HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS DIALOGUE WITH SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
2 July 2012
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 report, said that Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with the mandate and expressed concern about Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention, and the expansion of Israeli settlements and related violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The main recommendations of the report included that a resolution should be adopted by the Human Rights Council and a special body be mandated to prepare a study on Israel’s use of administrative detention; that the Human Rights Council should commission a study on the adequacy of international humanitarian law to cover situations of prolonged occupation and provide Israel and the international community with appropriate recommendations; that the International Court of Justice should be requested to provide an Advisory Opinion on the Israeli practice of transferring detained Palestinians to prisons in Israel; and that the Human Rights Council should give increased attention to Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the normal functioning of the United Nations by way of the Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report of the Special Rapporteur recorded many of the violations committed by Israel but it contained only a small part of the systematic violations that took place and extended over the occupied Palestinian territory and into all aspects of human rights. These included the confiscation of Palestinian territory, the destruction of Palestinian property, and attacks carried out by settlers with the protection of the occupying authorities. These attacks compounded the suffering of the Palestinian people caused by the restriction of contact with the outside world, affecting the capacity of victims to reach hospitals and preventing delivery of humanitarian aid and food. Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur to clearly state the legal implications of Israel’s failure to comply with international human rights mechanisms and how this would reflect on Israel’s membership to international organizations.
Israel was not present in the room to take the floor. At the end of the meeting, the President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, called on Israel to resume its cooperation with the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed concern about the decision of Israel to suspend its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, the Council and its mechanisms for the protection of human rights. Speakers reiterated alarm at the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, the continued practice of administrative detention, including against women and children, limitations to the freedom of expression and movement, and settler violence against Palestinians and their property.
Mr. Falk, in concluding remarks, said that the stature and legitimacy of the Human Rights Council was itself at stake and that it was important to distinguish the pattern of non-cooperation from one of non-compliance with human rights standards and the related defiance of international law obligations. For the Human Rights Council to retain its own credibility, it had to move beyond rhetoric and find ways to take seriously the suffering of the Palestinian people and adopt measures commensurate with that suffering and display a political will to end the situation of lawlessness that had characterized the Palestinian occupation for so long.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, Cuba, Libya, European Union, Tunisia, Bahrain, Venezuela, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Saudi Arabia Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Latvia, Bangladesh and Kuwait.
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, North-South XXI, United Nations Watch, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and Defense for Children International.
The Council at noon started its general debate on the reports of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. The statements made under this agenda item from noon to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. can be found in the afternoon press release.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (HRC/20/32).
Presentation of Statement by Special Rapporteur on 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, said that since the beginning of his tenure in May 2008, despite repeated conciliatory efforts, there had not been any alteration of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the mandate. The principal purpose of the report was to assess efforts to realize the Palestinian right of self-determination, including in relation to refugees in neighbouring countries. It was important to assess to what degree refugee rights in the Palestinian diaspora were relevant to any negotiated peace arrangement reached between Israel and the Governmental representatives of the Palestinian people. Several conclusions emerged from the mission, such as widespread disillusionment with the so-called peace process as a path to the realization of Palestinian self-determination, as well as with the roles played by the Quartet and the United Nations. There was also rejection of armed resistance as the means by which to achieve positive progress toward realization of rights, past armed resistance having led to an intensification of hardship and suffering associated with life under Israeli occupation. Furthermore, there was short-term pessimism about the achievement of Palestinian rights due to Israeli policies, especially the expansion of settlements and the purported annexation of East Jerusalem.
There were three main areas of urgent concern, namely Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention and the recent phenomenon of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, targeted killings by Israel in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli settlements and related violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The main recommendations of the report included that a resolution should be adopted by the Human Rights Council and a special body be mandated to prepare a study on Israel’s use of administrative detention; that the Human Rights Council should commission a study on the adequacy of international humanitarian law to cover the situations of prolonged occupation and provide Israel and the international community with appropriate recommendations; that the International Court of Justice should be requested to provide an Advisory Opinion on the Israeli practice of transferring detained Palestinians to prisons in Israel, denying normal visitation rights, possibly joined to a request for legal clarification of the special character of prolonged belligerent occupation; and that the Human Rights Council should give increased attention to Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the normal functioning of the United Nations by way of the Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Statement by Concerned Country
Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, said that the report of the Special Rapporteur recorded many of the violations committed by Israel. Palestine reaffirmed the importance of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the continuation of his mandate until the end of the occupation. Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with the mandate and continued to reject the norms of international law. Despite the importance of the information in the report, it contained only a small part of the systematic violations that took place and extended over the occupied Palestinian territory and into all aspects of human rights covered by international law. The confiscation of Palestinian territory, the building of new settlements and the displacement of inhabitants could be considered ethnic cleansing. The demolition of houses, clinics and social facilities continued as part of the expansion of Israeli settlements, alongside the expulsion of Palestinian families and geographic and demographic changes altering the Arabic character of Jerusalem. Occupying authorities had also used Palestinian territories as a dumping ground for toxic waste, and continued to destroy Palestinian property, including the uprooting of olive trees, the burning of crops and attacks against mosques carried out by settlers with the protection of the occupying authorities.
These attacks compounded the sufferings of the Palestinian people caused by the restriction of contact with the outside world. Checkpoints and restrictions on movement affected the capacity of victims to reach hospitals, and the siege and blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip impeded the reach of humanitarian aid and food. The systematic instigation of racism and hatred against Palestinian people, by the Prime Minister of Israel and religious and party leaders, did not serve the objective of the two-State solution. These frightful facts had also been recorded in various reports by international and national institutions, and those submitted by Palestinian and Israeli civil society. Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur, based on his international capacity and legal expertise, to clearly state the legal implications of Israel’s failure to comply with international human rights mechanisms and how this would reflect on Israel’s membership to international organizations.
Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967
Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur and condemned the continued non-cooperation on the part of Israel in this matter. It also paid tribute to the efforts by Mr. Falk to fulfill his mandate. The Arab Group noted that, owing to the refusal by the occupying forces to allow the Special Rapporteur to enter the Palestinian territories, it had been necessary to organize meetings in neighbouring countries. The Arab Group had noted all the essential elements that had been mentioned by the Special Rapporteur and condemned the violations carried out by the occupying authority, such as extrajudicial killings in a systematic manner. The international community must compel Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions to ensure the end of the occupation and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Cuba focused on the conclusions of the report by the Special Rapporteur concerning the series of violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories and pointed out that Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with the process and to lift the blockade of Gaza. This was also reflected in the High Commissioner’s report, which noted the Israeli refusal to participate in any of the initiatives undertaken by the Human Rights Council. Cuba therefore strongly condemned the current situation and the silence kept by some of the powers in the Council, which perpetuated the current state of impunity that Israel enjoyed.
Libya said that the Special Rapporteur’s report showed that the occupying forces continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in this matter. Libya condemned the acts of the occupying forces in the Palestinian territories, especially acts of torture and abuse to which Palestinian detainees had been subjected and the refusal of their right to have visitors. The blockade imposed on Gaza was a crime against the Palestinian people because it was depriving an entire people of their right to communicate with the other Palestinian territories, with their neighbours and with the outside world, and this fact should be given attention.
European Union said that settlements were illegal under international law. The European Union reiterated its call on the Israeli Government to exercise the highest sense of responsibility by reversing its recent decision on settlement expansion, and expressed serious concern about recent increased incidents of settler violence. The European Union called for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings into the Gaza Strip for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip. It was appalled by recurring rocket attacks from Gaza and condemned violence deliberately targeting civilians.
Tunisia expressed alarm and concern about elements underlined in the report, including that Israel totally disregarded resolutions of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council. The situation of Palestinians in places of detention was also worrying, with their rights violated every day and their dignity disregarded. The hunger strikes showed the desperation of Palestinian detainees. Tunisia appealed to all Member States of the Council to shoulder their responsibilities to compel Israel to respect the terms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Bahrain expressed concern about Israel’s continued refusal to cooperate with the Special Procedures and the United Nations. It called upon Israel to abide by international legitimacy and take all means necessary to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It also called on the international community and the Council to work on protecting the rights of Palestinians, especially inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination.
Venezuela said that Israel’s announcement of its rejection to cooperate with the Council evidenced its intention to continue with systematic human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory that had been denied fundamental rights since the beginning of the occupation. Venezuela condemned the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and the attacks that had caused numerous civilian deaths, and the arbitrary administrative detention, which had subjected many women and children to degrading treatment. Venezuela reiterated its recognition of Palestinian statehood with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the Council should give increased attention to the refusal of Israel to cooperate with the United Nations and its mechanisms. The administrative detention of thousands of Palestinians made a mockery of protections in Israeli and international law and was particularly controversial as it involved the prolonged confinement of people who did not pose security threats and exceedingly harsh treatment amounting to cruel and unusual punishment, and conflicted with fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.
United Arab Emirates thanked actors and civil society that had contributed to revealing the violations committed under the Israeli occupation. The United Arab Emirates condemned the arbitrary administrative detention of Palestinians without distinction, including women and children, despite Israel’s commitments under international law. The United Arab Emirates called on the Council to pay attention to the recommendations in the report of the Special Rapporteur and to work towards their implementation in order to put an end to the occupation and to establish a Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Algeria expressed its appreciation for the efforts that had been made by the Special Rapporteur and said that his report had reviewed in part the suffering of the Palestinian people. Algeria condemned the continued violation of the rights of Palestinian people and noted in particular the destruction of houses, the extrajudicial executions, and the oppressive siege of Gaza and its dire consequences on the persons residing there. It also condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Council and to engage with the process of investigation.
Saudi Arabia said that it did not wish to dwell on the description of the suffering of the Palestinian people and the denial of their rights which had been described in the report by the Special Rapporteur. Saudi Arabia stressed that the situation in the Palestinian territories was tragic and condemned Israel’s continued and systematic violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, which had caused Palestinian detainees to go on a hunger strike. It also pointed out that the occupation itself was the most serious violation of fundamental human rights and ran counter to international legitimacy.
Egypt expressed concern over some of the elements contained in the report by the Special Rapporteur, especially the arrogance that Israel had displayed towards the Council and its refusal to cooperate with the study of Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories. Egypt condemned the violation of the rights of Palestinians described in the report by the Special Rapporteur, who had also noted that Palestinian prisoners had been placed in prisons inside Israel thereby effectively depriving them of their rights. It was necessary to compel Israel to respect its obligations.
Sudan called upon the international community to put pressure on Israel to live up to its international obligations, and to facilitate the mission of the Special Rapporteur. Israel’s credibility was being challenged by this firm refusal to cooperate.
Iran said the report illustrated flagrant violations of the human rights of Palestinians. It was perplexing that the Israeli regime was enjoying the support of the Western bloc, perpetrating violations with a sense of impunity. It was high time to more effectively defend the human rights of Palestinians. The settlement of the Palestinian crisis was only achievable if the inalienable rights of the people were recognized, restored and maintained, and if the occupation came to an end.
Syria highlighted that Israel continuously refused all forms of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur. Syria would welcome and was ready to fully cooperate with the mission if it wished to visit the over half a million Palestinians living in Syria. The most important conclusions reached were that the occupation remained the main obstacle before peace and stability in the region. The international community had to put pressure on Israel to make it abide by its commitments and international treaties as well as international legitimacy that called on it to immediately withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967.
Malaysia regretted the continued refusal of Israel to engage and cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and other initiatives within the United Nations. Malaysia was particularly troubled by the abusive practice of administrative “internment” and condemned the extrajudicial killings or assassinations of Palestinians by Israeli defence forces in the occupied Palestinian territory, which constituted a provocation and led to further terror and violence. Malaysia rejected the attempts to legalise unlawful settler outposts and was concerned with the unlawful demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures in the Occupied East Jerusalem.
Indonesia shared the sentiment of frustration felt by the Special Rapporteur and other United Nations mechanisms that had aimed to persuade Israel to adopt a more constructive position. The continuing Gaza blockade remained an issue for international attention as it threatened the livelihood of the civilian population in the area. Indonesia asked Mr. Falk how the international community could persuade Israel to re-engage with the international human rights mechanisms, in the context of its decision to suspend its cooperation with the Council.
Lebanon said that the international community must face up to its responsibility and require Israel to put an end to human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel should allow Mr. Falk to carry out its mandate and cooperate with other United Nations mechanisms and Special Procedure mandate holders. Lebanon supported all these mechanisms and their continued efforts to promote human rights, particularly in the clear framework of the mandates entrusted to them. Lebanon reiterated the importance of the mandate entrusted to the Special Rapporteur and stressed the need for cooperation in order to ensure its fulfilment.
Bangladesh regretted that the special Rapporteur had to report again the non-cooperation of Israel in this matter. It noted with concern the large number of human rights violations of the Palestinian people as described in his report, and stressed that the prolonged confinement and torture of Palestinian prisoners, the extrajudicial executions, and all other human rights violations that had been reported demonstrated Israel’s failure to uphold the relevant articles of the Geneva Convention. Unlawful settlements and the harassment of local Palestinian residents created an atmosphere of violence.
Kuwait welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur and strongly supported the mandate and the continuance of his efforts. Kuwait condemned the use by Israel of force, its continuing failure to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and to allow him entry to the Palestinian territories, and the persistent and continuing violation of human rights concerning Palestinian persons detained in Israeli jails in unacceptable conditions. Kuwait reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and urged the international community to put more pressure on Israel to comply with its obligations.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples focused on the following four issues: the practice of administrative detention, extrajudicial executions, settlement expansion, and the Gaza blockade which constituted grave violations of the fundamental human rights of Palestinian people. The Movement condemned the killings of innocent civilians and said that in the long run that might constitute a form of crime against humanity and a crime of war and should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that particular attention should be drawn to the precarious living conditions experienced by residents of refugee camps located both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in neighbouring States, and Israel’s persistent denial of the internationally recognized right of return.
North-South XXI said it was alarmed by the verified and well-documented reports of summary executions by the Israel authorities as well as Israel’s continued expansion of its settlements in violation of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. The actions of the Israeli authorities over such a prolonged period of time were a direct violation of their right to self-determination.
United Nations Watch said the report stated Israel’s refusal to cooperate. Given that Israel had invited and received numerous experts, was it possible that the problem lay in the mandate? The mandate was to investigate only Israel’s violations. The impartiality of the mandate and the mandate-holder was called into question on numerous grounds.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said that Israel’s continued demolitions and expanded settlements were politically motivated, hindered development, and exposed Palestinians to ethnic displacement and discrimination. Palestinian communities were left ever more isolated and the window of opportunity for a two-State solution had closed. Israel’s occupation could no longer be considered temporary, and its implication for the right to development and self-determination should be addressed.
Defense for Children International said that each year 500 to 700 Palestinian children were arrested, interrogated, prosecuted and detained by the Israeli military court system. No child should be prosecuted in military courts which lacked comprehensive fair trial and juvenile standards. As a minimum safeguard, Defense for Children International suggested three measures: children should have a parent present during interrogation, access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogations should be ensured, and interrogations should be recorded and a copy should be provided to defence counsel.
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 said that the stature and legitimacy of the Human Rights Council was itself an issue and to be passive in the face of this Israeli non-cooperation undermined the obligations of a Member of the United Nations as a State to exercise its own responsibility to cooperate with the Organization and its various procedures. It was important to distinguish the pattern of non-cooperation from the more important pattern of non-compliance with human rights standards and the related defiance of international law obligations. Absence of consistency undermined the international rule of law and tainted the capacity of the United Nations as such to implement law in a way that treated equals equally, and that had not happened in relation to the situation of the Palestinians. It was important to recognize unlawfulness on both sides. Palestinians had lived without the protection of law or the benefit of rights. How could this situation be tolerated and claims still be heard of the international community’s responsibility to protect? This defied moral imagination and was a serious challenge to the international community. Mr. Falk, in response to a question on possible genocide, said that genocide was a delicate issue that required much documentation. He believed that at this stage the most important focus should be on crimes against humanity. There were issues that were calling for some kind of concerted attention by the Human Rights Council and the international community as a whole. In conclusion, there was an end in view of how much rhetoric alone could address this horrible situation Palestinians had been living under for so long. For the Human Rights Council to retain its own credibility, it had to move beyond rhetoric, and find ways to take seriously the suffering of the Palestinian people and adopt measures commensurate with that suffering and display a political will to end the situation of lawlessness that had characterized the Palestinian occupation for so long.
For use of the information media; not an official record