UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES HUMAN
RIGHTS SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OTHER
OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES

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Human Rights Council
MORNING
6 March 2008


Concludes General Segment

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories after concluding its general segment.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour echoed the concern expressed by the Secretary-General on the magnitude of the violence that had been taking place in southern Israel and Gaza where many civilians continued to die in attacks and counter-attacks. The protection of human rights, and in particular of civilians’ lives, could not await the outcome of a political process. The international community must step up pressure on both sides to uphold their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, and must ensure that failure to do so was dealt with appropriately.

Ms. Arbour said she was painfully aware that since the end of February violence had erupted again, killing at least 120 Palestinians and three Israelis. She was deeply alarmed about the death of the civilians. She condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against civilian targets, as well as the Israel Defence Force’s disproportionate use of force and urged all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable.

Israel, Palestine and Syria spoke as concerned countries.

In the context of the debate on Palestine, delegations regretted the loss of innocent lives from both Palestinian and Israeli sides with several speakers expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories. The Council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians were suffering and further remind all parties of their responsibilities to protect civilian lives and must send a strong message that all civilians must be protected and that there must be an immediate halt to all violence, both on the Israeli and on the Palestinian sides. Delegations also expressed concern over the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Additionally, speakers urged all sides to advance on the path to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as set out in the Annapolis Conference.

Speaking in the debate on the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories were Pakistan for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Palestine for the Arab Group, Egypt for the African Group, Slovenia for the European Union, Cuba for the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt (in a national capacity), Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China. France, Switzerland, Djibouti, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Qatar, Senegal and Italy.

Those speaking in the general segment of the Council, which began yesterday, were Kuwait, Venezuela and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Additionally, the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and representatives of the following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, Brazil; All-Africa Students Union; Advocacy Forum Nepal; and CIVICUS : World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

Countries exercising their right of reply at the end of the general segment included India, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Morocco, Pakistan and Algeria.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m., when it will continue its general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories before taking action on a draft resolution.

Document

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints (A/HRC/7/44), which recalls that, following requests to the Permanent Missions of Israel and Palestine in Geneva for comments on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, on 11 December 2007, a reply was received from Palestine indicating that there had been no change since the last report of the High Commissioner in 2006 (69 cases). No reply was received from the Permanent Mission of Israel. Replies received on 23 November 2007 from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that since all internal Israeli Defense Force checkpoints were dismantled in Gaza in 2005, there were no cases of pregnant women giving birth at checkpoints in Gaza during the reporting period. However, on 3 January 2008, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received information from the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories concerning two cases of Palestinian women (in the West Bank) forced to give birth in their respective cars following the refusal of the Israeli soldiers to allow them to pass to get to a hospital in nearby Qalqiliya. WHO further reports that, while the number of Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints is an important indicator, it is not sufficient to assess the accessibility of adequate medical services for pregnant women, the changing patterns of behaviour in response to mobility restrictions and their implications for the right to health. According to studies, restricted mobility and increasing poverty have resulted in difficult situations for Palestinian pregnant women and limited access to health care. According to UNRWA, the number of infant deaths at Gaza’s main hospitals was on average 20 per cent higher during the period of January-October 2007 than during the corresponding period in 2006. UNRWA expresses concern over the significant delays of the process applicable for Gazans who require permits from the Israeli authorities to exit Gaza through the Erez crossing to receive necessary medical treatment in hospitals outside Gaza. UNRWA also reports that while 89.4 per cent of patients who applied were granted a permit between January and May 2007, during October 2007, only 77.1 per cent of applicants received permits.

Presentation by High Commissioner for Human Rights

LOUISE ARBOUR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, echoed the concern expressed by the Secretary-General on the magnitude of the violence that had been taking place in southern Israel and Gaza where many civilians continued to die in attacks and counter-attacks. The protection of human rights, and in particular of civilians’ lives, could not await the outcome of a political process. The international community must step up pressure on both sides to uphold their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, and must ensure that failure to do so was dealt with appropriately. On the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, while there was a decrease in their number during the reporting period, the restrictions on mobility and rising poverty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulted in limited and unpredictable access to health care for pregnant Palestinian women. She would submit a report on religious and cultural rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, to the next session of the Council. As regards to the implementation of the resolutions of the first Special Session of the Council, she referred to reports of the Special Rapporteur John Dugard who said “the failure of the Government of Israel to consent to such a mission” was the reason why the resolution could not be implemented. Concerning the decision of the third Special Session to send a mission headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the members of the mission held informal consultations in January 2008 in Geneva after the mission which was planned for late January 2008 never took place due to the unwillingness of the Government of Israel to extend the cooperation needed for the mission to travel to Beit Hanoun via Israel. On the resolution of the sixth Special Session, the report dealt with violations committed by three actors: the State of Israel as the occupying power, the Palestinian Authority, and the de facto government of the Gaza Strip under the effective control of Hamas.

Ms. Arbour said she was painfully aware that since the end of February violence had erupted again, killing at least 120 Palestinians and three Israelis. She was deeply alarmed about the death of the civilians. She condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against civilian targets, as well as the Israel Defence Force’s disproportionate use of force. She urged all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable. All human rights were equal for all human beings and no party could claim that, in defending its own population, it was allowed to disavow the rights of others.

Statements by Concerned Countries

ITZHAK LEVANON (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that soon after this utterly biased and one-sided resolution had been passed, he had a meeting with Reverend Tutu, and personally suggested that he sought to fulfill his full mission via countries other that Israel. The resolution did not specify how the fact-finding mission was to reach Beit Hanoun. In the 18 months that had passed since this resolution was adopted, he had remained in contact with Reverend Tutu on this issue and he had recently received a letter indicating that the Reverend would visit Beit Hanoun by entering through Egypt. It was regretted, however, that the mission delayed activities by a year and a half and in doing so created a negative impression of Israel. It was a fallacy to link the fact that Reverend Tutu had not yet reached Beit Hanoun with an alleged refusal by Israel to grant visas. What remained was to express again and again Israel’s rejection of biased and one-sided resolutions and to convey the wish of Israel that Reverend Tutu and Professor Chinkin would maintain their pledge to keep an open mind and objectively take into account all stakeholders in the region.

Israel had boycotted the sixth special session as the proponents made no effort to draft a resolution which bore any real resemblance to facts on the ground. The resolution that was drafted, tabled and voted on at the sixth special session was surprisingly similar to the resolution that was before the Council today. The Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group resorted to submitting duplicating resolutions and Israel suggested that the High Commissioner’s office be allowed to save time and money in implementing the resolution and submit a duplicate follow-up report at the next session of the Council.

MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, pointed to the atrocities conducted by Israel in Palestine, like using F-16 planes against civilians, in the name of self defence. The Israeli Vice Minister for Defense had called it “inflicting a Holocaust on the Palestinians”. This gave rise of to a new mode of defence. The silence, vis--vis these atrocities by the international community, was setting a precedent. Palestine denounced the systematic violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation power. The rights of the Palestinians should be protected. Referring to the firing of “basic rockets” into south Israel, he underscored that the right to self defence was also a right of the Palestinians and of all people under occupation. The recent agony of the Palestinians created resentment and outrage.

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria) wished that Israel would desist from betraying the principles of human rights under the pretext of self-defense and urged the Council to send a clear message to Israel to stop its aggression against the Palestinian people.

Syria deeply regretted the indifference and silence of some at the high-level segment. The crimes committed in Palestine and the occupied Golan by Israel were not immune from accountability.
This silence encouraged the Israeli authorities to pursue their crimes. The Golan was part of Syria and it was occupied by Israel, which continued to violate the social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of the Syrians living there. Those who refused Israeli identity were imprisoned for life or tortured. Israel refused visits to the prisoners. The international community must condemn the occupation of Palestine and the Golan by Israel. There would be no peace in the region as long as the occupation persisted.

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

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the right of Palestinians to life and property was severely violated by Israel’s deadly attacks against innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Israel had resorted to the use of disproportionate force, deliberate destruction of infrastructure and killing of civilians. The right of the Palestinians to life and property was severely violated by Israel’s deadly attacks and was evident by the killing of over 1,000 Palestinians in less than one year. The OIC had condemned these acts as they grossly violated international human rights and humanitarian law. The OIC Secretary-General had condemned the continued Israeli assaults and expressed his aversion to the deliberate murder by Israel of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, especially women and children. There existed a broad acknowledgment of the difficult and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Golan and other occupied Arab territories. In this context, the OIC called upon the Council to seriously consider the full and effective implementation of resolutions adopted by its regular and special sessions. While the only response to the serious situation faced by the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Golan was in the end of occupation, the human rights and humanitarian situation could be improved somewhat with the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the Council. The OIC called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to take a lead role in ensuring the implementation of Council resolutions.

MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Arab Group strongly condemned the massacres perpetrated by the occupation forces in the Gaza strip. Hundreds had been killed and wounded since last month. Israel was blocking ambulances from going into Gaza. The current situation was a new episode of the war that had been ongoing since six decades. Israel had threatened Palestine using the word “holocaust”. It was surprising that the international community was remaining silent. The embargo on Gaza had to end. It was a flagrant violation of humanitarian law. Israel was continuing its policy of land confiscations. The detention of hundreds of Syrians from the Golan was also condemned.

SAMEH SHOUKRY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli attack on Gaza that started nine days ago, resulting in the death of more than 120 Palestinian, including women, children and infants and hundreds of injured. While condemning all acts of violence, the African Group deplored the extremely disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army and its resort to heavily indiscriminate bombarding of civilian dwellings to retaliate the launch of crude Palestinian rockets. The African Group called for the immediate and unconditional cession of violence Palestinian territory. The violence had escalated due to the daily and grave violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Palestinians that had been lately exacerbated due to the stronghold of the blockade imposed on Gaza. If the Council were to maintain its relevance, it had to pronounce itself in an unequivocal condemnation of the continuous and escalating Israeli violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Such a condemnation was an essential step to show the Council’s resolve to closely follow and act upon the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union continued to expect both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international norms. Both sides had responsibilities as regards preventing, investigating and remedying human rights violations, including while fighting terrorism. The European Union reminded all parties of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law and not to endanger civilians. The European Union condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian areas and also was deeply alarmed by the recent Israeli military operations that endangered the Palestinian civilian population in the Palestinian Territories. The European Union echoed the call made by the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights that incidents in which civilians had been killed or injured must be impartially investigated, and the findings made public. Moreover, the European Union called on Israel to take all necessary measures for the normalization of the economic, social and cultural life in the Palestinian Territories. The Council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians on both sides were suffering and further remind all parties of their responsibilities to protect civilian lives. The Council must send a strong, clear and united message that all civilians, wherever they happened to be located, must be protected and that there must be an immediate halt to all violence, both on the Israeli and on the Palestinian sides. The European Union urged all sides to advance on the path to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as set out in Annapolis and the Paris Donor’s Conference for the Palestinian State.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said this most recent chapter in the extensive history of aggressions and human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinian people must be strongly rejected; and measures should be taken to hold those responsible accountable for their acts, as well as to prevent the repetition of such acts in the future. The Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemned the recent military assaults by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, which had resulted in the killing of at least 120 Palestinians and the serious wounding of more than 300 other people, including several children and women. The Non-Aligned Movement also condemned the unlawful decision by Israel to maintain closed the border crossings that led to and from Gaza, as well as the interruption of basic supplies, including fuel, which had caused huge humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian population, and had affected the functioning of basic services such as hospitals, sewage treatment and water facilities, among others, causing a high number of both direct and indirect victims. The violent military escalation by Israel constituted a grave breach of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, fueled the cycle of violence, and threatened international peace and security as well as the fragile peace process between the two sides. The Human Rights Council could not ignore the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose most basic human rights were being violated on a daily basis by Israel, the occupying power. At the same time, the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan was deteriorating as a direct result of the Israeli occupation. In this regard, the members of the Non-Aligned Movement expressed their hope that the draft resolutions that would be presented on the issue under item 7 would be adopted with the widest possible support of the members of the Council.

SAMEH SHOUKRY (Egypt) said that the people of Palestine had recently been subjected to a new Israeli aggression that went far beyond all previous Israeli practices. Meanwhile, the civilized world was standing still and watching. Such inaction implied that it was acceptable to kill all people, as long as they were Palestinians. Egypt wondered whether the Palestinian people had the right to enjoy the universality of human rights. Most had even requested the victims to apologise to the aggressor. Could those crude rockets be used as an excuse for bombardments and the massive killings the Palestinians were suffering from? There was no objective balance. What would have happened if it had been the Palestinians that had came with a threat of a Holocaust against Israel. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been often called to follow objectively the handling of the Palestinian case. The High Commissioner had been completely silent for six days, during which hundreds of Palestinians had been killed, and later she had unequivocally emphasized Israel’s right to self-defence. The High Commissioner was asked for the reason behind strongly condemning the actions of the occupied and why she had said that those rockets were a clear violation of international humanitarian law; while Israeli atrocities were merely a “disproportionate use of force”. It would be appreciated if the High Commissioner could explain if her mandate included making political and legal judgement with regard to self defence. Also, the occupation of the Golan should not be forgotten. The silence of the international community, while Israel continued the confiscation of Syrian land, was incomprehensible. As long as this silence continued, the bleeding would continue and the Council would remain unable to spread the culture of human rights.

ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) denouncing the violation of all international standards by the Israeli occupation troops, and referring to the threat of Israel to impose a holocaust in Gaza, said that these actions and these words were an example of State Crime. Faced with this situation, he said he was surprised that steps were not taken by the international community to put an end to violations, the construction of the wall and the Judaization of Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia had further estimated that the occupation deprived the Palestinians of all their rights. Saudi Arabia called for an end to violations of human rights in the occupied Syrian territory. Finally, Saudi Arabia had called on the Council to demonstrate its role. The peace process must be the translation of a political will to the establishment of a lasting peace.

SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India) said India’s empathy with the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine was an integral part of India’s time-tested foreign policy. India reaffirmed its consistent and unwavering support to the friendly people of Palestine and reiterated India’s belief that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region could only be achieved through negotiations and dialogue so that a sovereign, independent, viable State of Palestine living side by side within secured borders with the State of Israel became a reality. The entire world was a witness to the manner in which the border restrictions, economic sanctions and a restrictive regime had brought the Palestinian economy to the verge of collapse. The international community had viewed with grave concern the continuous vicious circle of attacks, reprisal and counter-attacks, the worsening humanitarian and security situation in Gaza, as well as the continue violence inflicted on innocent citizens. The hardship and misery caused by these developments was deplorable. Recent events, including the disproportionate use of retaliatory force by Israel, had led to avoidable civilian casualties, including the death of innocent women and children. This was unacceptable. India strongly urged an immediate end to the cycle of violence by all parties concerned so that focus was not lost on the process of dialogue-driven conflict resolutions. India was ready to extend all possible assistance to help the people of Palestine to overcome the suffering they were facing.

DAYAN JAYATILLAKE (Sri Lanka) said that Sri Lanka fully recognized the right of Israel to exist, for legitimate self defence and to combat terrorism. But was it possible to combat terrorism without inflicting suffering on civilian populations? This was the way Sri Lanka was doing it. Sri Lanka had been commended for bringing supplies to the civilians in the areas where it was engaged in combat. From their experience, they knew that it was possible to combat terrorism without blocking a whole area and making hundreds of people suffer. Also, it had been the state of Israel that had caused the moderate wing of the Palestinian government to be weakened and this had given more power to Hamas. It was possible to combat terrorism while cooperating with the United Nations and the Special Procedures. Sri Lanka was doing it. Sri Lanka condemned the policy of punishment imposed on the Palestinians. Also, double standards and hypocrisy of self appointed angels in human rights would not be supported anymore.

ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) denounced the violation of all international standards by the Israeli occupation troops, and referred to the threat of Israel to impose a Holocaust in Gaza. These actions and these words were an example of a State crime. Faced with this situation, Saudi Arabia was surprised that steps were not taken by the international community to put an end to violations, the construction of the wall and the Judaization of Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia still felt that the occupation deprived the Palestinians of all their rights. All violations of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan should be stopped. Saudi Arabia called on the Council to play its role. The peace process must be the translation of a political will to establish a lasting peace.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) recalled that over the past ten days Gaza had been in the news for the usual tragic incidents of civilian deaths and destruction. At least 125 Palestinian civilians, including children, had been killed by Israeli bombardments in the past week only. Many more were injured. These ruthless acts by Israel defied all civilized human behavior. This was deeply frustrating given the fact that only the other day the Council met in a special session and condemned Israeli atrocities. Yet again, Israel had resorted to mindless and cruel actions against the Palestinians in defiance of the international outcry. New violations of human rights were being added. As noted by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, John Dugard, in his latest report, Israel must address the occupation and the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law it endangered and must not invoke the justification of terrorism as a distraction, or a pretext, for failure to confront the root cause of Palestinian violence – the occupation. The people of the Occupied Territories continued to suffer due to Israeli blockades, closures, and the confiscation of land and demolition of houses. The situation was grave and it was deteriorating every day with more deaths and more destruction. It reinforced the impression that Gaza and the West Bank were places to which international law did not apply. The present situation in Gaza could not be allowed to continue. The international community must assume a responsibility to compel Israel to cease aggression in Gaza and stop bloodshed. Every effort should be made to bring the violence to an end and to resume the peace process aiming at a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement in the region.

GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia) strongly deplored these indiscriminate military incursions by Israel, notably the most recent one, on 1 March 2008, which cost the lives of more than 125 innocent civilians, including women, children and infants. Such acts were a blatant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and in contradiction with the principles of a lasting and peaceful settlement.

Indonesia had consistently supported the Palestinian cause with a view to establishing a viable sovereign and independent Palestinian State living peacefully side-by-side with Israel, with a territory that was recognized by the international community. Indonesia urged the Council to use its influence to exert maximum pressure on all parties, including those who could contribute to decisively alter the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and hasten a return to peaceful dialogue.

BO QIAN (China) said that China was seriously concerned about the large scale conflict and its impact on human rights and on the peace talks. China had always supported the use of peaceful solutions on this matter. The use of violence was not a solution. Israel’s sanctions had aggravated the humanitarian situation. It was hoped that all groups in Gaza would follow President Abbas’ call to refrain from any use of force. Ever since the Annapolis Summit, the Palestinian conflict had received much focus. Peace talks should be resumed and it was hoped that both parties would move forward.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said that in a tragic manner the recent escalation of violence in Gaza had led to a significant loss of life, especially among women and children. France was particularly concerned about the plight of both Palestinian and Israel civilians and also condemned the disproportionate use of force by Israel which had led to a number of Palestinian deaths. France also condemned the rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas must respect the principles guiding the peace process and Israel must ensure the protection of the rights of Palestinians, especially economic, social and cultural rights. International humanitarian law must be respected. The Foreign Minister of France had visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory, called for the lifting of the blockade, and explored the impact of restrictions imposed. It was important that the outcome of the Annapolis Conference was fulfilled and France called for an open and balanced discussion to make headway. It hoped that such a spirit would prevail in the discussions related to the draft resolution. France would continue its untiring efforts to achieve peace in the region.

MURIEL BERSET KOHEN (Switzerland) called for an end to hostilities on both sides. Switzerland had already appealed for this during the Special Session in January; but no sides had listened to these appeals. The lack of respect of international human rights and humanitarian law was worrying. President Abbas’ statement that he was ready to return to peace talks without condition was encouraging. Only a political solution would ensure the return to peace. The situation of the Palestinians had to rapidly improve. The social and economic conditions had to improve and the hostilities had to cease. The situation in Gaza was particularly worrying and the closure was impacting the socio-economic fabric. The Palestinian people had the right, by virtue of the Geneva Convention, to live a life as normal as possible. They should not be held hostage or suffer under punishment. It was urgent to give freedom of access to Gaza and security to humanitarian personnel. Crossing points should be reopened.

AHMED MOHAMED ABRO (Djibouti) condemned the colonization of people and the destruction of public Palestinian infrastructure which where among the main reasons for the loss of hope by the international community. The Council should urge peace and hope and should look at the violations of the Palestinian people’s rights. Everyone was congratulated for the many initiatives, including the Annapolis Conference, which were aimed at reactivating the peace process. The murderous attacks on the Palestinians should be unequivocally condemned by the Council and the international community.

ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) said the Philippines was deeply concerned over the harmful impact of the violence on the humanitarian and human rights situation of the people of Palestine. The Philippines called on all parties involved to exercise utmost restraint and desist from using violence, especially the use of excessive and disproportionate armed force against civilian populations. The Philippines believed that the highest importance should be given to protecting civilian lives and upholding international humanitarian law and universal human rights standards. The Philippines strongly encouraged the resumption of peace talks as a matter of priority and supported all steps by the parties involved to resolve matters through peaceful diplomacy and negotiation. Moreover, the Philippines encouraged the efforts of third parties, including the United Nations, to assist the Palestinian people through humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. In this connection, the international community should continue to be attuned to the special needs and situation of the Palestinian people.

SERGEY KONDRATIEF (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation was deeply concerned about the latest violence. An urgent task now was to ensure a full ceasefire. Israel should refrain from disproportionate use of force and to seek a political solution. Palestinians should bring an end to all acts aiming at escalating tension. The Russian Federation called upon all sides to bring an end to the suffering. The Gaza operations should be stopped. The grave socio-economic situation was worrying. Palestinian people needed assistance and the humanitarian situation had to be improved in all the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The inter-Palestinian dialogue was welcomed and it should lead to a national agreement. The Occupied Palestinian Territories were indivisible in Russia’s view. All sides were called to directly implement the requirements of the United Nations resolution, including those of the Human Rights Council. It was only through joint efforts that a way could be found to settle the Middle East crisis.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said that the recent attacks by the Israeli forces, especially in Gaza, were a violation of international law. The problem lay in the occupation and not in the launching of Palestinian rockets. Qatar supported the principle of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, just as it supported the recovery by Syria of the portion of its territory occupied by Israel.

PIERRE DIOUF (Senegal) said the news that had been coming from the Middle East provided a clear picture of the gravity of the situation there. There was no doubt that urgent action must be taken by the international community. It was the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to send out a strong signal to the parties to make sure that the grave violations of human rights ended in Gaza. Senegal supported the initiatives taken by the Arab Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to put forth a resolution and now the Council must ensure they had an impact. Violence was no way to find a viable and sustainable solution. It was hoped that the resolution would lead to a difference on the ground. The Human Rights Council must work rapidly towards reinstating justice, peace and security in the Middle East, in particular for Palestinians and Israelis. Senegal expressed profound concern over this tragedy and launched an appeal for a cessation of hostilities in the region. Senegal hoped that the peace talks would restart again without delay based on the principle of two sovereign States living side by side.

GIOVANNI CARACCIOLO (Italy) said that Italy remained strongly committed to the defence of the human rights of the people from both sides of the conflict. The situation requested the Human Rights Council’s attention. Italy rejected any forms of collective punishment, this was not justifiable. Italy was deeply alarmed about the increase of rocket attacks by Palestinians. All acts of violence were seen as negatively impacting the ongoing peace process efforts and a global solution had to be found.

General Debate on General Segment

NAJEEB AL BADER (Kuwait) said Kuwait attached great importance to the role of the Council in protecting human rights. Kuwait was looking forward to the Council’s upcoming work in facing the true challenges in promoting the universality of human rights. Kuwait hoped that the Council would carry out its work without selectivity. Kuwait was participating in the international promotion of human rights. It was giving support to several international organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Kuwait hoped that the Universal Periodic Review would achieve its objective to promote the human rights of the countries under review and to offer assistance to them. There was a failure in the implementation of the resolutions on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The increase of declarations insulting to Islam was worrying. Dissemination of hate ideas, racism, and Islamophobia should end.

GABRIEL IGNACIO SALAZAR PINEDA (Venezuela) said that at the national level, as Venezuela celebrated the tenth electoral event of the past decade, the country continued to enjoy a vibrant democracy that respected and deepened all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people. In the regional and international arena, Venezuela under the present government had made efforts for the facilitation of humanitarian processes and the attainment of peace in favor of the populations of brother nations. In this respect, it was sad that some States, despite being main actors, failed to recognize the efforts made by the Venezuelan Government, as well as its leadership, in particular, in the quest of a Humanitarian Agreement in Colombia. The liberation of six persons from a long and painful captivity was a joyful manifestation of the latter. In the region of Venezuela, in recent days, the most shameless and inexcusable violation of international law had taken place. A deplorable attempt of trampling with impunity on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a brother nation. In this session of the Human Rights Council, this topic had been brought up with the purpose of justifying and manipulating the facts. Venezuela firmly rejected these actions. Venezuela denounced by name those who protected, financed, created and stimulated terrorism – Venezuela’s neighbor in the north, the United States.

MARIE THERESE PICTET- ALTHANN (Sovereign Military Order of Malta) said the Sovereign Military Order of Malta’s humanitarian vocation was renewed every day by its assistance towards the poor, the disabled, refugees, internally displaced persons, the homeless, lepers, children or the elderly. Amongst its beneficiaries in 120 countries many were suffering because of human rights violations. It was therefore of the greatest importance that the Council continued to focus on the improvement of the human rights situation in areas of conflict.

The Sovereign military Order of Malta also would give its full attention to the forthcoming debates on specific issues directly related to the well being of persons such as progress on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the study on the human rights of persons with disabilities and the implementation of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Another important document before the Council was the High Commissioner’s report on the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor. The fight against poverty was precisely at the heart of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta’s mission. Also of importance was the High Commissioner’s report on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints and the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

KATHARINA ROSE, of International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, said that the International Coordinating Committee was widely recognised as a dynamic, visible and effective human rights actor at local and regional and international levels. National human rights institutions could now participate under all agenda items of the Human Rights Council. National human rights institutions had seized this opportunity during the last session and had contributed to the discussions. These institutions had made valuable contribution to the documentation of the current session. National human rights institutions were bringing a specific expertise to the international human rights system.

ANGELA CRISTINA GOUVEA COLLET, of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, Brazil, said as the international community collectively strove to make the commitments of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a reality for all people, there remained many marginalized groups whose needs and concerns were often overlooked or given insufficient attention by the international community. It was important to recognize that inequalities were present both in developing and developed countries, both in rural and urban areas. The Council’s efforts to engage non-governmental organizations, both from the north and the economic south, in all aspects of its work were supported. The Council should further be encouraged to provide mechanisms, including formal procedures, financial resources and translation, to ensure that those who had experienced human rights violations were invited to participate in its discussions, sharing their perspectives in mutual collaboration for the promotion and protection of human rights.

OLUDARE OGUNLANA, of All-Africa Students Union, said that despite the universal rejection of racist theories, racist practices had been increasing at an alarming rate. The victims were largely people of African descent. In the wake of the war against terror, racial profiling was spreading and the rights of whole groups of people were violated on ground of their descent or religion. It was regrettable that people living with HIV/AIDS still belonged to groups vulnerable to intolerance. The Durban Conference was seen as an important catalyst. It was regretful that the Durban Final Document had been given less follow-up attention than other United Nations world conferences.

MANDIRA SHARMA, of Advocacy Forum Nepal, said as a woman human rights defender in Nepal, who had been in the forefront in defending human rights such as the right not to be subjected to arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearance, torture, sexual abuse and arrest and detention, she had experienced what price a human rights defender had to pay for defense of these rights in the field. Those working for the rights of the most marginalized populations, such as defenders of women’s rights and the rights of sexual minorities, were often more exposed. Yet the very basis for the universality of human rights was that all human beings had equal rights. It was necessary to ensure the accountability of those counties who did not demonstrate compliance with protection of human rights standards. It was also expected that the Council had a strong focus on combating impunity and promoting democratic and independent institutions. An extended partnership between the Human Rights Council and human rights defenders was also urged.

MUSA USMAN NDAMBA, of CIVICUS : World Alliance for Citizen Participation, said poverty remained the scourge of the world’s society, across hemispheres and borders, with a billion people trapped in abject poverty and gross inequality. The growing inequality with virtually every nation on earth, as well as between developing and developed countries, was growing at an alarming and unsustainable pace, promoting some to say that the international community would now address the reality of global economic apartheid. The time for politicized rhetoric was past. The practice of citing violations in one state as justification for indignities inflicted elsewhere must cease.

Right of Reply

MUNU MAHAWAR (India), speaking in a right of reply, said that, concerning the statement of Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir, an integral part of India, four rounds of a constructive dialogue at been held with Pakistan between 2004 and 2007. This had led in significant improvement. Progress could only be made in an atmosphere free of terrorism. Discussions should be held bilaterally and not multilaterally. Pakistan’s comments were not seen as being helpful, as they had the potential of endangering the atmosphere which had been painstakingly created.

KIM YAY HO (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), speaking in a right of reply, referring to the statement of the United States, expressed the view that the United States was the worst violator of human rights in the world. The United States violated human rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, under the pretext of war against terrorism. In addition to the secret CIA prisons, torture was also committed against detainees in Guantanamo. These issues should be discussed as a matter of urgency within the Human Rights Council. At the remark by the United States representative who wanted the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to be retained, the maintenance of this mandate would create an atmosphere of politicization which would be detrimental to the Council. The Council should create a mandate of Special Rapporteur to carry out investigations related to human rights violations by the United States.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), speaking in a right of reply in reference to the statement made yesterday in a right of reply by the representative of Algeria alleging hundreds of disappeared persons in Western Sahara, recalled that Morocco had previously declared that there were no more political prisoners in Western Sahara. With regard to the alleged prisoners of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross had already attested that Morocco no longer had prisoners of war in its territory. Morocco had freed all such prisoners beginning with 100 Algerian solders captured in Western Sahara. As to the alleged disappeared persons, the Moroccan Government had examined all such cases and the Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances had noted that the 248 previous cases had been elucidated by the Moroccan authorities. This attitude should serve as an example to other countries, according the Working Group. Morocco was a State where the rule of law prevailed and no one would disturb this choice the country had adopted.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan), speaking in a right of reply in answer to the statement made by India in its right of reply, said that Kashmir was not part of India. It was a disputed territory between the two countries. Pakistan was committed to dialogue between the two countries. Pakistan was committed to creating a successful environment for the discussion. The human rights situation in Indian-held Kashmir should improve. Indian-occupied Kashmir was witnessing grave human rights violations such as rape and torture. Also, India should release all political prisoners.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria), in a right of reply asked if it was possible to prevent the Human Rights Council from mentioning the violations of human rights of victims in Western Sahara. These people were also victims of the conspiracy of silence surrounding their deplorable situation. Did the Council have to continue to be a victim of disinformation, as was the case a moment ago hearing the distinguished Representative of Morocco. No country was sheltered from criticism, but the remarks voiced by Morocco on 3 March were "grotesque". Morocco mentioned Tamek Ali who was free to move according to the Ambassador of Morocco. Morocco had a letter from Mr. Ali who said that in fact he had no freedom whatsoever.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), in a second right of reply, said that Morocco agreed with Algeria that there was a need to examine the situation of human rights in all of its aspects as well as in the refuges camps, which were located on Algerian soil. Algeria was responsible for any violations occurring on its soil. Moreover, the representative of Algeria had mentioned for the third time the case of Mr. Ali Tamik who was an individual who did not even come from the southern provinces, but from central Morocco. He had been able to enter and come back into Morocco without any problems. Algeria was asked how long it would turn its back on the two people, to refuse to count the number of people in the Tindouf camp and when it would start to play a positive role in the upcoming talks.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria), speaking in a second right of reply, said that the Council would note that there were differences in human rights interests between Algeria and Morocco. The reality of the people’s suffering was concealed. There were many violations of rights in Western Sahara. In refusing to publish its report, the High Commissioner was preventing discussion on this topic. The human rights mechanisms had to protect and defend individuals and not governments.

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