UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DECIDES TO DISPATCH
FACT-FINDING MISSION TO INVESTIGATE
VIOLATIONS AGAINST PALESTINIANS
IN OCCUPIED TERRITORY

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Human Rights Council
MORNING
12 January 2009



The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its ninth Special Session on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip, and adopted a resolution in which it strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza, which had resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, and demanded the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its military forces from Gaza. The Council also decided to dispatch an urgent independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In the resolution, adopted by a roll-call vote of 33 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions, the Council called for the immediate cessation of Israeli military attacks throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory and called upon the occupying power to end its occupation of all Palestinian lands occupied since 1967, and to respect its commitment within the peace process towards the establishment of the independent sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. The Council also demanded that the occupying power stop the targeting of civilians and medical facilities and staff as well as the systematic destruction of cultural heritage. It demanded further that the occupying power lift the siege and open all borders. It also requested the Secretary-General of the Untied Nations to investigate the latest targeting of UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including schools, that resulted in the killing of tens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children.

Speaking as a concerned country, Israel said the current resolution was not balanced and did not reflect the realities in the Gaza Strip and did no service to the cause of peace or to the human suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Such a resolution would only embolden Hamas and weaken the trust of the Israeli public in the United Nations and the Council. Less than a month ago, the Middle East Quartet had issued a statement reaffirming the bilateral, direct, uninterrupted, confidential and ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The members of the Council should echo this support. Only such negotiations would bring to fulfilment the two-State vision. Resolutions, such as today’s one would not serve this goal.

Also speaking as a concerned country, Palestine said concern at the events in Gaza Strip could not help but be voiced, in particular with regards to the suffering of the Palestinian people and their terror and despair, which could not be accepted. Palestine could not accept expressions of concern when there were more than 4,000 wounded, and more than 800 martyrs, more than half of which were women and children. Palestine could not accept words of concern when talking about civilians who were falling. The barbaric acts of aggression required a call for the establishment of a fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli slaughters and acts of terror.

In the context of the general debate, the Council heard from a national human rights institution, and from a wide range of non-governmental organizations which called for an end to hostilities and efforts to be made to improve the humanitarian situation within Gaza. Speakers in the general debate noted that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination had been ignored for more than 40 years, during which the occupying power had flagrantly ignored international law, humanitarian law, and the directives of this and other bodies. A Commission of Inquiry should be set up to investigate effectively and impartially the violation of human rights and humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip. Within the mandate of this Commission should be to draw up a list of violations of both human rights and humanitarian law; identify those responsible for those violations and launch legal action against them; and identify the victims and the damages incurred and ensure full reparation. Others said the proposed draft resolution was a totally one-sided and self-defeating statement whose predictable outcome, if adopted, would, like the previous ones on the issue, regrettably have a negative effect on the credibility of the Council. Israel, as a United Nations member, had the right to defend itself. Israel allowed aid into Gaza, warned civilians before an incoming attack and tried to save civilian lives whenever possible. On the other side Hamas was solely targeting civilians in Israel. Hamas had refused to recognise the very existence of Israel. The international community should use all its force to ensure protection of civilian populations and ensure a just and long-lasting solution. All human beings had the right to peace and security. If the Council was to have a credible role in ensuring human rights around the world it should act to ensure respect for the law and should counsel the General Assembly to act in this, the most serious and longest unresolved situation of widespread human rights abuses facing the United Nations.

Speaking this morning in the general debate was the Irish Human Rights Commission. NGOs speaking were the Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations, in a joint statement with B'nai B'rith International, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Association for World Education, in a joint statement with World Union for Progressive Judaism, World Federation of Trade Unions, Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities, in a joint statement with Pax Romana, Europe-Third World Centre, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement with International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Franciscans International, Defence for Children International, World Organization against Torture, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, European Union of Jewish Students, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH), Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, International Commission of Jurists, North-South XXI, and Women's International Zionist Organization.

Speaking in a right of reply in the general debate was Syria.

Speaking in the context of the debate on the resolution was Egypt, in introduction of the resolution, Israel as a concerned country, Palestine as a concerned country, and Egypt as a general comment. Speaking in explanations of the vote before the vote were Canada, Germany on behalf of the European Union, and Switzerland. Speaking in explanations of the vote after the vote were South Africa, Japan, Russian Federation and Uruguay.

The tenth regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 2 to 27 March 2009.

Action on Resolution

In a resolution (L.1/Rev.2) on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip, adopted by a roll-call vote of 33 in favour, one against (Canada), and 13 abstentions, the Council strongly condemns the ongoing Israeli military operation carried out in the Occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, which have resulted in massive violation of human rights of the Palestinian people and systematic destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure. It calls for the immediate cessation of Israeli military attacks throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory; demands the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its military forces from the occupied Gaza Strip; calls upon the occupying power to end its occupation to all Palestinian lands occupied since 1967, and to respect its commitment within the peace process towards the establishment of the independent sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital; demands the occupying power stop the targeting of civilians and medical facilities and staff as well as the systematic destruction of cultural heritage; demands further the occupying power lift the siege, open all borders; requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the violations of human rights of the Palestinian people by the occupying power; requests all relevant Special Rapporteurs to urgently seek and gather information on violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people and submit their reports to the next Human Rights Council session; requests the occupying power to fully cooperate with all the above-mentioned Rapporteurs; decides to dispatch an urgent independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and requests the Secretary General of the United Nations to investigate the latest targeting of UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including schools, that resulted in the killing of tens of Palestinian civilians including women and children.


The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (33):Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Against (1):Canada.

Abstentions (13): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.


HISHAM BADR (Egypt), introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the Arab Group, said that during Friday’s meeting they had listened to speakers who had condemned and deplored, or at least had been concerned over the violations of human rights, humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. The situation constituted for the Council a mandate for action. They had held consultations and hoped that this draft resolution would pass by consensus and in Egypt’s’ view it should be so. Since Friday they had been positive, in the follow-up of the Security Council, for the situation to improve. But as Israel had rejected the Security Council’s resolution and the killings were going on, the responsibility on the Council was heavy, the world was looking at the Council and it had to speak strongly against the violations.

AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as concerned Country, said that before the Council voted on the resolution, he wanted to directly address the Palestinian delegation and other Arab delegations and remind them of what former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said two years ago: “Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel’s behaviour. But one should also ask whether such steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians. There have been decades of resolutions. There has been a proliferation of special committees, sessions, etc. Has any of this had an effect on Israel’s policies, other than to strengthen the belief in Israel, and among many of its supporters, that this great Organization is too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process?”

He also wanted to ask his Palestinian colleague if he had learnt anything from the history of 60 years of conflict. Had he drawn any conclusions or were they all stuck in the reality of 1948? In the real world there could be no meaningful consensus without Israel. The current resolution was not balanced and did not reflect the realities in the Gaza Strip and did no service to the cause of peace or to the human suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. He could not help but ask what possible benefit it would bring, short of possibly providing a very brief and futile sense of satisfaction. Such resolution would only embolden Hamas and weaken the trust of the Israeli public in the United Nations and the Council. Less than a month ago, the Middle East Quartet had issued a statement reaffirming the bilateral, direct, uninterrupted, confidential and ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The members of the Council should echo this support. Only such negotiations would bring to fulfilment the two-State vision. Resolutions, such as today’s one would not serve this goal.

IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said a dialogue had been held with a view to achieving a unanimous position. Work had been done in a positive spirit to reach a text which could be approved by all. The open wound that the Palestinian people had suffered had been offered at the altar of the Human Rights Council, and it was hoped this would be remedied. Concern at the events in Gaza Strip could not help but be voiced, in particular with regards to the suffering of the Palestinian people and their terror and despair, which could not be accepted. Palestine could not accept expressions of concern when there were more than 4,000 wounded, and more than 800 martyrs, more than half of which were women and children. Palestine could not accept words of concern when talking about civilians who were falling. Palestine was entitled to call upon the first United Nations body on human rights to investigate the situation. The barbaric acts of aggression required the calling for the establishment of a fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli slaughters and acts of terror. Palestine rejected the law of the jungle, and if it agreed that this law ruled the world then all were threatened today and tomorrow. Killing women, children and the defenceless could not be accepted in the modern world. Killing a human being could never be just a matter of viewpoint. Talk had no meaning when the principles of human rights were being trampled underfoot. The draft resolution required support in the view of all this. Palestine would attain its goals in the end, with an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the right to return of all its people.

AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt), in a general comment, said that they were not here to take lessons from Israel, which was not in a position to do so. It was Israel’s turn to listen to the Council today and to learn that peace and security could not be built on the corpses of innocent civilians. Israel had obviously not listened to the statement. The whole word agreed to the importance of human rights and humanitarian law as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel should take advice from the world.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked the Palestine delegation for its consultations, but said the draft text still failed to clearly recognize that rocket fire on Israel had led to the current crisis. It also used unnecessary, unhelpful and inflammatory language. Canada therefore called for a vote and would vote against the resolution.

REINHARD SCHWEPPE, (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the European Union had expressed its utmost concern about the situation in the Gaza Strip, and deplored the high number of civilian casualties. The European Union had welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1860, and reiterated its call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire and a renewed peace process in conformity with the appropriate United Nations resolutions and the Quartet's road map. All parties should avoid acts threatening a permanent, just resolution of the conflict. The European Union had welcomed the Special Session, and was ready to co-sponsor it with a better title. The European Union was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Gaza. The Council had an opportunity to focus on the human rights consequences of the conflict, and address the needs of all victims. The European Union could support some of the elements in the draft resolution before the Council; unfortunately, the resolution addressed only one side of the conflict, and some paragraphs used legal terms without full evidence of whether definitions were met. For these reasons, the Member States of the European Union which were members of the Human Rights Council would abstain in the vote.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Switzerland deplored the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on all parties to respect their international obligations under humanitarian law and human rights. Switzerland supported the holding of this Special Session and had made many proposals to improve the text but deeply regretted that no efforts had been made to arrive at a text that could be adopted by consensus. Light had to be shed on all violations that had been committed in Gaza and it was thus important that a reporting mechanism and fact finding mission be created. For these reasons, Switzerland would abstain in the vote.

LUVUYO LONSDALE NDIMENI, (South Africa), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the Human Rights Council's mandate in dealing with the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in particular the Gaza Strip should be reaffirmed. South Africa understood fully the need for consensus on the issue, and remembered that other resolutions had not been adopted by consensus. The previous resolutions on the subject of Beit Hanoun had not yet been implemented. The current grave situation required steps to be taken. The Government of South Africa had conveyed its opinion on the subject - the practical enjoyment of all human rights by the Palestinian people including the right to self-determination should be ensured. The need for a comprehensive and balanced text should not be ignored - it would only be meaningful if the plight of the Palestinian people was reflected. South Africa hoped the current resolution would be fully implemented.

AKIO ISOMATA (Japan), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Japan had abstained from the vote. Japan was deeply concerned over the situation and strongly urged both parties to halt the use of force and to make their outmost efforts toward the peace process. On the resolution, they appreciated the amendments made but it was regrettable that the resolution had still not been balanced enough. Further efforts should have been made, so as to allow the Council to speak in one voice.

VALERY LOSHCHININ, (Russian Federation), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that from the very outset it had sought to ensure the text of the resolution was balanced, and a number of suggestions had been taken into account by the co-sponsors. Unfortunately, not all of the proposals were aimed at drafting a more balanced document. At the same time, in view of the acute situation which had arisen as a result of the military operations in the Gaza Strip, Russia had supported the draft resolution.

ALEJANDRO ARTUCIO RODRIGUEZ, (Uruguay), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said Uruguay had voted in favour of the resolution for reasons that were already explained in the statement of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries on Friday. Nonetheless, Uruguay was of the view that no viable solution could be achieved if there was no cessation of all acts of mutual aggression so as to allow for the stones to be laid for negotiations aimed at achieving peace and encouraging the parties to arrive at a mutual commitment. A negotiating mechanism that respected international law and human rights needed to be installed in strict respect of humanitarian law.

General Debate

KATHARINA ROSE, of the Irish Human Rights Commission, said it was a very difficult time and there was grave concern at the current humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. All parties involved should respect human rights and take immediate action to resolve the current crisis. There should be an end to violence on both sides. The international community should urgently increase its ability to effectively monitor the human rights situation in Palestine - in particular, the National Human Rights Institution of Palestine should be strengthened and additional resources provided so that it could effectively fulfil its mandate and monitor and protect human rights at the national level.

KLAUS NETTER, of the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, said that this was the fifth Special Session dealing with the Israel-Arab conflict and it would end with a one-sided condemnation. The media would surely rejoice over this empty political victory. But the resolution would not have any effect on relieving the victims on the ground. He underscored the proportionally of the Council, which was ignoring the basic reason of the conflict, which was the firing of Hamas rockets into Israel. Israel, as a United Nations member, had the right to defend itself. Israel allowed aid into Gaza, warned civilians before an incoming attack and tried to save civilian lives whenever possible. On the other side Hamas was solely targeting civilians in Israel. Hamas had refused to recognise the very existence of Israel. The Council had to condemn the actions by Hamas and recognise the threat it posed to the peace process.

DANIEL LACK, of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers, said certain members of the international community had chosen to ignore blatant violations of terrorist groups, while purporting to criticise Israel in the exercise of its undoubted United Nations Charter and other rights, without any basis in international law. The terrorist actions of Hamas fully corresponded to the generally accepted definition of terrorism. Alleged criticism of Israel's control of Gaza's airspace and waters was baseless since the terrorist occupation of Gaza conveyed no rights analogous to a sovereign state. There was no reason to consider the Gaza Strip as occupied territory. The draft resolution was a totally one-sided and self-defeating statement whose predictable outcome, if adopted, would, like the previous ones on the issue, regrettably have a negative effect on the credibility of the Council.

DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, in a joint statement with World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that the great tragedy now taking place in Gaza and over the rocketed area in Southern Israel was being debated in the first week of 2009, which was the International Year of Reconciliation. A year ago the Special Rapporteur John Dugard, in his final report had strongly advised the United Nations to withdraw from the Quartet and had rejected its roadmap. He had predicted that there was no immediate prospect of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and that was still the situation. Gaza, under the leadership of Hamas was a classic example of a divided society, the division between Gaza and the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, Gaza and Egypt and Gaza and the wider world. Gaza’s future status was a key issue of any negotiations. He proposed to go back to Churchill’s 1946 idea of a united states of Abraham in the Middle East. The Hamas Charter made any discussions impossible.

OSIRIS OVIEDO, of the World Federation of Trade Unions, said the situation was grave in Palestine, and the efforts of the body in protecting human rights was important. The World Federation condemned the massacre being perpetrated by the Israeli military. Israeli military action had destroyed homes, mosques, and infrastructure in general, and was blocking assistance to the wounded, further to the unjust blockade. It was a difficult time of pain and mourning. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination had been ignored for more than 40 years, during which the occupying power had flagrantly ignored international law, humanitarian law, and the directives of this and other bodies. The credibility of international institutions was being tested, as was the commitment to human rights. The international community could not remain spectators to genocide, and should step up its actions to put an end to this holocaust. A resolution should contain proposals for concrete action.

GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, said that the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip was behind massive human rights violations of human rights. The latest military action had brought many war crimes and their perpetrators had to be brought to justice. Last Friday, the Movement and 31 other associations had filed a complaint to the International Court of Justice and called for the State of France to do the same. The Movement would also denounce any acts of anti-Semitism in France. Both border countries of Gaza had to open their borders for any person seeking refuge. The Movement also called for the lifting of the Gaza blockade and for the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions.

FLORIANA POLITO, of Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities, in a joint statement with Pax Romana, said the huge number of civilian deaths and casualties in Gaza had led to tragic suffering for the Palestinian population. Many more civilians would be killed if hostilities continued. Medical relief operations had been seriously affected since the beginning of the bombing in Gaza. Any movement inside Gaza had become dangerous. The Israeli military operation came on top of the serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with a basic lack of food, water and energy supplies. War could not be justified either by Israel or by Hamas. A permanent ceasefire was necessary to bring supplies and humanitarian aid into Gaza. The Council should urge all parties involved to commit themselves to an immediate permanent ceasefire, and to enforce international humanitarian and international human rights law. Israel should bring an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and to the excessive use of force. The international community should use all its force to ensure protection of civilian populations and a just and long-lasting solution.

CELINE BRUN, of Europe–Third World Center, said that for the 800 Palestinian deaths and many injured and the many human rights violations, obtaining justice has become a vital importance. Serious human rights violations had been perpetrated by the Israeli forces. The military operation suggested a deliberate wish to systematically attack civilians, all tantamount to violations of international law. State Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention had to apply international humanitarian law; however Israel was violating it on a massive scale. International peace and security had to be re-established in the region.

JAN LONN, of the International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, said the ongoing barbarism had shocked the peoples of the world who were daily demonstrating their outrage at this latest Israeli adventure, but they were also shocked that the human rights bodies were not making more effective efforts to take the necessary strong and united actions to immediately and without delay stop these crimes against humanity. This Special Session was an opportunity to speak out against the horrors taking place in Gaza. The Council should end impunity, and send a clear message as to the consequences of such flagrant crimes and the assault on the entire fabric of international law. The Council should establish a Commission of Inquiry into the war crimes and human rights violations perpetrated by Israel, in particular during the ongoing aggression against Gaza, and on the basis of these make recommendations to the General Assembly on holding the leaders of the State of Israel responsible for their actions.

JEREMIE SMITH, of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, welcomed the holding of the Special Session and expressed deep concern over the disproportionate use of force in the Gaza Strip, which had caused many deaths among civilians, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations staff. In the current situation, there was an unprecedented level of disregard of international human rights and humanitarian law in recent time. The Council should demand an immediate ceasefire and call for effective measures to be undertaken for humanitarian aid to be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. Individuals responsible for war crimes should be brought to justice and the Council should forward any information it had in this regard to the International Court of Justice.

DAVID FERNANDEZ PUYANA, of Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, said there had been an escalation of violence, with deaths of women and children due to the armed actions of Israel. This was a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of unarmed civilians. The adoption of resolution 1860 by the Security Council was welcomed. The Human Rights Council should call on the Security Council to apply the General Assembly resolution which was adopted in October. States should call on Israel to live up to its commitments and obligations in international and humanitarian law. A Commission of Inquiry should be set up to investigate effectively and impartially the violation of human rights and humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip. The Council should adopt a consensus text encouraging the parties to stop their actions and respect the civilians in the Gaza Strip.

ELIAS KHOURI, of Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement with International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), said that as they were sitting here in the room and condemning the actions of Israel, the war machine of Israel continued to kill innocent civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure in Gaza. What was taking place in Gaza was a violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law. Basic war principles, such as to make a difference between a civilian and military target, were not respected by Israel. The current attack was not due to the firing of Hamas rockets, as Israel had already started occupying and attacking Gaza well before Hamas had been in power. Israel had refused to implement several international resolutions. These criminal acts were supported by several western powers.

DENISE BOYLE, of Franciscans International, said the escalation of violence had completely disregarded the most basic principles of international humanitarian law, leading to the present humanitarian tragedy. A cease-fire was absolutely necessary in order to prevent the further targeting of the civilian population. The military offensive added further suffering to the civilian population in Gaza enduring the blockade. The Human Rights Council should condemn the targeting of civilians by both sides. The Council should also urge Israel and Hamas leaders to durably cease all hostilities and fully respect the principles of international humanitarian law. Israel should allow full access to Gaza to humanitarian agencies and lift the blockade, as well as cease all measures that amounted to collective punishment. The international community should not think it would have met its responsibilities by brokering only a localised ceasefire - rather, its greater responsibility was to bring about a genuine peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, within a regional framework, which alone could make such a peace possible and secure.

JULIA D'ALOISIO, of Defence for Children International, illustrated the devastating impact of the current conflict in Gaza on children. According to Defense for Children Palestine, at least 158 children had been killed in the current operation and the United Nations reported over 250 child fatalities. Israel had claimed that this latest military operation aimed to stop Hamas rocket fire into Israel, which was undoubtedly illegal and should be condemned. Nevertheless, Israel’s offensive was not only grossly disproportionate but clearly failed to distinguish between military and civilian targets. They could not see how this slaughter could make Israel safer. Israel had wilfully created a humanitarian disaster which aid agencies could no longer contain.

ROLIN WAVRE, of World Organization Against Torture, said reports had denounced the targeting of civilians and civilian objects during military operations by Israeli Defense Forces. The Gaza Strip had remained under blockade since 2007, having only a limited access to humanitarian supplies. The death toll would sharply increase with the lack of medical supplies, food and basic commodities such as fuel and electric power. The Israeli authorities should immediately cease the military operations and the United Nations should establish a United Nations-led mission whose mandate should be: to establish the facts; to draw up a list of violations of both human rights and humanitarian law; to identify those responsible for those violations and launch legal action against them; and to identify the victims and the damages incurred and ensure full reparation.

HILLEL NEUER of United Nations Watch, said that much of this session had revolved around a fundamental misconception which was that in the current war between Hamas and Israel, culpability was to be determined by simply counting the amount of deaths and casualties on each side, comparing and then reaching a verdict. This sought to dismiss the quantity and quality of Israeli suffering under Hamas terror. There was no rule in international law, state practice or in common sense to support this proposition. The proportionality obligation under international law was completely different: it required that a military operation be directed at a legitimate military objective and be proportionate in the sense that expected collateral damage to civilians not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated. This was what Hamas violated everyday.

PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said despite the Security Council's near unanimous adoption of resolution 18/60, a humanitarian catastrophe was continuing to unfold in Gaza. As the United Nations body with primary responsibility for the protection of human rights, the Council should demand that all parties to the current conflict immediately end all unlawful attacks against civilians and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and demand measures to relieve civilians in Gaza and end the indiscriminate rocket attacks that endangered civilians in Southern Israel. The Council should call on Israel to allow human rights and humanitarian workers and journalists immediate unfettered access to Gaza. There should be full accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Council should also insist on the dispatch to the area without delay of international monitors. The grave transgressions of human rights and international humanitarian law which were so conspicuous a feature of the conflict should cease.

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said that they were gravely concerned that the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza had reached catastrophic proportions during the ongoing armed conflict. While Israel’s refusal to allow independent monitors into Gaza had limited their ability to investigate individual incidents, they were deeply concerned about attacks that might have caused indiscriminate or disproportionate loss of civilian life, in violation of the law of war. Hamas had also violated the laws of war with deliberate or indiscriminate attacks using rockets against population centres in Israel. Also, the closure of Gaza constituted an unlawful collective punishment of the civilian populations. Both sides had to take all necessary measures to protect civilian populations. Human Rights Watch called on the Council to call upon Israel to abide by the laws of war.

LIRAZ MADMONY, of the European Union of Jewish Students, said all human beings had the right to peace and security. The United Nations was ignoring the rights of Israelis, mainly the right to life. Everyone suffered in the current situation. Israelis dreamed of peace, which would come when the rulers of Gaza chose humanity over hate. Israel would not grant victory to the terrorists, but would remain strong. Who was protecting Israel's human rights?

BRENDA VUKOVIC, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, condemned the severe acts against the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which reflected a clear ignorance of human rights and were crimes against peace. The current situation was a threat to peace. The international community had a role to play to put an end to the current human rights violations. The Permanent Assembly also called on the United Nations to step up its efforts to put an end to the current humanitarian crisis.

LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, said today the Israeli occupying power, in its implacable intransigence aimed at crushing the resistance of the Palestinian people, was perpetrating a further atrocity in the Gaza Strip. The Zionist occupying army had stepped up its attacks on civilians, including in schools, leading to the deaths of children. The Israeli State justified its barbaric aggression by claiming to be defending itself against attacks. The people of Gaza, martyred, were condemned to a ghetto, with a total blockade forbidding them to leave the Strip. Israel violated the most basic norms and principles of contemporary international law. The war of aggression sought to change the situation in Gaza, overcome Palestine, and eradicate the democratically elected Government of the Gaza Strip. Israel was continuing to enjoy impunity, ignoring and flouting the resolutions of the Security Council, including the latest one, and the resolutions of the Human Rights Council. The international community should no longer allow an occupying power to strive to exterminate a population for the single crime of demanding its right to self-determination and to live in peace.

LUKAS MACHON, of the International Commission of Jurists, said that Palestinian civilians continued to pay the heaviest toll in the latest Israeli operation, with serious violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law. Since this military operation had started, hundreds of Palestinian civilians had been killed. The Israeli military operation and the Hamas rocket attacks continued to inflict suffering on both sides, in violation of Security Council resolution 1860. Israel’s attacks had been indiscriminate or disproportionate and it had failed in its legal obligation to spare civilians from attacks. The conclusion of an immediate and durable cease-fire was essential and Israel had to end the siege of Gaza. The International Commission of Jurists called on the Council to conduct a fact-finding investigation on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza and to condemn incidents such as the firing of rockets that might fuel the conflict.

SHABARINATH NAIR, of North South XXI, said there was outrage at the unjustifiable and inhumanely intense violence perpetrated by the Government of Israel against Palestinians in Gaza. The current onslaught could leave no doubt that there was very significant evidence that the crime of genocide was being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. The genocide should be stopped, and those directly and indirectly responsible should be punished. While the ceasefire was the responsibility of the Security Council, the Council and the General Assembly had the duty to investigate the grave breaches of individual’s rights in Gaza, and urge effective action to bring those responsible to justice. If the Council was to have a credible role in ensuring human rights around the world it should act to ensure respect for the law and should counsel the General Assembly to act in this, the most serious and longest unresolved situation of widespread human rights abuses facing the United Nations.

MARISSA CRAMER, of the Women’s International Zionist Organization, said that one had to wonder where the Council was when almost 1 million citizens in southern Israel had been bombed with 500 rockets during the preceding week of the current attack on Gaza. Were the lives of Israeli children worth less to the Council than those of Palestinians? Before voting today, some of the delegates should come to visit the daycares centre in Sderot. What would one do if one’s family was under fire for eight straight years? On the other hand, civil society in Gaza, led by Hamas, was calling upon children and women to form a human shield in order to protect buildings from anticipated Israeli air strikes. This calculated use of civilians as human shields was intended to decrease the vulnerability of Hamas. This technique had brought about Special Sessions like this one today.

Right of Reply

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI, (Syria), speaking in a right of reply, said the representative of Israel had last Friday mentioned Syria, and the delegation of Israel, which was exercising state terrorism in an organised fashion, in no way had the right to mention anyone or to quote anybody's name. Israel had carried out attacks indiscriminately, without differentiating between children, women and the elderly, had targeted international organizations and ambulances, and when civilians sought refuge in United Nations schools, Israel had targeted those schools and the women and children therein. Israel was reiterating here its war crimes and crimes against humanity. This war was a war against children - they were 40 per cent of the total victims of this war. The world was now accustomed to hearing the lies voiced by Israel to avoid sanctions whenever it committed such massacres. These accusations voiced by Israel lacked credibility.
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For use of the information media; not an official record