Human Rights Council
24 March 2014
The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Mr. Falk, introducing his final report to the Human Rights Council as mandate holder, called attention to the most agonizing issues affecting the Palestinian people. The overarching question of how to achieve the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people under present conditions remained unanswered. In light of the relentless stream of settlement expansions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, it was undeniable that the territorial integrity and scope of any post-occupation Palestinian State was being steadily diminished. Members of the Council should realize that each additional housing unit in those settlements compounded the illegality of the enterprise. Mr. Falk was pleased to report upon an increasing momentum in the private economic sector to refrain from contributing to human rights violations through engagement with illegal Israeli settlements.
The Special Rapporteur said the report also examined whether Israeli policies and practices in occupied Palestine amounted to apartheid, and concluded that the maintenance of administrative structures that accorded the protection of the rule of law to settlers and their communities, while subjecting Palestinians to a regime of unaccountable military rule, was intrinsically discriminatory. Among other recommendations, the report suggested that the General Assembly requested the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legal status of prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories and assess allegations whether this occupation had the characteristics of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”. The Council should appoint an expert group to determine the legal regime for any occupation lasting more than five years.
Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, asked the Council to appoint a new mandate holder under the same mandate and highlighted the violations taking place in Palestine, including the violence perpetrated by settlers, the imposition of checkpoints, the blockade on Gaza, and other policies tantamount to apartheid. All these measures were unlawful and went against the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. Israel was flaunting the peace process and the possibilities for a peaceful solution.
Israel was not present in the room to take the floor.
During the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed appreciation for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and highlighted the importance of the mandate. Cumulative reports on the occupied Palestinian territories were indicative of the fact that violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law continued to be committed by Israel in those territories. Systematic violations of human rights reflected the fact that the Israeli occupation continued, targeting and killing civilians, destroying villages, forcing displacement and carrying out torture, and the Council should take a clear stance. Some delegations regretted the lack of cooperation displayed by Israel with the Special Rapporteur.
Other speakers asked the Special Rapporteur about what he had achieved during the last six years and whether his work had helped the Palestinian people. They recalled that WikiLeaks cables recorded that the Palestinian delegation had been considering seeking the removal of Mr. Falk due to his poor performance.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Morocco, Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries,
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Cuba, Chile, Turkey, Algeria, Ecuador, Maldives, Bahrain, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Mauritania, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, League of Arab States, Qatar, Lebanon, Bangladesh, South Africa, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Venezuela, and Senegal.
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Mouvement contre le racism et pout l’aimitié entre les peuples, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Human Rights Watch, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and Amuta for NGO Responsibility also took the floor.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 11:30, the Council will hear the presentation by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the reports of the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, to be followed by a general debate on the agenda item. This afternoon, the Council will hold a general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk (A/HRC/25/67).
Presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967
RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, presenting his final report to the Human Rights Council, said it called attention to the most agonizing issues affecting the Palestinian people. The overarching question of how to achieve the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people under present conditions remained unanswered.
The report depicted the cruelties of the occupation and underlined the humanitarian urgency of challenging the legal implications of prolonged occupation. Something must be done beyond the periodic utterance of words of regret and censure to ensure that Palestinians enjoyed the protection of the rule of law and to bring this unlawful occupation to an end. In light of the relentless stream of settlement expansions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, it was undeniable that the territorial integrity and scope of any post-occupation Palestinian State was being steadily diminished. Members of the Council should realize that each additional housing unit in those settlements compounded the illegality of the enterprise. Mr. Falk was pleased to report upon an increasing momentum in the private economic sector to refrain from contributing to human rights violations through engagement with illegal Israeli settlements. Hopefully, the future Special Rapporteur would continue to pursue the agenda relating to corporate social responsibility, as it was an important tangible step beyond mere words of condemnation and created a bond between United Nations activities and global solidarity initiatives along similar lines in civil society.
The report also examined whether Israeli policies and practices in occupied Palestine amounted to apartheid, and concluded that the maintenance of administrative structures that accorded the protection of the rule of law to settlers and their communities, while subjecting Palestinians to the right less regime of unaccountable military rule, was intrinsically discriminatory. Mr. Falk reminded the Council that in July 2014 it would be 10 years since the International Court of Justice had categorically stated the illegality of Israel’s construction of the wall in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and called for its dismantling and the payment of reparations for harm done to Palestinians. The huge material and psychological costs borne by villages and families living in enforced isolation should not be forgotten, not should the Israeli refusal to implement the international law findings of the highest judicial body in the United Nations. The humanitarian situation in Gaza was dire and worsening, partly due to changes in Egypt. The United Nations had suggested in an official report that the viability of Gaza was at risk, and it was an emergency challenge to ensure a sustainable future for its civilian population.
In conclusion, Mr. Falk summarized the recommendations made in the report, which included, among others, that the General Assembly request the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legal status of prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories and assess allegations whether this occupation had the characteristics of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”. The Council should appoint an expert group to determine the legal regime for any occupation lasting more than five years.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Palestine pointed to a newspaper article published this morning which reflected the message Israel wanted to send: that the Council was targeting and boycotting Israel, while this was far from reality. Palestine thanked the Special Rapporteur for his efforts and professionalism; he had worked tirelessly despite Israel’s lack of cooperation. Palestine asked the Council to appoint a new mandate holder under the same mandate. Israel endeavoured through its practices to undermine the United Nations and its mechanisms, despite being a member of the Organization and having acceded to a number of international instruments. Palestine highlighted the violations taking place in Palestine, including the violence perpetrated by settlers, the imposition of checkpoints, the blockade on Gaza, and other policies tantamount to apartheid. All these measures were unlawful and went against the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. Israel was flaunting the peace process and the possibilities for a peaceful solution.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur
Morocco reaffirmed the crucial importance of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and recalled that the report was of great importance. It had been submitted by a person of great credibility and showed that there were violations of Palestinian rights at all levels over the past six years, taking the form of expansionism and systematic occupation of Palestinian territories. Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the cumulative reports on the Occupied Palestinian Territories were indicative of the fact that violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law continued to be committed by Israel in those territories. The illegal and unlawful annexation and expansion of settlements were strongly condemned. Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, said that the systematic violations of human rights reflected the fact that the Israeli occupation continued, targeting and killing civilians, destroying villages, forcing displacement and carrying out torture. The matter needed a clear stance from the Council. There was no accountability for those perpetrating actions that ran counter to the most basic human rights.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, strongly condemned Israel’s non-cooperation with the Special Rapporteur that prevented him from fully fulfilling his mandate. Israel had revoked the permanent residency status of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to alter its character and this was unacceptable. The unlawful blockade of Gaza was also strongly condemned. Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, noted that Israel had not been able to be brought back to the room, a sign that it refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and comply with international resolutions. The rights of Palestinians to self-determination and full sovereignty of their resources was underscored. There was deep concern regarding the defamation of the Special Rapporteur. Cuba deplored that the Special Rapporteur was not able to rely on the cooperation of Israel. The insulting attacks of certain non-governmental organizations against the Special Rapporteur were rejected. Also deplored were the reprisals by Israel against Palestinians, including the scaling up of illegal settlements, and the terror and violence that the Israeli settlers perpetrated against Palestinians and their property.
Chile reiterated the need to put an end to acts of violence against the Palestinian people. The situation of occupation still existed despite the many words against it spoken by the international community. The unconditional cessation of all illegal settlement activity that violated human rights was indispensable for the peace negotiations and to restore the spirit of dialogue. Turkey appreciated the emphasis given in the report to the negative effects of the wall, illegal settlements and the blockade of Gaza. Any improvement of the human rights situation required, first and foremost, ending the Israeli occupation and a common vision of peace, which was not in place. Algeria appreciated the neutrality and credibility of the Special Rapporteur and reiterated the credence of his final report. The International Court of Justice had declared the wall illegal 10 years ago and Algeria reminded the Council of the measures that the Special Rapporteur had suggested in his previous reports to ensure the compliance of Israel with this decision.
Ecuador shared the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur in his report and appealed to the United Nations to ensure that resolution 181 of 1947 on the creation of a free and sovereign Palestinian State was fully implemented. All countries that had veto power in the United Nations Security Council should reconsider their position in relation to the situation of the Palestinian people which had negative implications for global peace and security. Maldives strongly condemned the continued, systematic and gross violations of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, in a climate and culture of impunity. The continuation of violence by settlers and the grave situation in Gaza were questions of grave concern and Maldives reiterated that without a Palestinian State, Palestinians would never be safeguarded. Bahrain said that all States must respect all human rights, including the right to self-determination. Israel continued to build illegal settlements and today half a million settlers lived in the occupied Palestinian territories. The settlement activity was an obstacle to any sustainable peace.
Tunisia deplored the attacks and defamation campaigns against the Special Rapporteur in order to divert attention from the situation in Palestine. Tunisia supported all the recommendations emanating from the report, in particular inviting the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the longevity of the occupation and administrative and legal modifications in place which could be characterised as apartheid or ethnic cleansing. United Arab Emirates said that the mandate holder, despite the challenges posed by the occupying forces, should continue to draw attention to the occupation. The Council should give greater attention to the non-cooperation of Israel with the Special Rapporteur. The delegation hoped that the new rapporteur would be able to display the same determination and enthusiasm. Jordan thanked the Special Rapporteur for the report and highlighted the importance of implementing the recommendations in the report. The mandate holder had expressed concern about the continued violation of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, as well as about administrative practices which might amount to apartheid. Jordan condemned all violations and agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the International Court of Justice should be asked for an advisory opinion on the prolonged occupation.
Mauritania condemned the human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, welcoming the professionalism of the report. The conflict was still a source of tension and threatened international peace and security in very tangible ways. A solution to the conflict must include a Palestine State with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of all occupied territories to the Palestinian people. Egypt thanked Mr. Falk for his report and hoped that the new mandate holder showed the same frankness and capacity in the fulfilment of his mandate. Israeli violations continued to grow, in violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and the demographic makeup of the occupied territories was being modified. Egypt condemned the extension of the Israeli settlements and called on the Special Rapporteur to address this situation. Syria reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. It was crucial that the world recalled their suffering. A climate favourable to violations had been created, leading to the violation of international standards and laws in the occupied territories. The European Union had manifested its hypocrisy and weakness, as its members refused to point out the suffering of the Palestinian people. It was crucial to realise how serious the situation was.
Sudan regretted that Israel had not allowed the Special Rapporteur to visit the occupied Palestinian territories. The report clearly reflected the fact that Israel continued its non-cooperation with United Nations mechanisms, including the Council, believing that it was above the law. Israel was continuing its inhumane practices, in clear violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Iraq said Israeli policies had given rise to the separation and deterioration of the Palestinian people, who suffered under the yolk of occupation. Iraq condemned the Israeli position that defied resolutions stemming from United Nations bodies. Also condemned was the separation policy and that of settlement expansion, as well as policies that had serious repercussions on the enjoyment of the Palestinian people of their rights. League of Arab States said that Israel’s intransigence and its continuation to refuse to stop settlement activities was an obstacle to all efforts to achieve a peace process. Israel continued the illegal practices to Judaise East Jerusalem, falsifying its history. Israel had taken many apartheid policies, such as the separation wall and the forced transfer of civilians, a grave violation of the rights of the Palestinians.
Qatar strongly condemned the non-cooperation of Israel with the Special Rapporteur. Ten years after the handing down of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the unlawful separation wall was still standing when its dismantlement had been called for. The international community had not exerted pressure on Israel to cease its occupation and unlawful practices. Lebanon deplored Israel’s non-cooperation with the mandate. On the separation wall, Lebanon was very concerned that Israel was flouting the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that established that the wall was unlawful. Lebanon was also concerned about the part in the report on Israeli settlements and the fragmentation of the Palestinian territories. Bangladesh conveyed deep concern and regret at the continued non-cooperation of Israel with the mandate holder, and its consistent failure to comply with clear legal standards embodied in the Geneva Convention related to the protection of civilian persons and in international humanitarian law and human rights law. There was particular concern about the situation of the beleaguered children of Gaza, who comprised over half of the population of Gaza.
South Africa welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur, Richard Falk, praised his dedication, and thanked him for consistently highlighting the grave violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. Iran said that the competent international organizations should address efficiently and promptly the serious breaches and practices of Israel which constituted apartheid and segregation and called on the Council to establish an expert group to propose a legal regime for any occupation that lasted for more than five years. Malaysia joined others in the Council in condemning in the strongest terms Israel’s continuing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that continued to impede the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Israel should prove to the Palestinians and other Arab peoples in the occupied territories its sincere will and sincerity to resolve this conflict.
Indonesia noted the widespread human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories as a result of the prolonged occupation by Israel and said that the international community should explore more creative approaches to deal with this long overdue issue and to deliver its long overdue promise to Palestinians in conjunction with their inalienable right to self-determination. Venezuela denounced the blatant violations of human rights of the Palestinian people in total impunity by the occupying force Israel and condemned the increase in settlements which was a practice of colonialism, apartheid and segregation. Israel must act diligently to protect Palestinians from violence by its settlers and pay reparations. Senegal said that the construction of the separation wall and the development of illegal settlements, together with the confiscation of property and treatment of prisoners, were violations by Israel of its obligations as an occupying power as set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man turned the Council’s attention to one of the findings of the report, which indicated that some private entities had enabled, facilitated, and profited from the construction and the growth of settlements. Access to legal remedy for human rights abuses linked to settlement activity was denied to Palestinians and Al-Haq called on States to adopt and implement domestic legislation aimed to prevent and punish companies involved in violations of international law. Mouvement contre le racism et pour l’aimitié entre les peuples commended the report which detailed the root causes and consequences of the long standing occupation of the Palestinian territories and demonstrated the danger for the international community to allow a single State to undermine international law. The Movement expressed support and appreciation for the work of Mr. Falk who had shown how intellect and eloquence could shake and destabilise a highly militarised government. International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists expressed disappointment at the work of the United Nations agency mandated to deal with Palestinian refugees and the inadequate care it provided. The agency’s work was preserving the underprivileged status of Palestinian refugees, leading them to a life of poverty and dependence. The Association called for a transparent review of the agency, as well as the efforts made by the Palestinian authorities and relevant actors to improve the lives of refugees.
Human Rights Watch asked the Special Rapporteur about what he had achieved during the last six years and whether his work had helped the Palestinian people. Human Rights Watch recalled that WikiLeaks cables recorded that the Palestinian delegation had been considering seeking the removal of Mr. Falk due to his poor performance and his reference to Hamas in the draft report. The Palestinian Deputy Permanent Representative was visibly upset by Mr. Falk’s reference to Hamas and the many errors in the draft report, arguing that this latest misguided effort had gone too far. International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that the expansion of settlements in Palestine had resulted in systematic oppression and apartheid affecting Palestinians at all levels, and questioned the seriousness of peace talks. The International Organization was surprised that even the Israeli Supreme Court had legitimised some of these acts and hoped that the new mandate would continue to address these issues. Amuta for NGO Responsibility regretted the endorsement Mr. Falk had given to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and highlighted the danger it posed as it constituted a call for hatred and used intimidation against those in support of a peaceful resolution to this conflict. They expressed concerns about incidents of racism targeting Jewish students making it hard to engage in dialogue.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur
RICHARD FALK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, in concluding remarks thanked delegations for their supportive and constructive statements, as well as members of the non-governmental organization community that had added richness to the dialogue and had given welcomed support to this mandate over the past six years. It was underscored, on what was said that so much time had passed, that it was up to the Human Rights Council to now move beyond rhetoric and words of concern and to take concrete steps to ensure that Palestinian rights became respected and that Israel’s pattern of defiance of international law had tangible consequences. Otherwise, as had been suggested by several delegations, the failure to implement the Goldstone report, to take seriously the recommendations regarding action against business organizations that profited from dealing with unlawful settlements, cast out on the value of the United Nations as a source of authority in the world. A great deal was at stake in not allowing the pattern to persist; it had contributed to the daily ordeal confronting the Palestinian people not for just a short period but for decade after decade, generation after generation. It was the responsibility of all to work towards the final just and sustainable peace for both peoples, but premised on genuine self- determination for the Palestinian people who had been kept waiting at the gate for far too long.
It was encouraging to the Special Rapporteur that the President of the Council had attempted to keep the discussion within the limits that should be respected regarding the report under discussion. It was hoped that following the comments made by several delegations that the time had come to question an occupation that had lasted beyond five years, in this case a foreign occupation that had lasted 47 years; this had to be challenged and brought to an end. The gap in international humanitarian law had to be filled. This also related to Israel’s defiance of international law. Nothing would restore and enhance respect for the Human Rights Council than taking tangible steps to see to it that the business activities connected with the unlawful settlements, including the consequences of the wall, were addressed in a new advisory opinion that re-examined the whole structure that had emerged in occupied Palestine.
For use of the information media; not an official record