HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES REPORT
OF COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON LEBANON
|Human Rights Council |
1 December 2006
Debates Follow-up to its Decisions Concerning Missions to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Human Rights Council this morning took up the issue of follow-up to its decisions, discussing the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, as well as missions to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Stelios Perrakis, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, said the conflict, which lasted 33 days, inflicted serious damages and losses on Lebanon. It had exacted a heavy human toll, with 1,191 people reported dead, 4,409 injured, and 900,000 people fleeing their homes; roads, factories, water sources, cultural and economic infrastructure and homes were affected, among many others. It would take a long time before Lebanon could rebuild the country, and the help of the international community would be required in this regard. Basic humanitarian principles were absent throughout the conflict, and there had been indiscriminate use of force against Lebanese civilians. Human rights had not been respected.
Mr. Perrakis said the use of some weapons was illegal, such as the use of cluster munitions, which were mainly fired during the last 72 hours of the conflict. Their use was excessive and not justified by military necessity, and went beyond the arguments of proportionality. They were a flagrant violation. There had been violation of the right to life and property. Israel had violated obligations following from international law and humanitarian law, and it had disregarded its international and individual responsibility.
Israel, speaking as a concerned country, said the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon had accurately reflected the one-sided mandate assigned to it, ignoring both factual realities and legal obligations. In doing so, the Commission might have obeyed the limitations of its mandate, but it had also produced a report rife with imbalances and misrepresentation.
Lebanon, also speaking as a concerned country, said that besides the abhorring facts about the Israeli atrocities in Lebanon, the report provided a sound and well grounded legal analysis and conclusion about the serious Israeli violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Many efforts had been invested in the report; its positive conclusions and recommendations were obvious but not without shortcomings.
In the context of the interactive dialogue, a number of speakers commended the report for its timely presentation and highlighting the impact of the conflict while some delegations said it lacked impartiality and was one-sided.
Also this morning, the Council discussed follow-up to its decisions for John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to undertake an urgent fact-finding mission to the Occupied Territory, and for a high-level fact-finding mission to travel to Beit Hanoun. It also discussed the status of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the President recalled the Council had adopted on 29 June at its first session, but that what was expected to be a simple endorsement by the General Assembly had become a rather long process of re-negotiation of the text.
Speaking this morning were the representatives of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Group of Arab States, the Arab League, Finland on behalf of the European Union, France, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Greece, Syria, Libya, Belgium, Kuwait, Spain, Mexico, Bahrain, Algeria, Indonesia, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Egypt, Cuba, United States, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Palestine, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Chile.
Also speaking were the representatives of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Women's International Zionist Organization; United Nations Watch; B'nai B'rith International; and Union of Arab Jurists.
Iran, Israel and Syria exercised the right to reply.
The Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue its debate on follow-up to its decisions.
Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon
The Human Rights Council considered this morning the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-2/1(A/HRC/3/2), which was mandated: “(a) to investigate the systematic targeting and killings of civilians by Israel in Lebanon; (b) to examine the types of weapons used by Israel and their conformity with international law; and (c) to assess the extent and deadly impact of Israeli attacks on human life, property, critical infrastructure and the environment.”
The report describes the terms of reference, methodology, approaches and activities of the Commission. It provides an overview of the 33-day long conflict with an historical background and addresses the qualification of and the law applicable to the conflict. The report then concentrates on the various substantive issues the Commission considered it should address in detail in accordance with its mandate. The report further provides an analysis on the various aspects of the impact of the conflict on life in Lebanon.
The report submits a number of recommendations to the Human Rights Council, including that the Council should promote initiatives and call for the mobilization of the international community to assist Lebanon and its people; the Council should encourage the United Nations system (UNESCO, UNEP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO), and the Bretton Woods institutions in their multi-sectoral programmes and projects to promote and undertake precise and concrete actions, including with professional and technical expertise in the necessary reconstruction efforts (buildings, bridges, cleaning of areas affected by clusters, environment, archaeological sites (Byblos); and the Council should give careful attention to the fate of child victims of the armed conflict. National institutions and specialized international agencies should work together to effectively assist the Government of Lebanon in the implementation of health programmes, rehabilitation projects and mental health care initiatives for children; the Council should promote and monitor the obligation to “respect and ensure respect” of international humanitarian law by all parties in a conflict, including non-State actors; and the Council should take the initiative to promote urgent action to include cluster munitions to the list of weapons banned under international law.
Presentation of Report of Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon
Stelios Perrakis, Commissioner on the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, said it was a very difficult situation in Lebanon in which people were suffering every day. Special mention should be made of the agencies and institutions of the United Nations system working in Lebanon. Israel had refused to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, but the Secretariat of the Government was to be thanked for help. The Commission carried out its work through meetings, visits to Lebanon and local inquiry work, with the aid of many, including Members of Parliament, private persons who had been victims of the conflict, the media, independent journalists, and others. The Commission visited almost the entirety of Lebanon. The Commission of Inquiry was an independent body to establish facts, not a court nor a judiciary body which aimed to assess a crime. The conclusions included the issuing of the results of the fact-finding activity, and the report before the Council showed the conclusions of the Commission in fulfilling its three mandates. It took account of the situation, of Israel’s actions, and the consequences on the people of Lebanon. A broad vision of the mandate was understood.
The conflict, which lasted 33 days inflicted serious damages and losses on Lebanon. It had exacted a heavy human toll, with 1,191 people reported dead, 4,409 injured, and 900,000 people fleeing their homes; roads, factories, water sources, cultural and economic infrastructure and homes were affected, among many others. It would take a long time before Lebanon could rebuild the country, and the help of the international community would be required in this regard. Basic humanitarian principles were absent throughout the conflict, and there had been indiscriminate use of force against Lebanese civilians. Human rights had not been respected. The policy of assimilating each person to a potential enemy had caused violations of human rights, and amounted to collective punishment. There were attacks on civilian convoys, including on health personnel and ICRC ambulances. One third of victims were children, and also women and migrant workers. There had been attacks on observers, and there was no justification for the thirty direct attacks that took place, including that that ended in the deaths of United Nations personnel.
Some weapons used were illegal, such as the cluster munitions which were mainly fired during the last 72 hours of the conflict. Their use was excessive and not justified by military necessity, and went beyond the arguments of proportionality. They were a flagrant violation. There had been violations of the right to life and property. There were extrajudicial summary executions. Israel had violated obligations following from international law and humanitarian law, and it had disregarded its international and individual responsibility. It was Israel’s duty to investigate these violations and determine who was responsible, provide redress for victims, and punish the offenders, or the culture of impunity would not come to an end. The Council should, among other things mobilise the international community to help Lebanon to rebuild, promote and monitor respect for international humanitarian law by all parties, and promote the inclusion of cluster munitions in the list of weapons banned under international law. The Council needed to embark on this fight, and should work on a solution to such situations.
Statements by Concerned Countries
ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon had accurately reflected the one-sided mandate assigned to it, ignoring both factual realities and legal obligations. In doing so, the Commission might have obeyed the limitations of its mandate, but it had also produced a report rife with imbalances and misrepresentation.
The report’s silence with respect to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon for acts of hostility prepared and perpetrated within its territory was in contrast with the Security Council resolutions which called for the Hizbullah to disarm and called for the Government of Lebanon to exercise full control over its territory. While the report sought to be guided by international law obligations, it failed to make any reference to Lebanon’s obligations to prevent the use of its territory for hostile acts, and to disarm and disband Hizbullah.
GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon), speaking as a concerned country, said that besides the abhorring facts about the Israeli atrocities in Lebanon, the report provided a sound and well grounded legal analysis and conclusion about the serious Israeli violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. While the Commission of Inquiry was cautious to mention that its report could not constitute a full and final accounting of all alleged violations, the report emerged nevertheless as a unique document in the legal annals about the “quick” evolvement of Israel’s military actions in Lebanon “from a riposte to a boarder incident into a general attack against the entire Lebanese territory”, which “could qualify as serious violations of laws and customs of war and war crimes”. The Commission had examined, with extreme scrutiny, the devastating effects of the Israeli military campaign on Lebanon, which would be felt for many years. Prime Minister Siniora had described the consequences as disastrous because 15 years of development had been wiped out by Israel, yet with a slight margin of error, as compared to what Israel’s chief of staff stated when he wanted “to turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years”
Treating as “terrorists” all members or affiliates of an official party, as well as friends, family members or relatives of combatants led to an unacceptable interpretation of the law and contravened international humanitarian law and human rights laws. In fact such “very negative State practice is extremely disturbing for contemporary legal culture”, as admitted by the report. Many efforts had been invested in the report whose positive conclusions and recommendations were obvious but not without shortcomings. Some of the elements in the report exceeded the mandate of the Commission and its limitations and therefore, Lebanon considered those elements irrelevant.
Interactive Dialogue on Report of Commission of Inquiry
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), said the evidence of the Commission was chilling, and the indictment definitive. The Commissioners were commended for their fair and impartial investigation and collation of facts, as well as their courage in producing the report, which substantiated impunity on the part of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), establishing a pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against civilians and civilian objects, direct attacks on medical and relief personnel, detention, mistreatment and abduction of individuals. The Commission formed a clear view that the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.
The Commission did not accept the Israeli hypothesis that civilian infrastructure was used by Hizbollah to justify its attacks against Israel. It also established that the use of cluster bombs was excessive and unjustified on military grounds. When the OIC had requested a special session of the Council, some delegates had asked what rights had been violated: the answer was in the report. The massive, gross, and systematic human rights violations over 33 days also constituted “a very negative state practice, disturbing for contemporary legal culture”. While the fact-finding of the report was comprehensive and bold, its recommendations were diffident and hesitant, and fell short of recommendations. Greater consistency between facts and ensuring recommendations would have been welcomed. However, the Council had thus set a tradition of responding to a human rights crisis and ascertaining facts on the ground through independent means, and this was satisfying.
ALBERTO J. DUMONT (Argentina) said Argentina had voted in favour of the resolution setting up the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon while stating that the resolution should have been more balanced to deal with equal emphasis with grave violations to international humanitarian law by Hezbollah that had caused the death of innocent civilians. Likewise, as a result of the mandate given to the Commission, it had focused exclusively on the Israeli military actions. Nevertheless, members of the Commission as well as Member States at the Human Rights Council did not fail to note the damage Hezbollah’s indiscriminate attacks inflicted on the Israeli civilian population. Argentina thought it imperative to improve the mandate given to commissions of inquiry so as to address violations of human rights and or international humanitarian law committed by all parties involved in a conflict.
SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil) said the report was a serious, impartial, in-depth assessment of a 33-day conflict, which had had a devastating impact on Lebanon. The Commission had adopted the principle of restricting the scope of analysis of the conflict to the territory of Lebanon. That was precisely what emanated from the mandate of the Council. The report had indicated that the conflict was between the Israeli armed forces and Hezbollah and as a result, one might argue that it was a limited conflict, not between States, since the Lebanese army did not take an active part. The Commission correctly ruled out that interpretation.
ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the report was an important document as it reviewed all Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law over the period of 33 days, during which it violated the sovereignty of Lebanon and its people. The acts could be considered war crimes - this odious attack against Lebanon was part of a deliberate policy of Israel, aiming to interfere in the internal affairs of that country and to incite communal violence. Civilians and infrastructure were used as targets. The conclusions of the report were not definitive, and the inquiry should continue in Israel to obtain more information on the arms used.
The Council should set up an observation mechanism of the situation of human rights in Lebanon. All recommendations on the provision of assistance to Lebanon were welcomed.
SAAD ALFARAGI (League of Arab States) welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. It was an important report because it addressed crimes of war committed by Israel in Lebanon. These attacks had not discriminated between civilians and the military, and had destroyed the Lebanese civilian infrastructure, severely affecting its economy. There should be a follow up mechanism to the recommendations of this Commission.
TAPANI KIVELA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union had expressed its concern about the loss of lives and property in Lebanon following the Israeli attack. The European Union was engaged in assisting Lebanon in its reconstruction efforts. He asked how the Commission wanted its conclusions and recommendations to be implemented.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France) said Lebanon was in favour of creating an international tribunal in order to charge those who had brought about the murder of Rafik Hariri. All the members of the Inquiry Commission were thanked, but it was regretted that the members of the Commission could not go to Israel to investigate reports of launches of rockets by Hezbollah. This was why France had not been able to vote in favour of the resolution. The military forces of Israel should stop attacks on military objects and provide humanitarian assistance to civilians throughout the country. The partners to the conflict should respect international humanitarian law, and respect humanitarian corridors. Safe passage for humanitarian convoys should be ensured in the Security Council and in the field. France had been watching the offensive and the operations which caused about 1,000 deaths and 4,000 injured. Humanitarian rights were flouted on both sides of the conflict, with deaths of children, and the use of cluster bombs. The work of the Commission showed once more the need for field inspections.
ROBERTO VELLANO (Italy) said Italy remained deeply involved in the reconstruction and stabilization in Lebanon and the whole area. Italy played a constructive role in developing a peaceful approach to solving the conflict, and had been involved in the United Nations peacekeeping force. Italy asked the Commissioners on the situation of internally displaced persons and challenges they were facing. On access to basic services by the population, Italy asked about efforts to be undertaken by the international community to address this question.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) commended the work of the Commission for its impartial and detailed report. The excessive use of force by Israel had caused heavy damages to Lebanon. The loss of life in Lebanon had also been appalling. The report had clearly demonstrated that Israel had no respect for any international norms and civility.
ALIREZA MOAIYERI (Iran) said the report of the Commission confirmed that the aggression and hostilities committed by Israel in Lebanon constituted a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by Israel against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects, failing to distinguish civilians from combatants and civilian objects from military targets. The Commission had formed a clear view that the deliberate and lethal attacks by Israel amounted to collective punishment, and that the excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force went beyond reasonable arguments of military necessity and of proportionality, and clearly failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets, thus constituting a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
The Council should condemn the gross and systematic human rights and humanitarian law violations by Israel. In spite of its positive general thrust, the report had gone beyond the mandate of the Commission, and its recommendations fell short of expectations in addressing effectively the responsibility of the Council in facing the crimes committed by Israel.
HSU KING BEE (Malaysia) appreciated the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, which was the result of the efforts of the Human Rights Council to deal with gross violations of human rights by Israel in Lebanon. Proper follow up actions should be undertaken. Israel had committed serious, repeated, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the Lebanese civilian population. The Human Rights Council and other United Nations appropriate mechanisms and bodies should immediately address this question.
FRANCISCOS VERROS (Greece) commended the sprit of objectivity shown by members of the Commission in their reports. It was regretted that the members of the Commission were not able to speak to all non-actors who participated in the conflict. The main concern was the human rights situation of the victims and the consequences of the conflict. Could the Commission give the estimated number of returnees after the conflict? How could the international community participate in reducing the damage inflicted by the conflict?
KHALIT BITAR (Syria) said the report of the Commission on Israeli practices during the recent aggression showed there were flagrant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, with no discrimination between civilian and military objectives. Civilian objectives were targeted first and foremost, and the economy of Lebanon showed the consequences of this. Israel was responsible for the attack.
However, the Commission had perhaps exceeded its mandate. The report should show the effect of repeated violations against Lebanon, without respect for human rights and international law, after the ceasefire. The recommendations on repairs and reconstruction were supported, as were the recommendations to reclassify missiles and arms under the list of banned weapons.
MURAD HAMAIMA (Libya) supported the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. The report mentioned that Israel had violated the sovereignty of Lebanon and seriously affected the civilian infrastructure. There was no justification for the Israeli military actions against the civilian population. The international community should be mobilized to help in the reconstruction of Lebanon. International humanitarian law should also reflect the need to compensate the Lebanese civilian population.
BART OUVRY (Belgium) said there was concern for the human suffering and destruction of infrastructure in Lebanon. Belgium was committed to the reconstruction of Lebanon, and the construction of a more stable country. The report contained a lot of disquieting information, in particular information requiring the Council to ensure that international humanitarian law be respected by all parties to the conflict, including non-State actors. The recommendations submitted by the Experts were supported, but could the Experts specify what means the Council should use to implement their recommendations in the future, the speaker asked. Several delegations had spoken about unity, and the question was raised regarding whether the mandate should not be geographically broadened in order to identify responsibilities.
NAJEEB AL-BADER (Kuwait) took note of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. The report identified the destruction caused by the Israeli military attacks on the civilian population. Israel carried out indiscriminate attacks, making thus no distinction between the military and the civilian population.
There was a need to compensate the civilian population with regard to the damages incurred as a result of the Israeli military attacks. International humanitarian law should be amended so as to address appropriately questions of compensation of victims.
JOAQUIN MARIA DE ARISTEGUI LABORDE (Spain) fully supported the reconstruction efforts for Lebanon. Spain asked about the measures the Commission considered as priorities in the reconstruction efforts and the means to carry them out in a short time. Spain also asked if the Commission had received information on the impact of the conflict on the fishery sector.
PABLO MACEDO (Mexico) said one of the major concerns of the report under consideration was the use and abuse of certain types of weapons. There was a humanitarian problem arising from the use of these weapons. A group of Experts should be established who could prepare a legally-binding instrument to tackle the humanitarian consequences of the use of these types of weapons, and the inhumane consequences of this abuse. The Commission of Inquiry had recommended that the Council promote an emergency action to move cluster munitions onto the list of weapons banned internationally. The Council should reach a decision to ban these weapons, the use of which ran counter to humanitarian law.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) said Bahrain appreciated the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. Israel had committed flagrant violations of human rights by targeting women, children and disabled people, and destroying the civilian infrastructure. These acts clearly constituted crimes of war.
The report should not have gone beyond the scope of its mandate by also dealing with matters that were only of the concern of Lebanon as a sovereign State. Bahrain underlined the importance for the international community to urgently help Lebanon in its reconstruction efforts.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said the report was timely and it had emphasized the excessive use of force by Israeli armed forces. It had also characterized the conflict as an aggression. The report had indicated that one-third of the victims of the conflict were children. However, the report was short of explicit mention of the violations of human rights by Israel.
SUNU MAHADI SOEMARNO (Indonesia) said the grave situation in Lebanon was an issue of importance. It was very important for the Council to ensure that all its resolutions and decisions were fully and duly implemented. The 135-page report had provided an overview on the terms of reference, approaches and activities of the Commission. Although the report referred to the limitations imposed by the mandate, it had remained within the boundaries of this mandate. The pain of the people of Lebanon was shared, and their perspective understood. It was encouraging that the report also showed the consequences of the conflict on vulnerable groups, namely women, children and the elderly. It was the duty of the Council to ensure that the human rights of all Lebanese could be re-established and protected. The human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Lebanese people should be safe from any further use of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against them.
MICHAEL BRAAD (Denmark) said that the report stated that the Human Rights Council should monitor the observance of human rights by all parties involved in the conflict, including non-state actors. Denmark asked the Commissioner about what specific steps should the Human Rights Council take to ensure the respect of human rights in the region, in particular by non-state actors.
NAJLA AL QASSIMI (United Arab Emirates) said the report had confirmed the grave human rights violations committed by Israel. Israel had targeted the harmonious and peaceful life of the Lebanese people. The conflict had damaged the normal lives of the people. The use of the cluster bombs by Israel still continued to damage the lives of the people.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said the report gave a clear picture of the grave human rights situation in Lebanon as a result of the Israeli military attacks. Israel had not distinguished between civilians and combatants, and there was no justification for the devastation of the civilian infrastructure, including ports and archaeological sites. Those were indiscriminate attacks, and it was the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to make sure that these attacks would not happen again. The international community should assist the Lebanese people in the reconstruction of their country.
SAMEH SHOUKRY (Egypt) said the report clearly indicated that Israel’s military operations and lethal attacks against the civilians of Lebanon was collective punishment, and thus a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The indiscriminate and excessive use of force went beyond any military argument of necessity and proportionality. This move by the Council was a step forward. The Government of Lebanon was commended for its cooperation. The Council should consider seriously and objectively the contents of the report, and the devastating effect of the violations of the human rights of the people of Lebanon. The excessively high number of civilians that were affected should be considered, and the Council should take action to put an end to the state of impunity that was associated with the Israeli attack.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said Cuba had fully supported holding a special session to deal with the situation in Lebanon, and welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. The report confirmed what they already knew about the devastation brought about by the indiscriminate Israeli attack. Cuba asked to take the necessary measures to prevent such violation of human rights from happening again, and called for compensation to be given to the Lebanese population affected by the Israeli military actions. Cuba expressed its solidarity with the people of Lebanon.
WARREN W. TICHENOR (United States) recognized the sufferings of the people of Lebanon and the tragic effect endured by the conflict. Hezbollah had dragged Lebanon into the conflict, and the United States continued to express concern about the role of the Hezbollah, which received assistance from Syria. The resolution adopted against Israel was partial and one-sided. The report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon was also unbalanced. The Council should endeavour to reduce the suffering of the victims on both sides.
GALO LARENAS SERRANO (Ecuador) said the report contained a lot of information that was of great concern with regards to the abuse of humanitarian law and the lack of respect for international standards in such situations. There was concern for the number of victims and casualties, as well as for the displaced. The people of the world should protect future generations from the scourge of war, which caused suffering to a large part of humanity. How much more suffering was needed before the final solution of true negotiations between parties was reached, the speaker asked. There was faith in the United Nations and in the Council for this aim, and in particular the work of the Commission could not be denied, as it was based on international humanitarian law and examining the respect of human rights. The use of prohibited weapons was condemned, as was the use of human shields. All parties should pledge to the international community that they were ready to negotiate in accordance with Article 3 of the United Nations Charter.
OSCAR CARVALLO VALENCIA (Venezuela) said the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon accurately reflected the suffering underwent by the Lebanese population as a result of the Israeli military actions. It was clear that those were indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, including on schools, hospitals, and water plants, in violation of international humanitarian law. Venezuela supported undertaking follow up measures to ensure proper implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon.
Concluding Remarks by Commissioners
JOAO CLEMENTE BAENA SOARES, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, said the strict implementation of the recommendations at the national level was essential. The children of Lebanon had suffered most and the existing instruments concerning children should further be improved to protect innocent childhood from the dire consequences of conflicts. He was most disquieted by the use of cluster bombs. The issue of cluster bombs should be dealt with properly in order to ban their use.
MOHAMED CHANDE OTHMAN, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry, said at the outset the Commission was alive to the issues surrounding the mandate, and it was clear that its true function was to interpret the mandate in a manner that was consequent to international human rights and humanitarian law. The mandate could not be extended, and this had been clear. If there was remedy in this situation, it did not lie among those who were responsible for interpretation of the mandate. On the status of civilians and respect for their status, it had become clear that civilians were not sacred as they were under international law. Specific measures for the Council to take in this regard were proposed, such as the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In the domain of recommendations, it was the Commission’s point of view that there had not been cold feet, and responsibility was clearly allocated. There was international responsibility for the violations that had been committed, and some acts could be characterised as war crimes. What was before the Council was not a traditional recommendation - the Council was not asked to establish an international tribunal, as the ICJ already existed. Another tool of the Council was fact-finding, which was a very effective tool which could be enhanced.
STELIOS PERRAKIS, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, said that he did not quite understand the question of the discrepancy between the findings and recommendations. There was perhaps a misunderstanding by some delegations. The report suggested setting up a monitoring human rights procedure. Nevertheless, it was not meant to interfere with the sovereign right of the State of Lebanon, as Lebanon had not committed violations of human rights. This required urgent attention not only concerning Lebanon but also for the future. There was a deficit in international humanitarian law; therefore, there was a need to establish human rights monitoring mechanisms.
Statements on Follow-up to Resolutions on Fact-finding Mission by Special Rapporteur to Occupied Palestinian Territories and on Mission to Beit Hanoun, and UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the special session of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory held in July had expressed grave concern at the violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people caused by the Israeli occupation and demanded that Israel end its military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Council had urged Israel to release Palestinian ministers, lawmakers and civilians held captive. The Council had decided to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission. However the Special Rapporteur John Dugard had not been allowed to visit the region. The will of the Council was frustrated by Israel. The non-implementation of the resolution of the special session of the Council raised questions about the credibility and effectiveness of the newly formed human rights body. Resolutions passed by the Council with a clear majority representing different regions were being called one-sided. As long as human rights violations continued in the occupied territory, there was no hope for a lasting peace.
HSU KING BEE (Malaysia) said there was dismay at the long delay at the implementation of the decisions contained in resolution S-1/1. The constitution of the high-level fact-finding mission was applauded, and the mission should be carried out rapidly. There was no balance possible between the actions of the occupied and the occupiers. Not only had the Palestinian people been deprived of their right to self-determination over the last 60 years, but their other human rights had been denied consistently. This gross and egregious violation was what had sparked the holding of the two special sessions. It was essential for the truce to be maintained to aid in finding a solution to the conflict, and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people, ending in the establishment of a Palestinian State, living in peace, with internationally-recognised borders.
JOSE GUEVARA (Mexico) said one of the shortcomings of the Commission on Human Rights was the lack of follow up to its decisions. It was for that reason that Mexico welcomed the decisions of the Human Rights Council to set up the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, and the high-level fact-finding mission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
With reference to the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mexico said that the Human Rights Council should prepare a draft action programme involving Member States and indigenous peoples for actions to be taken in the medium and long-term periods.
ALEJANDRO NEYRA (Peru) said the indigenous peoples were frustrated because of the situation of slow developments in New York concerning their rights. The indigenous peoples had been waiting for a long time for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be adopted. A number of amendments had been introduced to the Declaration and yet it was not adopted by the General Assembly.
SUNU MAHADI SOEMARNO (Indonesia) said this was an important stage in the work of the Council and the construction of its future structures, and it was imperative that there be no delay in implementing this resolution expeditiously. There was concern for the lack of implementation of follow-up on some resolutions and decisions of the Council, such as the one requiring an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. There should be removal of obstacles to the logistical and financial carrying out of this mission.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but this was not a substitute for the implementation of the Council’s resolution. It was hoped there would be confirmation that the fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun would be leaving soon. The Council should become a quality body that met expectations.
GALO LARENAS SERRANO (Ecuador) noted with surprise the events that had taken place in New York with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Ecuador was under the understanding that the issue was going to be postponed. Ecuador thought that the Human Rights Council had committed to send this matter to the General Assembly. Ecuador reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights of indigenous people. Ecuador said it was vital for the Human Rights Council to ensure the General Assembly took full account of the recommendations of the Human Rights Council on this matter.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) said that Israel did not allow the inquiry commission led by John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur, into Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The first special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had decided to send the mission to report to it on the situation. However, the refusal by Israel to allow the visit stopped the Special Rapporteur from carrying out his work. The United Nations had the obligation to protect the people of Palestine from any attacks. The Special Rapporteur should be allowed to visit the area in order to establish the facts on the ground.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said there was concern that some decisions of the Council had not been implemented. It was regretted that Israel did not allow the mission to investigate allegations on its territory. It could not examine how the Palestinian people were being brutalised by the occupation, and were being deprived of their basic rights such as that to water. Questions had been raised with regards to the credibility and effectiveness of the Council and its decisions. The situation in the Palestinian territories had continued to deteriorate, despite the special sessions of the Council. It was hoped the second Fact-Finding Mission would be allowed to visit, and would be able to determine the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
SEYED KAZEM SAJJADPOUR (Iran) said the Human Rights Council had decided to take action in the face of gross violations of human rights in Beit Hanoun, and had thus set up a fact-finding mission. Iran welcomed the establishment of this fact-finding mission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, aimed at assessing the situation of victims; addressing the need of survivors; and making recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against any further Israeli assaults.
It was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had not yet been allowed to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The situation in the occupied Palestinian Territory had deteriorated, and Israel continued to enjoy impunity for the collective crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people.
ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel) said the item under consideration today, which asked for a follow-up to the resolution from the Council’s first special session, intended to turn the attention of the Council back on Israel and away from the real challenges facing the international community in those days. It was a shameful attempt to subvert any noble aspirations the Council might, at one point, had. Even worse, it was an exercise in futility, which only served to drain the limited resources that the Council possessed. It had been less than six months since the Council was inaugurated, and already the President of the Council had been forced to request additional funds from the General Assembly to support the Council’s work. Why was there insistence to send the Special Rapporteur to Gaza? The Special Rapporteur had been visiting the region twice a year. He was there now and without doubt, he would return with another unbalanced, one-sided report, excused by his unbalanced, one-sided mandate, which would be presented to the Council amid great fanfare.
MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH (Palestine) said the lack of development concerning the implementation of the resolution and decisions adopted by the Council on Palestine were of concern. On the resolution of the first special session concerning the human rights situation in Palestine, it was regrettable that to date this resolution had not yet been implemented. Of course, the decisions and resolutions of the Council should be implemented. On the Special Rapporteur John Dugard, he was now in Palestine, but he was going there as an individual, and was not given official permission from the Israeli authorities. He was there as he had a passport which allowed him to travel, and his visit was nothing to do with the mission that was stated in the resolution of the special session, which was that he would be heading a fact-finding team. Israel had refused to let that mission enter Palestine.
On the question of the special sessions, and with regards also to the discussion of the Council on the question of Palestine, Palestine had a very small mission here, and it had no interest in going for special sessions. The supporters of Palestine had no monopoly on the Council. The one that had monopoly on the violation of human rights was Israel, the darling of the United States, and the darling of the Ambassador of Canada and the darling of the High Commissioner. Palestine was a test-case for the work of the Council. If the Council did not address the violations by Israel of the human rights of the Palestinian people, the shellings, the killings, the destruction, the construction of the Wall, and as long as there were double standards, Palestine would continue to address the Council on this issue. Israel was called upon to get out of the occupied Palestinian territory, and then there would be no discussion of the situation of Palestine. Here the representative of Israel was claiming that Israel wished to save the budget - Israel was judged by its actions of the last 60 years, and by what it had done in Lebanon.
JUDITH ZERBO (Burkina Faso) was concerned about follow-up mechanisms on decisions and resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council, in particular with reference to follow- up procedures on the Convention of the rights of migrants. Burkina Faso underlined the importance of addressing this question and finding a solution for it.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the Council had so far failed to implement its own resolutions with regard to Palestine. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was concerned about the human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinian people. The issue of Palestine should continue to be a priority for the Council’s concerns. The United States had been engaged in rejecting more than 30 resolutions concerning Palestine. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supported a joint effort to bring peace to the Middle East.
JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said on racism, note had been taken that following recommendation HRC1.5, adopted last June, the High Commissioner had appointed five distinguished experts to prepare a basic document to come forward with recommendations on how to overcome the gaps in international documents on how to combat racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance. It was hoped these would be submitted to the Working Group on the Follow-up to the Durban Declaration, so that institutional and complementary rules would be elaborated. At least in this case, the Third Committee did adopt a decision that was fully in line with the decision of the Council.
ARIEL LACK, of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said that the deliberate attacks on Israel across the international border by Hezbollah, acting with the implicit authority of the Lebanese Government, on 12 July 2006 constituted an act of aggression against Israel in violation of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter, six years after the complete withdrawal of Israel from Lebanese territory as so certified by the United Nations Secretary-General.
RAMA ENAV, of Women’s International Zionist Organization, said that due to its one-sided mandate, the report of the Commission of Inquiry silenced the suffering of hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Israel. Hezbollah rained thousands of rockets, intentionally and indiscriminately targeting the civilian population, sending them into bombs shelters or forcing them to flee their homes. Dozens of civilians were killed and hundreds were injured, and even hospitals treating the victims were targeted.
HILLEL C. NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said a credible investigation would have involved all actors, and the Commission of Inquiry had not done this. According to the minimum standard of decency, the inquiry and report were therefore not credible. The resolution passed had mandated that there would be no real inquiry, but the Commission would discourse on Israel’s pre-judged guilt. Non-governmental organizations had submitted materials, and some of these on Hezbollah’s violations had been disregarded, such as those on Hezbollah’s use of human shields. The Commissioners had been provided with compelling evidence in this regard. The inquiry was not independent, it was not impartial, and it was not objective.
KLAUS NETTER, of B’Nai B’rith International, noted that the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon had included an initial caveat whereby it refrained from making judgment on the content of its mandate and further admitted that this mandate limited it from examining actions by the Israeli military, i.e. to the exclusion of actions by Hezbollah, and further limited its purview to actions on Lebanese territory, i.e. to the exclusion of actions on Israeli territory. They could not congratulate the Commission members for having accepted such a biased mandate.
ELIAS KHOURI, of Union of Arab Jurists, said at the annual meeting of the Bureau of the Union, which was held in Amman in November, 16 Unions attended the meeting, representing 16 Arab countries, and asserting their solidarity with the people of Lebanon, reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to set up their own nation on their own land, and condemning the violation of international law and international human rights law. The aggression against Syria by external powers was condemned. The independence of Iraq and its territorial integrity was reaffirmed. The United Nations should not be subjugated to the law of force, instead of the force of law. The grave violations of Israel against Lebanon were crimes of war and crimes against humanity.
Right of Reply
MOSTAFA ALAEI (Iran), speaking in a right of reply, said that the accusation of the United States saying that Iran had supported aggression in Lebanon was a clear act of destabilization of the whole area. Iran asked who had really destabilized the area. It was thanks to the supply of American weapons that Israel had committed gross violations of human rights. The United States should take the time to read in detail the findings of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon.
ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel), in a right to reply, said it was clear from the earlier discussion who supported Hezbollah. Syria and Iran provided lethal weapons to Hezbollah. If Iran and Syria had not interfered in the domestic affairs of Lebanon, the conflict would have been avoided.
KHALIT BITAR, (Syria), speaking in a right to reply, said with regards to the statement of the United States, Syria was an ally of the whole of the Lebanese people who had been attacked by the Israeli army, and whose land was still occupied. Without the support of the Israeli Government, this occupation would not have continued. The position of Syria had been clear to all from when it had opened its doors to all those fleeing the Israeli forces, which occurred due to the support of the United States. The United States had supplied Israel with the most sophisticated weapons. Syria would continue to stand by Lebanon, which should be free and independent. The United States was called upon to put an end to its support for the aggressor, and put pressure on Israel so that it ended its acts and so that peace and stability reigned in the region.
* *** *
For use of the information media; not an official record