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COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATES ON SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES AND ON THE VIENNA DECLARATION
2 July 2012

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held general debates under its agenda items on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories and on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Opening the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the High Commissioner’s report that contained information received from Turkey concerning the implementation of the fact-finding mission’s conclusions on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla; the progress report of the High Commissioner on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/18 entitled "Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict"; and the Secretary-General’s report relating to Council resolution 19/17 concerning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan.

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, called on the Council to bring pressure on Israel to comply with international law and to put an end to its occupation and the continued attacks on Palestinian citizens, property and infrastructure. Efforts should be made to put an end to the attacks of Israeli settlers against Palestinians

Turkey, speaking as a concerned country, said more than two years had passed and Israel had taken no effective steps to redress the humanitarian flotilla incident of May 2010. On the contrary, it had chosen to enhance its reputation of non-compliance, and felt free to use disproportionate force whenever and wherever.

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said that the Israeli forces continued their violations in a systematic and persistent manner. The Council and the Office of the High Commissioner must not remain silent before such practices and should not be put under pressure by the State committing State terrorism.

In the general debate, numerous delegations deplored Israel’s non-cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and non-compliance with standards of international law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. Delegations were concerned by increased settler violence; the decision to expand settlements which was seen as a major obstacle to peace; and measures aimed at altering the legal, geographic and demographic character or status of Jerusalem. Other issues raised were administrative detention of Palestinians by Israel, ill-treatment and torture. The Council was urged to take action and pressure Israel to abide by its obligations and comply with all resolutions. Concern was also expressed with regards to the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Qatar, Russia, Norway, Libya, China, United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, India, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Oman, Sudan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Slovenia, Egypt, Iceland, South Africa, Lebanon, and Yemen.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Union of Arab Jurists, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Al-Haq, International Association of Jewish Lawyer and Jurists, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, North-South XXI, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, United Nations Watch, Association of World Citizens, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations.

The Council this afternoon also started its general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

In the general debate, speakers recognized the impact of the current economic and financial crises on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. One speaker said that the economic crises should not be used as an excuse to deprive migrants of the enjoyment of their rights. There were valuable best practices on addressing the issue of impunity with regards to the protection of human rights defenders and there was a need to ensure more cooperation at the international level in this area. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were commended on several levels, including the shift that occurred from a standard-setting process to action focused on implementation of rights at the country and local level. The question of the need to address sexual violence was also raised, with particular concern regarding sexual violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Delegations that took the floor were Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Cyprus on behalf of the European Union, Argentina on behalf of Mercado Comun del Sur, Austria on behalf of a group of States, Norway, Maldives, Chile, United States, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of States, Uruguay, Morocco, Australia, Iran, Slovenia, Egypt, Holy See, South Africa in a joint statement with Brazil, and Algeria.

The Human Rights Council will resume its work on Tuesday, 3 July 2012, at 10 a.m. to conclude the general debate on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, before proceeding to the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.

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

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the status of implementation of the conclusions contained in the report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla (HRC/20/3/Rev.1).

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/17 (entitled "Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan") (HRC/20/13).

The Council has before it the progress report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/18 (entitled "Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict") (HRC/20/36).

Presentation of Reports by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented three reports prepared under agenda item 7 on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories. First, the High Commissioner’s report A/HRC/20/3/Rev.1 contained information received from Turkey concerning the implementation of the fact-finding mission’s conclusions on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla. The main conclusions of the fact-finding mission had not yet been met with effective action by the Israeli authorities. Second, report A/HRC/20/36 was a progress report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/18 (entitled "Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict") that indicated the steps that had been taken to gather information on the recommendations of the fact-finding mission. Third, the report relating to Council resolution 19/17 concerned Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan. The Secretary-General’s report A/HRC/20/13 addressed resolution 19/17 that called for action by Israel, the President of the Human Rights Council and the Secretariat. The Secretary-General’s report indicated that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West bank was ongoing. Another phenomenon linked to the expansion of settlements was the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their properties.

The High Commissioner continued to be concerned over Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip which had been ongoing for five years and stressed the urgent need to improve the protection of civilians in Gaza. She also noted however that a decrease of lethal incidents in the Israeli-enforced access restricted areas around Gaza had been reported. She expressed concern about the situation of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails. She mentioned the reports that had been received about arbitrary detentions carried out by Palestinian security forces. The High Commissioner’s Office in the occupied Palestinian territory was going to continue to monitor, report and address human rights concerns in the territory. The High Commissioner had expressed surprise at the announcement of Israel’s decision to suspend relations with the High Commissioner’s Office and asked Israel to reconsider that decision.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said it would have liked Israel to participate in this general debate. It was strange and Palestine denounced that Israel had decided not to engage with the Council which attested to its arrogance and disregard for the Council and its resolutions. Israel had taken this decision after denouncing the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner as a political tool to demonise Israel. Israel refused to engage not only with the Council but with resolutions and mechanisms of the United Nations as a whole. Palestine asked about how effective Israel’s full membership to this organization was while depriving the Palestinian people from the enjoyment of their rights, through the occupation of its territory, but also by denying Palestine full membership.

Palestine valued the efforts made by the International Fact-Finding Commission and the Commission of Inquiry, noting the challenges and pressures surrounding their work. Palestine called on the need for all parties to comply with their responsibilities under international law so that the resolutions could be effectively implemented, and called on the Council to bring pressure on Israel to comply with international law and put an end to its occupation, the continued attacks on Palestinian citizens, property and infrastructure. Efforts should be made to put an end to the attacks of Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and to ensure that Israel complied with international law and the Geneva Conventions with regards to the treatment of civilians and prisoners.

Turkey, speaking as a concerned country, drew attention to the flotilla tragedy of May 2010. The international community did not remain silent in the face of that blatant case of violation of human rights and the Council had risen to the occasion by, among others, appointing a team of independent experts to investigate this issue. The main conclusion of the report was that the military attack by Israel on the humanitarian flotilla was tantamount to a series of grave violations of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. However, more than two years had passed and Israel had taken no effective steps to redress the situation. On the contrary, it had chosen to enhance its reputation of non-compliance, and felt free to use disproportionate force whenever and wherever. The families of the victims and civil society were still seeking justice while perpetrators of the deadly raid had been treated as heroes by Israel. The international community could not allow such heedless disregard for humanity to be ignored.
Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said that the Israeli forces continued their violations in a systematic and persistent manner, taking over the land and farms and depriving Syrians in the Golan from exporting their agricultural produce, even though the International Committee of the Red Cross was aware of this, as it participated in the yearly marketing of these products. Israel forced inhabitants of the Occupied Syrian Golan to move, in order to increase the 40 settlements in which some 40,000 settlers live. It also continued to uproot trees and confiscate land in the Golan in order to build wind electricity plants and take water for the settlers. One of most dangerous things was the building of walls. In addition to the shameful wall of the West Bank, Israel had started building separation walls on the borders of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Nine prisoners from the occupied Syrian Golan had been held in detention only for their refusal of the occupation, in inhumane conditions, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. Theft of water continued, affecting 35 per cent of the water in the Golan. Israel was perpetrating State terrorism, inherently hostile and totally disregarded basic human rights. If they wanted to preserve their credibility and reputation as two international organs for the establishment of justice, the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner must not remain silent before such practices and should not be put under pressure by the State committing State terrorism.

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

Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed its support for the people who strove to realize their right to self-determination and was committed to supporting the Palestinians to establish their own independent State on the borders of 4 June 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel should be held accountable for its continued violations of human rights and humanitarian laws; lift the illegal blockade on Gaza; release Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli prisons; and put an end to the illegal detention of women and children and to the degrading treatment of detainees. The Non-Aligned Movement expressed concern over the issue of settlements and the ongoing violent acts by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. It urged the international community to take action to address the situation in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan and the remaining occupied Lebanese land.

Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, denounced once again the colonizing conduct of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories which was illegal and had been condemned by the international community. The African Group stressed the need to put an immediate end to the construction of new settlements in the territories and the construction of the wall. It condemned the deterioration of the conditions of detention of Palestinian prisoners, their unjustified arrest and the systematic violation of their rights by the occupying forces, including depriving them of their right to have visits from their families.

Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated its commitment to the security of Israel and condemned rocket attacks from Gaza and violence deliberately targeting civilians. The European Union also expressed concern over Israel’s settlement construction and expansion in the occupied territories, the demolition of homes and the series of evictions which were illegal under international law, and called upon Israel to meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population in that area. Israeli and Palestinian human right defenders should be able to carry out their work without restrictions. The European Union called on the Government of Israel to comply with its obligations under international law.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, affirmed the need to end the Israeli occupation and establish an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and ensure the return of refugees with relevant United Nations resolutions. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation demanded, among others, that Israel comply with the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the construction of the wall; remove checkpoints and crossing points, and facilitate free movement of persons and goods within the occupied Palestinian territories; immediately lift the siege on Gaza; and refrain from any measure aiming at altering the legal, geographic and demographic character or status of Jerusalem.

Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israel continued its occupation in total disregard of all decisions taken by the United Nations and all its agencies and concerned organs in a systematic policy that violated international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Israel continued to refuse to abide by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding the wall. Israel had chosen a policy of colonization instead of the peace process. The Arab Group called on the Council and High Commissioner to immediately and urgently act in order to save the lives of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The Arab Group reiterated its call to put pressure on Israel to abide by its obligations and shoulder its responsibilities.

Qatar expressed concern at the contents of the reports regarding the continuation of Israel’s colonization policies. This meant that the solution of a Palestinian State was becoming almost impossible. Qatar condemned Israel’s use of administrative detention, the demolishing of houses, and the continuing siege of Gaza. Israel was clearly determined to continue committing more violations in the occupied Arab territories in clear denial of international legitimacy, international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It was killing any chance of peace.

Russian Federation continued to advocate a solution to the conflict through peaceful means and a two-State solution on the basis of international law, the work of the Quartet and United Nations resolutions. Russia rejected unilateral actions against the status of the Palestinian territory, including the expansion of settlements, evictions of Palestinian people and destruction of their property, and the continuation of the Gaza blockade. Russia expressed concern about the administrative detention of Palestinians and continued attacks carried out by settlers. Russia was prepared to further cooperate with partners and to host a Moscow conference on Middle East peace after the resumption of talks among the main parties.

Norway remained concerned about human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory. The occupation itself remained the key obstacle for the Palestinian population to enjoy their full human rights and denied the Palestinian people their fundamental right of self-determination. Norway deplored the expansion of settlements in violation of international law and the increase in settler violence against Palestinians and their property. Norway deplored the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israel and the lack of discrimination between civilian and military targets in clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Libya said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and Syrian Golan was of great concern. The Palestinian people had suffered from oppression for over half a century and Israel disregarded humanitarian values and international law, as illustrated by the refusal to cooperate with the Council and the High Commissioner. Colonisation and the expansion of settlements, in addition to administrative detention, extrajudicial executions, torture and long-periods of detention were all examples of violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. The siege of Gaza, the attack on the humanitarian flotilla and the lack of cooperation with investigations into these events illustrated Israel unwillingness to cooperate with the Council. The international community and the Council should use all available channels to put an end to the occupation.

China said that Palestine and Israel should resolve their issues through dialogue and stressed the need for the two parties to restart dialogue on those issues. China hoped that the blockade of Gaza would be lifted immediately so that the population of Gaza would be able to live with dignity. It also expressed hope that the situation regarding Palestinian detainees would improve. China supported the just cause of establishing an independent State of Palestine based on the borders of 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also supported Palestine to become a member of the United Nations.

United States continued to be troubled by the disproportionate and biased focus on Israel as exemplified by the standing agenda item and stressed that the Council had to treat all countries by the same standards. The goal of the United States remained a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Ending the underlying conflict was vital to addressing the human rights issues in Israel and the Palestinian territories and direct negotiations provided the only way for parties to resolve their differences. The Palestinian people should be able to govern themselves in a sovereign State. The United States remained committed to supporting the efforts of humanitarian agencies which addressed the needs of Palestinian refugees and urged Council members to do so too. It also urged the Council to take a balanced and objective approach to the human rights situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Indonesia deplored Israel’s continued non-compliance with the Council’s resolution 19/17 and urged it to reverse its decision to construct new housing units for Israeli settlers in the West Bank and around occupied East Jerusalem, and reverse its settlement policy in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan. The current policy was in breach of international law and United Nations Security Council relevant resolutions and constituted a blatant disregard for the human rights of the Palestinian people to a livelihood, freedom of movement and most significantly, to self-determination.

Malaysia was gravely concerned regarding Israel’s continued and clear violation of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law, among others, through the continuing expansion of illegal settlements, the humanitarian Flotilla incident of May 2010, settlement expansion and the prolonged militarily enforced blockade against Gaza. Malaysia called on Israel to cease all settlement activity and comply immediately and unconditionally with the demands of resolution 19/17. It was also concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan as a result of the Israeli occupation, which continued to violate the civil, political, economic social and cultural rights of the Syrian population.

Maldives was appalled by the climate of impunity in the occupied Palestinian territories, condemned the recent acts of aggression in Gaza which had caused a number of victims, and urged the Council to continue to monitor closely the situation in Palestine. It also called for the creation of a Palestinian State on the basis of its 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Maldives expressed concern over Israel’s practice of administrative detention and the increasing number of Palestinians detained in unacceptable conditions.

Saudi Arabia regretted the continuation of systematic, illegal practices in the occupied territories which violated the rights of unarmed Palestinian people. Not only was Israel not making progress, it was also impeding the peace process through the acceleration of settlements in East Jerusalem and other practices aimed at driving Palestinian people into exile through a silent displacement policy. It was up to the Council to put an end to those practices and Saudi Arabia called for the immediate cessation of Israel’s settlement policy. It also called upon the international community to enforce the implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions.

Cuba noted that Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with the process which had been established by the Council, which was shameful and showed lack of respect. The Palestinian people continued to be deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to self-determination, and the situation required the urgent attention of the Council. Cuba proclaimed the need for a just and durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian and the Arab-Israeli conflicts and expressed its full backing to the recognition of a Palestinian State on the basis of its pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also supported Palestine as a full member of the United Nations.

India, speaking on behalf of India, Brazil and South Africa, regretted the lack of cooperation by Israel, expressed concern about the number of persons under administrative detention by Israel, and encouraged Israel to engage in dialogue with the protesters who had resorted to hunger strikes in protest of their detention. Israel’s legitimate security concerns did not justify these targeted actions against Palestinians. The countries reiterated that there had been neither prosecutions nor effective remedies for violations noted by the fact-finding mission on the flotilla incident and called on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza and, pending such measures, to facilitate the movement of persons and goods to and from Gaza.

Ecuador reiterated its recognition of the State of Palestine as a way to vindicate the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to a free, independent, and sovereign State, alongside the right of Israel to live in peace within secure and internationally recognised borders. Ecuador called upon both parties to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue, and condemned attacks against Palestinians, including women and children, and the practice of extrajudicial killings. Ecuador reiterated its support for any steps taken towards dialogue towards a satisfactory settlement for both parties, without violence or aggression, and that allowed for the full respect for human rights.

Bangladesh said that the occupation continued to cause grave human rights violations and the situation continued to deteriorate with more settlements, torture and arbitrary arrests and detention. Attacks against Palestinians reinforced the impression that in Gaza and the West Bank international law did not apply. Various United Nations mechanisms had reiterated that the blockade on the West Bank and Gaza was unlawful and in violation of international law. The international community should act without prejudice to compel Israel to abide by and to implement the Geneva Conventions and relevant resolutions, and guarantee Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied Arab and Palestinian territories.

Tunisia said the fact-finding mission had identified a large number of violations of the human rights of Palestinians, including the right to life. Impunity had to end, and this also stood for the incident of the humanitarian flotilla. Tunisia called for pressure to be put on Israel to cooperate with the fact-finding mission, to comply with resolutions of the Council, and to lift the siege on Gaza. Members of the Council should live up to their responsibilities and respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Morocco said that administrative detention was of utmost importance in the context of international efforts aimed at reviving negotiations for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and called on the international community to ensure that they could exercise their rights in line with international humanitarian law, and be provided with the necessary means for their dignity. Morocco condemned the settlement activities, and the stealing of Palestinian land and houses, practices which undermined the future of a Palestinian State. The Council had to work on intensifying objective efforts to put an end to all practices against international legitimacy.

Turkey said that Israeli policies, particularly the ever-expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, continued to block every effort towards permanent peace. The international community had to compel Israel to abandon its expansionist approach and to put an end to all activities destroying the basis for peace. The blockade on Gaza had to be lifted. The international community should also continue to promote Palestinian efforts towards consolidating unity in Palestine.

Sri Lanka expressed concern over the suffering that the Palestinian people continued to endure and said that it was disappointed that no tangible results had been achieved concerning the realization of the Palestinian people’s rights. The attack by Israel on the humanitarian flotilla was a grave act of aggression and Sri Lanka agreed with the Secretary-General that the issue of Israeli settlements had a negative impact on the peace process. Sri Lanka supported the right of the Palestinian people to an independent State and welcomed the Palestinian request for full membership of the United Nations.

Algeria said that the reports which had been submitted to the Council showed the breach of international humanitarian law and the hostile policy that had been used against the Palestinian people for over six decades. Algeria stressed that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was very important and noted that there were also Syrians living under occupation in the Golan who were suffering. Israel had refused to cooperate on the report concerning the flotilla incident and Algeria called for a change to the status quo and accountability for all those responsible for the ongoing aggression in the region.

Oman said that the future looked bleak given the refusal of Israel to cooperate with the ongoing efforts to resolve the problem. Palestinian farms and houses had been destroyed and people’s rights had been violated. Arabs had been arrested and detained by Israel in total violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. Israel was responsible for the life and dignity of all detainees, therefore Oman called on all international organizations to assume their responsibility towards all those detainees. It also urged the international community to put an end to the crimes committed in the occupied territories which could only be described as crimes against humanity.

Sudan reaffirmed the importance it attached to the reports presented to the Council and called upon the parties concerned to implement the conclusions of the fact-finding mission. Sudan highlighted Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Council and called on the Israeli authorities to take action, in particular, regarding the rights of victims and the need to ensure that the perpetrators of human rights violations were held accountable. Sudan called upon Israel to respect its commitments under international law, and to remove the blockade of Gaza.

Bahrain said that human rights were a shared responsibility of all countries with no exception, including the rights of peoples under occupation to self-determination. Bahrain condemned Israel’s ongoing aggression against Palestinians for more than 60 years. Israel was using administrative detention in blatant violation of international law and was holding Palestinians for indeterminate periods; it continued to build new settlements in violation of international law, undermining the possibility of a two-State solution. Bahrain urged the Council to work to ensure the rights of the Palestinians in particular and the right to an independent State.

United Arab Emirates noted with concern the recent declaration by Israel in relation to its refusal to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms. This constituted an obstacle to international efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement. The reports documented the continued expansion of settlements and demolitions of Palestinian property. Israeli should stop the expansion of settlements, which went counter to international law and made any two-State solution impossible.

Iran said the continuing illegal and illegitimate blockage on Gaza was of great concern. Iran called upon the international community and all relevant United Nations bodies, in particular the Council, to immediately take all effective legal and practical measures available to ensure that the Israeli regime lifted the siege without delay and, amongst others, released all Palestinian prisoners, particularly children, women and members of the Palestinian Parliament.

Egypt said that at a time when the international community had so far failed to bring Israel to live up to its responsibilities and demand accountability, the Council had to work to encourage Israel to comply with its obligations and put an end to the policy of expansion and settlement, lift the illegal blockade on Gaza and free Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held without grounds, and any other practices in flagrant violation of international law. Egypt also rejected Israel’s obstacles to international efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

Iceland said that the situation in the Gaza Strip was nothing but deplorable in its view and a serious human rights violation. Iceland drew attention to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur that the Council initiate specific action to condemn the reliance on administrative detention in relation to Palestinian civilians living under prolonged occupation. It urged Israel to reverse the decision announced last month to construct approximately eight hundred and fifty settlement units in several West Bank settlements.

South Africa noted the complete disregard shown by Israel to international law and its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It was regrettable that the blockade on Gaza continued and that the Israeli Government seemed to be pursuing the legalization of illegal settlement activity. South Africa called on the Council to act urgently and resolutely, and it endorsed the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur calling for a study on administrative detentions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Lebanon condemned the systematic violation of Palestinian rights. While the whole world was following developments in the region, the occupying power showed no interest in the process and continued to expand its settlements despite all the political solutions sought. It was up to the international community to put an end to this double standard and to bind Israel to respect the relevant resolutions and assume its responsibilities concerning the Syrian Golan and the Palestinian territories. Lebanon supported the creation of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Yemen said that Israel continued the occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan and occupying the Gaza Strip in violation of international law. This could be considered an extreme form of racism; the transformation of Palestinian communities into isolated islets was making reconciliation more difficult and preventing the Palestinian people from achieving the establishment of an independent State; the Israeli occupation had also negatively affected the Palestinian economy and living standards. Yemen urged the Council to act and put an end to this situation.

Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement, said that Israel, in disregard of previous international resolutions, continued to expand its settlements and attempted to change the geography and population in the Syrian Golan and occupied Palestinian territory. In Gaza, people lived in an unbearable situation threatened by an impending humanitarian crisis.

Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that forcible displacement continued to this day through daily human rights violations by the Israeli occupying power. Badil Resource Centre drew attention to seam zones, sections of Palestinian land within the occupied Palestinian territory isolated as a result of the illegal Israeli annexation wall, which were severely restricted, and urged the Council to highlight and investigate the severe hardship faced by these zones.

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said that a process of ethnic displacement and Judaization was being witnessed, and was being experienced by Palestinians residing in Area C of the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. No action on the part of the Council equated Israeli impunity and that had to be addressed.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that illegal settlers continued to attack, beat, and kill innocent Palestinian civilians in the presence of and under the protection of the Israeli army. These settlers were never prosecuted for their criminal acts. This had to be addressed more closely by the Human Rights Council.

Al-Haq said that some 4,659 Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli custody were transferred outside of the occupied territories in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While imprisoned, despite the customary prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, they faced daily inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of the Israeli Prison Service.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists said that two different commissions had investigated the flotilla incident but Israel had only cooperated with the enquiry panel established by the Secretary-General. The refusal of Israel and Turkey to implement the panel’s recommendations, including the monetary compensation of the incident’s victims, was disappointing. The international community and the Council should encourage Israel and Turkey to implement the recommendations included in the enquiry panel’s report.

Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches in a joint statement expressed concern over the large-scale evictions and demolitions occurring in the West Bank. It raised in particular the case of the village of Susiya in the South of the West Bank, where residents were facing a demolition order. Israel, as an occupier in that area, was bound by international humanitarian law and therefore did not have the right to demolish Palestinian-owned structures or confiscate Palestinian-owned land for construction purposes. Those practices should cease immediately.

Permanent Assembly for Human Rights condemned the systematic and ongoing violation of human rights perpetrated by Israel against the civilian population in the occupied territories. It noted that the situation of Palestinian prisoners was not being respected and that the enforced displacement of Palestinians was occurring. Moreover, resident Palestinian citizens did not have Israeli citizenship but only residents’ permit, which they lost if they moved. It concluded by condemning the restricted access to Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements, the building of the wall, and the enforced displacements.

Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’amitié entre les Peuples called upon Member States to stop any military cooperation with Israel, to prohibit public and private companies from investing in Palestine unless under the auspices of the United Nations, to effectively ensure the protection of the Palestinian population, and to urge the International Criminal Court to investigate the crimes of war and against humanity perpetrated against the Palestinian People.

North-South XXI said it had drawn attention to the serious situation of human rights abuses in Palestine and to the massive and widespread nature of Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians. Thousands of lives had been sacrificed and millions had been driven from their lands. Nearly every fundamental right found in United Nations treaties had been violated. It was due time that the Council seriously investigated whether Israel’s actions constituted evidence of genocide.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the violation of the fundamental rights of the people of the West Bank had become ordinary. Palestinians in the West Bank continued to struggle with several problems, including the construction of a racist security barrier and settlement, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the commission of violent attacks against Palestinians and their property, and the restriction of movement disrupting daily life and access to medical and educational services.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said, in relation to Israel’s recent unilateral declaration to refuse to cooperate with the Council, that it believed an advisory opinion should be sought from the United Nations International Law Commission concerning the validity of such a declaration in relation to the treaty obligations of United Nations Member States, as well as the legal implications that such an act had on the membership privileges of a Government within the United Nations system.

Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru said that Israel continued to covet Arab lands and failed to extend a moratorium on the illegal construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Through military posts in the Golan, Israel sought to control the water resources of the Syrian people. No country that oppressed another could ever live in peace.

United Nations Watch said that the International Herald Tribune reported that last Friday, 29 June 2012, was the deadliest day so far in the Syrian uprising, with the death toll reaching 190 in towns throughout the country. It was regrettable that speakers today omitted to mention these deaths and instances and had concentrated on issues that had happened two years before.

Association of World Citizens said that the situation in Gaza and the West Bank had become intolerable. Many more streets were now blocked off and the Association wondered what impact the construction of the wall would have on the daily lives of residents, especially the most vulnerable who were in need of medical treatment. The water available was of extremely low quality and in terms of sanitation and health the situation was dire. The Association recommended a meeting of medical staff from both sides of the border.

Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik appreciated the recent reports on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. It emphasized the fundamental right to life of all Palestinian people and noted the reasons which had led to mass hunger strikes of Palestinian detainees. The reported increase in the number of administrative detainees and the expansion of settlements were cause for concern. Palestine had to be admitted to the international community as a country with full rights. Politics in the region were putting international peace in danger.

Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations in a joint statement said that the text of the report and especially its recommendations did not meet any standard of fairness. The Coordinating Board rejected the comparison between a jailed operative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with Mahatma Gandhi. The Special Rapporteur had given Hamas a pass on the missiles being continually fired against Israeli civilians and had made unsubstantiated claims about the alleged greater international media interest in Israelis’ suffering relative to that of Palestinian suffering.

General Debate on Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that in the context of the current economic crisis, the African Group continued to note with concern strong pressure and threats against the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. The economic crisis also raised concerns about the situation of migrants, often detained and subjected to a number of stereotypes and segregation. Crises should not be used as an excuse to deprive migrants from the enjoyment of their rights. The African Group urged States to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that as the anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action approached, it remained as relevant in guiding decision makers to respond to global human rights challenges, and contributed to institutional development and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The European Union stressed the importance of the independence and impartiality of the Office, and the important role played by national human rights institutions for the promotion of human rights in compliance with the Paris Principles. Special emphasis should be given to the strengthening of a pluralistic civil society.

Argentina, speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR, said that as population aging occurred in both developed and developing countries, it was necessary to devise courses of action to make the various stakeholders aware of rights and issues pertaining to older persons, often facing vulnerability. It was important for States to ensure that the rights of older persons were respected. The Organization of American States was working on a convention on the rights of older persons. Concerning the universal human rights framework, the General Assembly had reiterated the need for a common framework for the protection of rights. The Council should deal with this topic and MERCOSUR reiterated its commitment to strengthen discussions on it.

Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that it was in the interest of everyone in society to preserve the role of journalists, who were entitled to the same rights as any other person. The group of States strongly condemned all human rights violations against journalists and stressed that each State needed to ensure an appropriate environment for journalists to carry out their work without interference. Impunity for those responsible for human rights violations against journalists was a threat to the safety of journalists. At the international level, there was a need to ensure better cooperation and coordination in the prevention of human rights violations.

Norway said that the report of the Human Rights Commissioner displayed the serious violations committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and sexual identity. It noted in particular that homosexuality was criminalized in more than 76 countries and was subject to the death penalty in six countries. Norway supported the High Commissioner’s recommendations to Member States on how best to combat impunity for abuses and crimes and was pleased to see that other United Nations agencies were making efforts to combat discrimination.

Maldives said that the Council, which had a mandate to address violations of human rights through constructive dialogue, should work with the State concerned in a spirit of cooperation in order to promote and protect human rights. On its part the State concerned needed to be willing to engage with the Council in an open and transparent way. In cases where States were unwilling to engage in such a manner, the Council should address human right crises in an impartial, objective and non-selective manner.

Chile said that before Vienna, efforts were centred on standard-setting processes, while today action was focused on the implementation of rights at country and local level. Cooperation with regional human rights mechanisms had also been strengthened. Thanks to the work of the Office of the High Commissioner, human rights had acquired a strong operational dimension in the United Nations, closely linked with efforts in the realm of security and development. There may be a need for States to reflect on how they could strengthen the Roadmap agreed upon.

United States found encouraging the reforms underway in Jordan and Morocco to respond to the peaceful demands of their citizens. The United States supported the Egyptian people as they pursued their aspirations and called on the Government to work proactively with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at this crucial time to protect human rights. Bahrain had taken steps to implement the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry but it had to fully implement the remaining important recommendations, including holding accountable officials responsible for human rights violations.

United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that sexual violence may constitute a war crime or crime against humanity and States were responsible for complying with their relevant international obligations to prosecute these crimes. All States were called upon, including those affected by conflict and undergoing political transitions, to protect and promote the human rights of women, including such rights as education and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

Uruguay announced the creation of Uruguay’s national human rights and peoples’ defence institution, whose board took over on 22 June. The national human rights institution was created by law in December 2007 and its members were elected by Uruguay’s General Assembly among candidates selected by a commission integrated by all political parties represented in parliament. Uruguay thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for its supports which contributed to the fulfilment of the institution to the Paris Principles. Uruguay hoped that its new national institution would be rapidly accredited by the International Coordinating Committee of national human rights associations for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Morocco said that changes in the Middle East and North Africa had led to the creation of political environments conducive to the promotion of human rights, such as the political transitions in a number of countries towards democratic reform. Morocco was committed to human rights and the principles of the Vienna Declaration. The reform of the Constitution had been the result of broad and inclusive consultations; it reflected the thinking of the Moroccan nation and its commitment to building a modern and democratic society, along with reform to a number of legal codes.

Australia welcomed the steps taken by the International Coordinating Committee of national human rights institutions to improve the process of accreditation. Governments increasingly viewed human rights institutions as partners and it was imperative that a broad-based institution with a wide-ranging mandate was able to seek accreditation through the Committee. Australia encouraged other Member States to support regional capacity-building efforts, including the provision of assistance and technical expertise that was important for national institutions to become fully independent.

Iran said that most of the concerns of the international community in the promotion of human rights through enhancing international cooperation still remained unaddressed. The existing international order continued to be led by selectivity, double standards, and economic and political exploitation and the international community had a long way to go to achieve the ideals of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. There was a need to create favourable conditions at the national and international levels in order to achieve the goals of the Vienna Declaration.

Egypt began by reporting that it had just held its first free elections since independence. Egypt noted that the individual was the focus of Egypt’s development efforts and that Egypt would respect and uphold all treaties to which it was a State Party without exception. No democratic society could flourish without protecting the freedom of expression or ensuring the safety of journalists. More attention needed to be paid to the safety of journalists in areas of conflict. Egypt called on the international community to collectively pay particular attention to the safety of journalists in all types of conflicts.

Holy See condemned the violent attacks on houses of worship by fundamentalist groups and stressed the need for a better response to prevent violent acts and other threats to religious freedom and human dignity. The Holy See noted in particular the vulnerability of minority groups and said that States had an obligation to facilitate and protect the right to religious freedom. Citing the Vienna Declaration it called on all Governments to take all appropriate measures in compliance with their international obligations to counter intolerance and related violence based on religion or belief and encouraged all States to promote and protect the right to practise and express religious beliefs freely.

South Africa, in a joint statement with Brazil, said that the issue of dialogue was important for ending violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa and Brazil welcomed the sharing of opposing views, hoping that this would generate a genuine dialogue that none needed to shy away from, in a place such as the United Nations which was considered by all as a ‘World Parliament of Democracy’.

Algeria said that in view of the Vienna Declaration and its Programme of Action’ s call to facilitate access to positions of responsibility for women and ensure greater participation in decision-making processes, Algeria had made this one of its priorities. The World Conference had recognized the importance of observer missions and peacekeeping missions to have a human rights component approach. Algeria called upon the international community to honour the commitments of the Vienna Declaration and take appropriate measures to ensure the application of the right to self-determination.

For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC12/086E