international observers in the selection of Supreme Court judges remained to be addressed.  The report noted ongoing investigations into violence that occurred on 20 and 21 July 2019 amid the protest outside the Parliament, during which several persons were seriously injured. Ms. Gagnon requested access to Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.  Restrictions on freedom of movement remained among serious concerns, especially along the Administrative Boundary Lines of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and in adjacent areas.  During the period under review, the so-called “borderization” reportedly continued.

Statement by Concerned Country

Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region remained outside of the control of the Georgian Government, with the Russian Federation remaining as the occupying power.  The human rights of communities in the occupied areas were restricted due to the ongoing installation of physical barriers along the occupation line, restrictions of freedom of movement, kidnappings, torture and ill treatment, and absence of adequate medical care.  This was especially concerning in light of COVID-19, and Russia’s continuing violations of human rights and the ceasefire agreement.  The full responsibility of human rights violations and the denial of access to human rights mechanisms to the area was held by the Russian Federation. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied by Israel since 1967

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/44/60 - Advance Unedited Version).

Presentation of the Report

S. MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said Israel continued to not grant him access to the occupied Palestinian territory, nor did it engage with him at any level.  The refusal to cooperate with this mandate by the Government of Israel was in no one’s best interests, and certainly not in the interests of the cause of human rights.  The spectre of further annexation by Israel now loomed over the occupied territory.  Annexation was a fundamental violation of international law.  What would be left of the West Bank following annexation would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world.  The already large-scale patterns of human rights violations associated with the occupation would likely only intensify and get worse in the aftermath of the annexation.  The international community had criticized Israel when it annexed East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights 40 years ago, but it had taken no meaningful countermeasures to oppose Israel’s actions.  This time must be different.

Turning to collective punishment, Mr. Lynk noted that it was an inflamed scar that ran across the entire 53-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Notwithstanding numerous resolutions, reports and reminders critical of its use, Israel continued to rely upon collective punishment as a prominent instrument in its coercive toolbox of population control.  Yet, collective punishment was a tool of control and domination that was anti-ethical to the modern rule of law.  Like torture, the use of collective punishment flouted law and morality, dignity and justice, and stained all those who practiced it.

Statement by Concerned Country

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, expressed appreciation for the work of the Special Rapporteur.  Israel’s prolonged colonial exploitation was the direct cause of the suffering of the Palestinian people.  The vision of peace and prosperity put forward by the United States administration denied the rights of the Palestinian people.  This vision gave the green light to the Israeli Government to signal its decision to occupy more Palestinian territories.  Collective punishment amounted to war crimes according to the Rome Statutes, and the blockade of Gaza was one of the worst forms of collective punishment.  The COVID-19 pandemic had only further intensified the suffering and violations conducted under collective punishment, as the State of Palestine called for an end of the occupation.

Discussion

Speakers said collective punishment was a flagrant violation of human rights, and Israel's refusal to cooperate with the mandate should not be allowed to continue.  Citing the withholding of bodies, destruction of homes, impediment of freedom of movement and the siege on Gaza, settlement expansion and extrajudicial killings committed by Israel, speakers said the international community must act.  The need to continue providing support to the Palestinian people was stressed.  Everyday, the occupying forces adopted provocative measures amounting to collective punishment and reflected the racist mentality of the occupier, which was attempting to destroy the Palestinian people.  Urging the parties to resume negotiations, speakers emphasised that it was indispensable that the occupation ended. 

Interim Remarks

S. MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, stated that there were many measures that States could take to influence Israel, referring to his earlier report on accountability in October 2019 to the General Assembly.  In situations when there was a need to ensure the respect of international humanitarian law, the International Committee of the Red Cross had developed a non-exhaustive list of countermeasures that included exerting diplomatic pressure, intervening directly with commanders, referring a situation to the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, requesting a meeting of the high contracting parties, and non-renewal of trade privileges, among others.  Countermeasures could also include arms embargos, financial restrictions, flight bans, and the reduction or suspension of aid and cooperation agreements.  The Special Rapporteur noted that he had recommended in the past posing an advisory opinion coming from the General Assembly to the International Court of Justice for the peaceful settlement and a legal ruling with respect to annexation and illegal occupation.  Otherwise, Israel, the occupying power, would continue to enjoy impunity with respect to the conduct of the occupation, as that occupation now turned into formal annexation.

Discussion

Speakers noted the denial of access for the Special Rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories by Israel.  The annexation plans of illegal settlements in the West Bank were condemned by many speakers, who emphasised its illegality under international law.  The publication of the list of businesses associated with illegal Israeli settlements was welcomed by speakers.  Continued displacement of Palestinians, the inhumane blockade of Gaza, and systematic violations of Palestinian rights made up an unsustainable and unacceptable reality.  Other speakers noted that an entire agenda item was dedicated to Israel, the only country to which such a situation applied, pointing out that Israel had provided Palestinian territories during the COVID-19 pandemic with training and testing kits.  

Concluding Remarks

S. MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said that as of last week, there were 5,500 reported cases of COVID-19 in the occupied Palestinian territories and 72 in Gaza, and reminded that Israel remained primarily responsible for the right to health, as the occupying power.  He recalled that former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, during his last visit to Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territory in 2016, had called for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted, and all acts of collective punishment to be ended.  As long as Israel continued to occupy Palestine and as long as the Palestinian people were denied the right to self-determination, this had to be a foremost concern for the world.  In the resolutions pointed out by speakers who were against Israel being singled out by the Council, it was not Israel that was being singled out for its existence as a State, it was Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory and its refusal to give Palestinians self-determination that was being singled out.  There was deliberate confusion of those two points entertained by those who were unfriendly to efforts by the international community to end the occupation.  

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers welcomed the thematic report of the Special Rapporteur that confirmed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide among and within countries would intensify existing discrimination, including along racial lines.  Speakers supported the Special Rapporteur’s call to develop and adopt a programme to advocate the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action across the world.  Police use of facial recognition systems for mass surveillance was of particular concern, with speakers noting high rates of false positives for people of colour.  Transparency, accountability and oversight over artificial intelligence systems had to be grounded in human rights.  Reaching this goal could not be left to corporations.  Structural racism dramatically affected many human beings in different countries - many among whom were people on the move.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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