Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 15 October 2009
The Human Rights Council this afternoon opened its twelfth Special Session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem. Addressing the Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was strong evidence indicating that all parties to the conflict – in different ways and with different effects – had committed and continued to commit serious violations of international human rights.
Ms. Pillay said that two issues required all their attention – the situation in East Jerusalem and the continuing blockade of Gaza. Stringent restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians wishing to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque had to be lifted in order for members of the Palestinian community to exercise their right to worship. In Gaza, living conditions kept deteriorating as a result of restrictions on the import of goods and services, which constituted collective punishment of the Gaza population, in violation of international law. Moreover, a culture of impunity continued to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel in relation to violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. She reiterated her support for the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict led by Justice Goldstone. Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and for human rights violations, as well as respect for human rights, were not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace could be built.
Israel, speaking as a concerned country, said that only two short weeks had gone by since the Council had last met. Nothing had changed to justify calling all of the members back. Everyone knew that today’s meeting was not about human rights, but an abuse of the integrity and the procedures of the Organization to make a point to a domestic Palestinian audience. With regard to the situation in Jerusalem, an extremist minority had disseminated lies to the effect that Israel intended to dig, or was actually digging under the Temple Mount. That was an outright lie. Access to the holy sites of all faiths had remained unfettered. The biased and flawed Goldstone report accused Israel of war crimes for having taken action to fight against Hamas – war criminals who had openly called for the destruction of Israel and had fired thousands of rockets against it. Mistakes that had been made were being investigated by Israel’s relevant authorities.
Palestine, also speaking as a concerned country, said Israel had imposed a blockade on the city of Jerusalem, preventing inhabitants from going to their houses and places of worship. The occupying power had also arrested and killed scores of their people, and had continued to Judaize the sacred city, altering its cultural identity. Even more dangerous were the excavations under Al Aqsa Mosque, which could threaten the existence of that sacred religious edifice. There had been not just one, but scores of fact-finding missions which had reached conclusions that Israel had violated international humanitarian law, international law, and human rights law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. Palestine welcomed any international effort that could reactivate the peace process. However, it was not interested in a peace process based on the expansion of settlements, the building of a wall, while the occupying power continued to ignore resolutions and decisions of the international community.
Many speakers in the general debate expressed grave concern about the serious deterioration of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as a result of the activities of Israel, in particular with the escalation of violence in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque. Other concerns were the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements and the building of the separation wall, which represented a major threat to Jerusalem and imposed serious hardships on Palestinian residents. In light of this, they welcomed the holding of the Special Session to consider the Goldstone report. Many called the report balanced, and found that it was objective and fact-based and deserved careful and serious consideration. Follow-up to the report’s recommendations was necessary for the credibility of the Council and to ensure that justice prevailed. Impunity could not be tolerated yet again.
Other speakers questioned the necessity of holding a Special Session at this time, when it had recently been decided to postpone consideration of the Goldstone report till the Council’s next session. Several speakers also argued that the report was flawed, in that it did not set out the right of Israel to protect its citizens or pay sufficient attention to Hamas’s actions, and because the report lacked an authoritative Israeli perspective. Another concern was the impact of considering the report on the resumption of the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. Some simply felt that, given the complexity and large scope of its recommendations, an adequate analysis of the report required more time.
Speaking in the general debate were Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Sweden on behalf of the European Union, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Norway, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Jordan, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, the United Kingdom, France, Mauritius, China, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Chile, Nicaragua, South Africa, the United States, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Sudan.
The Council will resume its twelfth Special Session on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 October.
Opening Statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
NAVANETHEM PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory remained of grave concern. There was strong evidence indicating that all parties to the conflict – in different ways and with different effects – had committed and continued to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, as documented in her report to the Council’s last regular session.
Ms. Pillay said that two issues required all their attention, namely the situation in East Jerusalem and the continuing blockade of Gaza. In the past weeks, there had been numerous clashes in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The stringent restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians wishing to enter that Mosque had to be lifted in order for members of the Palestinian community to exercise their right to worship. In East Jerusalem, home demolitions continued. Her Office viewed those practices as violations of both international humanitarian law and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, despite condemnation expressed by the international community, the tragedy of losing their homes continued to be inflicted on many Palestinian families.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, Ms. Pillay said she was dismayed by the continuing blockade that severely undermined the rights and welfare of the population there. The living conditions of Gazans kept deteriorating as a result of restrictions on the import of goods and services, including basic food and fuel supplies and the delivery of essential building materials for the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure destroyed during Israeli military attacks in December 2008 and January 2009. It constituted collective punishment of the Gaza population, in violation of international law.
Ms. Pillay highlighted that a culture of impunity continued to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel in relation to violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In that connection, she reiterated her support for the recommendations of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone, including its call for urgent action to counter impunity. It was also necessary for all parties to carry out impartial, independent, prompt, and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law in compliance with international standards. Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law and for human rights violations, as well as respect for human rights, were not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace could be built. The reactions from victims and concerned people and organizations to the postponement by the Council of its deliberations were compelling evidence that addressing impunity for human rights and international humanitarian law violations was essential to preventing further violence and shoring up the peace process.
Statements by Concerned Countries
AHARON LESHNO-YAAR (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that only two short weeks had gone by since the Council had last met. In the real world, nothing had changed to justify calling all of the members back. Every person knew that today’s meeting was not about human rights but an abuse of the integrity and the procedures of the organization to make a point to a domestic Palestinian audience. Such Special Sessions should be called only in the case of a true emergency. With regard to the question of the situation in Jerusalem, he noted that extremist elements had tried to undermine quiet and peaceful life in Jerusalem. An extremist minority had disseminated lies to the effect that Israel intended to dig, or was actually digging under the Temple Mount. This was an outright lie. Access to the Holy sites of all faiths had remained unfettered. The violent incitements had begun on 27 September 2009 without any connection to recent events in the Council. During the recent holy month of Ramadan, over 100,000 Muslims had visited the Mosques on the Temple Mount each Friday, all without incident.
Internal Palestinian debates about domestic strife had somehow been fed by artificially emphasizing an extremist agenda regarding Jerusalem. Earlier this week, Mahmud Abbas had said that Hamas was using the Goldstone report and its ramifications to fight any chance for progress in the peace process and even to cause division within the Palestinian community. Mr. Abbas had said that "Hamas used the report to sabotage the reconciliation". The biased and flawed Goldstone report accused Israel of war crimes for having taken action to fight against Hamas – war criminals who had openly called for the destruction of Israel and had fired thousands of rockets against it. Israel had carefully explained why they believed the report was wrong, both in spirit and in law. Mistakes that had been made were being investigated by Israel’s relevant authorities. Regrettably, the report had seen no problems with the actions of Hamas terrorists using mosques, homes and hospitals for military purposes. The sponsors of the resolution were not even asking for the smallest amount of introspection from the Palestinian side who were calling on the Council to "endorse" a report that had stated that their own people had committed war crimes. Many members wanted the Council to be so preoccupied that there would be no time to investigate human rights in their countries. Today’s discussion had nothing to do with human rights but everything to do with Palestinian politics.
The proposed resolution would be a reward for terror and would send a clear message to terrorists everywhere. Further, action taken today would set back hopes for peace. Any chance for a real dialogue and a better and more secure future for the region demanded confidence.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, extended thanks for the convening of the Special Session to discuss the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Palestine had worked with all parties to achieve a draft resolution that would support the report of the Fact-Finding Mission, so that they could rally the greatest support for those recommendations, including the United Nations bodies. But, as usual, Israel had met the call with denial. It had imposed a blockade on the city of Jerusalem, preventing inhabitants from going to their houses and places of worship. The occupying power had also arrested and killed scores of their people. It had continued to Judaize the sacred city, altering its cultural identity. It continued to destroy homes and public property, to build the wall, and to hinder movement of the Palestinian people. Even more dangerous were the excavations under Al Aqsa Mosque, which could threaten the existence of that sacred religious edifice. It should be remembered that the second Palestinian intifadah, which had killed thousands, had followed the desecration of that Mosque by the visit of Ariel Sharon. Moreover, that Mosque did not belong to the Palestinians alone, but to all Muslims.
The Gaza Strip was still under an unjust blockade, in violation of international law. Those living there were subject to numerous human rights violations, including the right to life. There had been not just one, but scores of fact-finding missions which had reached conclusions that Israel had violated international humanitarian law, international law, and human rights law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel had refused to cooperate with those fact-finding missions and had said that the most recent report was "shameful". What was shameful here? The report, or the documentation of the crimes committed by Israel?
On the question of the peace process, Palestine welcomed any international effort that could reactivate that process. However, Palestine was not interested in a peace process based on the expansion of settlements, the building of a wall, while the occupying power continued to ignore resolutions and decisions of the international community. The occupying power had to realize that, despite its self-justifications, it was not possible for everyone to be wrong except for this one party. It had made occupation into a norm. As it continued that approach, the occupying power constituted a threat to international peace and security. For that reason they had called this Special Session and submitted a draft resolution that condemned the organized practices of discrimination and human rights violation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem. Also in the draft resolution they called on all United Nations bodies to support the activities of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the territory, as well as support for the recommendations in the Fact-Finding Mission report.
ABDELWAHEB JEMAL (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed their appreciation to all members who had supported the call for the holding of this Special Session. The High Commissioner’s statement today had included a deep and sincere analysis of the situation. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories made it incumbent upon the Council to inform the international community of the practices of Israel, the occupying power. Israel was changing the demographic structure and the borders in the region by confiscating Palestinian land. The digging around the Al-Aqsa Mosques constituted a violation of United Nations resolutions. The Arab Group rejected all illegal Israeli measures targeting East Jerusalem, as well as all excavations in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Arab Group considered the Fact-Finding Mission of Justice Goldstone to be highly important. It had shown that Israel, the occupying power, had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people. The request supported by Palestine to postpone the consideration of the report to the Council’s next regular session, during its last session, had been done in order to give Members time to reach consensus and give enough time for other parties to consider the report in its totality. However, the Israeli side had gone even further in its escalation by violating holy sites. The Arab Group recommended the adoption of the Goldstone report and the implementation of its recommendations. Peace could not be achieved as long as Israel continued to impose the blockade on Gaza.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Non-Aligned Movement was gravely concerned about the serious deterioration of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as result of the activities of the occupying power, Israel. Israel was continuing its military campaigns, in violation of international law. The occupying power had used excessive and indiscriminate force that had injured thousands. At the last meeting of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Sharm el Sheik in July 2009, the Non-Aligned Movement had severely condemned the military operations in the Gaza Strip which had resulted in the killing of more than 1,400 Palestinians, including women and children. They also condemned the wanton destruction of Palestinian homes, basic infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and farms. The Non-Aligned Movement therefore welcomed the report by the independent fact-finding mission led by Justice Goldstone. Follow-up to the recommendations of that report were necessary for the credibility of the Council and to ensure that justice prevailed. Israel was urged to cease all illegal activities in East Jerusalem, which, among others, jeopardized the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Pressure exerted by the international community through condemnation of those violations would send a clear message that there was no justification for the violation of human rights under any circumstances.
AFTAB AHMAD KHOKHER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the Organization of the Islamic Conference had unanimously supported the Palestinian call for holding this Special Session. The international community had witnessed illegal and intensifying colonization measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, such as ongoing settlement activities, transfer of more Israeli settlers, and continued construction of the separation wall, among others. The Organization of the Islamic Conference strongly condemned these violations. The report of the Fact-Finding Mission presented during the Council’s twelfth session had called for certain urgent actions to be taken by the Council. Some Members had expressed the desire to have more time before an action was taken on the report. Palestine had expected an acknowledgement from the international community and a positive response from Israel to further the Palestinian cause and promote the peace process. Unfortunately, the opposite had happened and Israel had unleashed a renewed reign of terror. The Council must respond to this challenge and help the Palestinian people to enjoy their human rights.
All independent reporting on the events in Gaza earlier this year had pointed to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel. The Goldstone report had authenticated and confirmed these violations with evidence. Criticism that the Goldstone report was not balanced was not justified. The actions of the two parties could not be equated. The argument that Israeli actions had been in the context of self-defense was untenable. The observation that the implementation for the report would affect the peace process had been aptly responded to by Justice Goldstone himself who said that "there is no peace without justice". The Organization of the Islamic Conference considered this Special Session as an expression of the international community’s extreme concern over the ongoing human rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.
HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union was ready to seriously consider the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission in the context of the Council, but with a focus on the resumption of the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. The European Union was deeply concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and again urged the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel to enter into serious peace negotiations as soon as possible. The European Union called on both parties to fully adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights law. All parties had responsibilities to prevent, investigate and remedy violations. A durable solution to the Gaza crisis had to be achieved through the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1860. Among others, the European Union expressed serious concern about the incidents around the Al-Aqsa Mosque. If there was to be genuine peace, a way had to be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States. The report by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict included allegations regarding grave violations of international humanitarian law, including deliberate attacks on civilians. It was a serious report and the European Union was committed to assess it and its recommendations seriously. The European Union took note of the recommendations of the Mission and invited the parties to the conflict to implement them. Finally, with regard to impunity, the European Union urged the parties to launch appropriate, credible and independent investigations into possible violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in accordance with international standards.
MARTIN IHOEGHIAN UHOMOIBHI (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, half of its Special Sessions had been devoted to the Middle East. This was a manifestation of the acuteness and urgency required to resolve a long-standing crisis with which the international human rights community had been grappling ever since the era of the founding of the Commission on Human Rights. At that time the human rights situation in Palestine had been one of two major country concerns, the other being the apartheid in South Africa. Since then the apartheid had been removed. The Council was not an international panel or court but a cooperative endeavour to enhance human rights worldwide. It required that protagonists should cooperate with fact-finding missions and demonstrate readiness to respond to the Council’s resolutions and decisions. The problem with the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was that there was a deficit in the willingness to cooperate.
On the recent development in East Jerusalem, the urgency of the situation was compounded by the threats to the sanctity of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and the obstacles to the exercise of religious and cultural rights. It was also the African Group’s view that with the Goldstone report, the Council and the international community had the historic opportunity to bring positive influence to bear on this long-drawn conflict by addressing impunity and ensuring accountability. Failure to demand justice was self-defeating and fundamentally in conflict with the higher aims and purposes of the Council.
ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said Qatar was gravely concerned about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as a result of Israel's intransigence and disregard for the resolutions of the Council and other international bodies. Israel had continued its expansionist policies and the building of the separatist wall. Qatar called on the Council to urge Israel to put an end to those policies, which altered the geographic and cultural status of the Palestinian lands. The Goldstone report was very valuable, objective and professional. It showed very clearly that the occupying power was morally and legally responsible for the consequences of the tragic and grave crimes associated with the latest attacks against the Gaza Strip. The world was waiting to see if the Human Rights Council would shoulder its responsibilities and urge the full implementation of the recommendations in the Goldstone report. Also welcome was the first periodic report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on resolution S/1, which called on Israel to shoulder its responsibilities under international law and human rights law.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt) said Egypt condemned the Israeli practices in East Jerusalem and its violations of norms of international law. Israel was changing the demography and geography in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mosques and churches had been attacked. Egypt considered the Goldstone report to be highly professional. It showed the violations of international law that had been perpetrated by the occupying power. Egypt considered that the best way for the international community to deal with this serous report was to adopt it, as well as its recommendations and to ensure their effective implementation. The Council had to live-up to its expectations. The credibility of the Council and multilateralism in the field of human rights was being put to a test. Egypt called on all States to adopt a sincere approach with regard to Israel’s violations. It would not be appropriate to vote against or even abstain on such an important resolution. Such a move could further undermine the credibility of the Council. Egypt had been the first to opt for peace in the region and would continue to be a major partner in the region. The question would be to know what would happen after this Special Session. Egypt hoped that this was the final end to this tragic series and that they would not need to call for further fact finding missions and Special Sessions.
MUNA ABBAS RADHI (Bahrain) said Bahrain condemned the continued construction of settlements by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the alteration of the demographic and geographic character of East Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian houses, and the excavation work under the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Council should adopt the draft resolution before it unanimously, which supported the recommendations of the Goldstone report, in the interests of attaining a comprehensive and just peace. The international community, represented by the Council, should live up to its responsibility and provide protection to the Palestinian people, stop violent acts against civilians, and help the Palestinian people fulfil all their inalienable rights, including the right to set up an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.
ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said Saudi Arabia regretted that the Council was meeting once again to discuss the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem because of Israel’s continued rejection of all legal international resolutions. Last week, the whole world witnessed the serious violations in East Jerusalem. They could only emphasize the importance of the reports of Justice Goldstone and of the High Commissioner and categorically condemn the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Israel, as well as the continuous occupation of Palestinian territory for decades now. To bring holy sites under occupation was a further escalation. This would undermine the current efforts by regional parties. Peace would not be brought about as long as Israel continued with its killings and bombings of the Palestinian population. As Justice Goldstone had said, peace could only be attained through justice. The Council was called upon to take all necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. All parties should support the draft resolution.
MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil) noted that Brazil had not co-sponsored the present Special Session, but came to it with a renewed commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Brazil understood the particular and complex set of circumstances that had led them to the Special Session, but their decisions should not escalate discussions too far or too soon, at the risk of affecting people's lives and undermining the prospects for peace. In the name of its own credibility, the Council could not afford to weaken the voice of the moderate and strengthen the position of radicals. Today, they had a new opportunity to debate and take action on the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission headed by Justice Goldstone. Brazil considered the Goldstone report an important, serious and balanced document. Brazil regretted Israel's failure to cooperate with that Mission, and asked it now to cooperate with the Council on the report. That cooperation would constitute an important step forward in the peace talks in the Middle East. As for the implementation of the report by other United Nations bodies, Brazil regarded that strategy as counterproductive at the moment. There was plenty to be discussed and implemented by the parties and by the Council itself.
BEATE STIRO (Norway) said that Norway was deeply concerned over the lack of effective protection of vulnerable groups in armed conflict. The role of humanitarian agencies and workers was increasingly under threat. International humanitarian law needed to be protected, defended and expanded. Since the outburst of the Gaza conflict, Norway had emphasized that the parties to the conflict bore the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute possible violations. The report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission was thorough and well prepared and deserved to be treated in a serious manner by the Council. It raised allegations of the most serious nature. The report was clearly an important test of the Council; a test of its ability to take decisions aiming at protecting and promoting human rights on the ground. Norway was however not convinced that this Special Session was helpful in this regard. They had also engaged in the consultations on the draft resolution with the aim of contributing to a consensual outcome.
JUAN JOSE IGNACIO GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) reiterated Mexico's belief that the unrestricted protection of human rights and respect for international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, were an obligation that could not be shirked by the authorities or the parties to the conflict. Mexico particularly stressed the responsibility of the Government of Israel, in its position as occupying power, to uphold respect for those rights in all circumstances. For that reason, Mexico was deeply alarmed about the impact of measures such as blockades, the construction of a separation Wall, and restrictions on freedom of movement and freedom of expression on the human rights of the Palestinian population. House demolitions, evictions and the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem were a violation of international law and represented an obstacle to the peace process. At the same time, Mexico was worried that actions carried out by non-governmental actors, such as incursions on the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, were further worsening the climate of violence in the region. Mexico called on Israel to adopt measures to prevent extremist and violent acts, to carry out investigations of such acts and if necessary prosecute those responsible. Mexico greatly valued the work of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone, and believed the report of the Mission to be objective and serious, in particular in view of the complexity and large scope of its recommendations. At its twelfth session, the Council had postponed the consideration of that report to its March 2010 session, and Mexico remained convinced that an adequate analysis of the report required sufficient time to consider its contents.
VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation had consistently called for the protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The continued worsening in tension, especially in East Jerusalem, was rousing serious concerns. Russia had previously expressed itself on the inadmissibility of archaeological work in the Al-Aqsa complex. They had serious concerns over the acute humanitarian situation in Gaza. During the twelfth session, Russia had already set out its position on the Goldstone report and stressed once again that they considered it to be a thorough investigation. The document deserved the most careful possible consideration. A number of the recommendations in the report suggested serious concerns. Russia hoped that these concerns would be taken into account by the drafting group of the resolution. It was necessary to move to a fair settlement of the problem and bring an end to the occupation by Israel.
SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said that it was very appropriate for the Human Rights Council to convene this Special Session, notably in light of the Israeli escalation that had been taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in East Jerusalem. Such escalation was not only a violation of international law, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights law, but it also ran counter to the ongoing regional and international efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. That had been also compounded with the construction of Israeli settlements and their expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, the Separation Wall represented a major threat to Jerusalem and imposed serious hardships on Palestinian residents. The Goldstone report represented an objective fact-based and impartial investigation, which deserved careful and serious consideration. The cause of peace, security and stability in the Middle East would be best served by reaching a negotiated solution that led to the Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 borders and to the establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State in accordance with United Nations resolutions.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that Indonesia remained profoundly distressed by the depth of the human rights and humanitarian crisis that continued to permeate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Action must be taken immediately, particularly bringing to justice those accused of having violated international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Indonesia placed high value on the comprehensive and credible Goldstone report. It presented an authoritative and accurate picture of what had happened on the ground. It was high time that the Council discussed the substance of the report and its recommendations and decided on further steps to be taken. Indonesia condemned the fact that forced evictions, home demolitions and the expansion of settlements continued unabated. They were also deeply concerned by the ongoing excavation work and activities beneath and around the Al Aqsa Mosque. Indonesia called on all Council members to engage positively and constructively on the draft resolution to work and aim for a consensual text.
ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) said the Philippines welcomed the submission by the Goldstone Mission of its report. The report required serious and careful consideration by the appropriate United Nations bodies in accordance with their respective mandates, as well as by the parties concerned, with a view to upholding and protecting the human rights of the Palestinian and Israeli civilians caught in a situation of armed conflict. Ultimately, the promotion and protection of human rights of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians rested on the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the region. Towards that end, it was of critical importance that the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, was addressed.
ACHAMKULANGARE GOPINATHAN (India), said that it was regrettable that since the twelfth session of the Council there had been a resurgence of violence around the Al Aqsa Mosque. Coming soon after the deliberate decision by the Council to defer a resolution on the Goldstone Mission, such violence was a set-back to their collective efforts to strengthen the peace process. India remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Fact-Finding Mission had done commendable work in producing a comprehensive report that merited careful consideration. But they also were aware of the weaknesses of the report, as its findings did not pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable to criminal trials. Nevertheless there were several conclusions that warranted a closer examination.
PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom did not consider it necessary that a Special Session be held at this time, but it took the issues under consideration very seriously. The report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission did have flaws. Neither the report nor the resolution reflected the right of Israel to protect its citizens or paid sufficient attention to Hamas’s actions. It also made broad interpretation of international law, with which United Kingdom did not agree. Because Israel did not cooperate with the Mission, the report lacked an authoritative Israeli perspective. For these reasons, the United Kingdom could not fully endorse the report and its recommendations and could not vote for the resolution as tabled. However, the report raised serious issues of concern and could not be ignored. The launching by Hamas of rocket attacks on Israeli citizens from the Palestinian territory, as well as the ruthless killing of its political rivals, and the bombing of civilian infrastructure, among others, carried out by Israel in the context of its military operation against Gaza, were also cause for serious concern. While the United Kingdom noted that the Israeli Defense Forces were conducting investigations, it urged Israel to conduct, full, independent and comprehensive investigations into those allegations. Israel should also halt all settlement activities, among other measures.
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said that France had previously condemned the disproportionate use of force during the Gaza conflict, as well as the provocations that had led to the escalation of violence. France had called to an immediate halt to the firing of rockets on Israel and the bombing of Gaza as early as December 2008. France attached great importance to the respect of international human rights and humanitarian law. These had to be respected by all parties in times of war. The mandate entrusted to the Goldstone had been balanced. The inquiry it had carried out was commendable. Whatever the varying judgments one could come to with regard to the recommendations included in the report, the report itself had been necessary. France would have liked Israel to have cooperated with the Mission. This would have allowed the inclusion of testimonies of the Israeli victims of the rockets fired from Gaza. Operation Cast Lead had brought about the death of more than 1,000 people. Violations of international humanitarian law must not go unpunished. The Human Rights Council had a role to play in this process. During this Special Session a draft resolution was up for consideration. France was studying the text with its European Union partners. They regretted the choice to present an "omnibus text"; it tended to dilute the text of the Goldstone report. They were however open to any discussion to improve the draft.
SUBHAS GUJADHUR (Mauritius) said the recent developments in East Jerusalem were deeply disturbing. The Israeli authorities continued to expand illegal settlements in and around East Jerusalem, as well as to take discriminatory measures against the city's Palestinian residents. Last week, the violent incidents at the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound demonstrated the gravity of the situation. Incitement from any quarter regarding holy sites and deliberately provocative actions in East Jerusalem were a blatant disregard for the sanctity of the city. Nor did they serve the cause of peace, to which all aspired. Such actions had, therefore, to be unconditionally stopped. Mauritius was of the view that the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission demanded the urgent attention of the Council and the international community and that follow-up actions had to be taken promptly so as to hold accountable perpetrators of such crimes, as well as to prevent the repetition of such acts in future. For that reason, Mauritius was a co-sponsor of the draft resolution and supported all the findings of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission.
The Representative of Cuba said that, in analyzing the Goldstone report, the Human Rights Council had noted the severe violations of international law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Council had to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone report. Impunity could not be tolerated yet again. Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity should be prosecuted without delay. The Palestinian people continued to be deprived of their most basic rights, including their right to self-determination. Cuba reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the cause of the occupied Arab people and for an independent Palestine sovereign state.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said China supported the convening of this Special Session and welcomed the relevant reports of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was hoped that the Council would listen to the concerns of the international community. The Council should study the report of the Fact-Finding Mission in earnest. China remained convinced that political negotiation was the only correct way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East, on the basis of United Nations resolutions, the road map, and others. At the same time, efforts should be made to build trust conducive to the peace process. The United Nations should support that process on several fronts, including by helping the Palestinians living in the occupied territories to enjoy their human rights. For its part China had participated in numerous efforts to help promote a just and lasting solution to the Middle East question.
LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy) said that less than two weeks ago the Council had deferred the action on the Goldstone report to the Council’s March session. This had been a wise decision which did not undermine the principle of accountability for the concerned parties, nor underestimate the importance of serious and credible investigations into human rights and humanitarian violations. This decision had been a recognition that the work of the Council was not isolated but was intertwined with the broader political dynamics. By giving time to the parties to seriously address the human rights violations enlisted in the report, the Council would have served the goal of avoiding a confrontational outcome and further complications for the revival of the peace process. The reasons for the decision were still valid today. They could not afford the risk of going into a false direction.
KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan) said that, as Japan had stated at the twelfth regular session of the Council last month, due to concerns over the scope of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission not being fully balanced, Japan had had to abstain from voting on resolution S-9/1 in January 2009. Upon reading through the report and hearing the presentation by the Mission, however, Japan noted that the Mission had taken great pains to try to keep a balance by mentioning acts by the Palestinian side as well as those on the Israeli side. Japan therefore paid tribute to the efforts of the Mission. Japan also took note of the fact that report had indicated violations of international humanitarian law and problems of human rights on the part of both Israel and Palestine. The Council should seriously and carefully consider how to deal with those findings and recommendations contained in the report in a spirit of constructive dialogue. As for the recent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians at al-Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem, Japan was deeply concerned and hoped that those incidents did not undermine the resumption of peace negotiations. The international community should bear in mind the critical importance of encouraging both Israel and Palestine to engage in a constructive dialogue.
LEE SUNG-JOO (Republic of Korea) said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had always been of concern to the Republic of Korea and it called upon all parties to refrain from taking further action worsening the situation. What was currently happening in East Jerusalem was also of concern. The Republic of Korea had fully supported diplomatic efforts to end hostilities during the Gaza conflict. They wished to note the efforts undertaken by the Fact-Finding Mission. It had been a serious report and they hoped that the recommendations would be dealt with in a serious and most appropriate manner. The Republic of Korea called upon all parties in the region to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, to embark on serious peace negotiations and to seek a lasting solution.
BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands) noted that in its statement during the twelfth session of the Human Rights Council, the Netherlands had said that the report of Justice Goldstone warranted serious consideration and had welcomed an in-depth discussion of the report in the Council. At the same time, they had also indicated that they believed it was essential that the Mission's report was discussed on its merits and in a balanced manner. The Netherlands favoured a transparent discussion that focused on the content of the report: the crisis in Gaza and the associated aspects of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Goldstone report had just been the subject of serious deliberations within the regular session of the Council. Therefore the Netherlands saw no reason for this Special Session to reassess the Council's previous decision. The Netherlands strongly believed that the concerned parties should pursue their own in-depth investigations into accusations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, some of which had already been initiated by Israel. Further investigations by the concerned parties should be referred back to the only forum suitable for that purpose – the Human Rights Council.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that Slovenia wished to underline the importance of ensuring accountability and countering impunity for human rights violations and for violations of international humanitarian law. Slovenia strongly believed that allegations of human rights violations and of violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and that those responsible must be made accountable. Slovenia was seriously concerned about the findings of the Goldstone report. They regretted non-cooperation of Israeli authorities with the Mission. The Human Rights Council had to act in a coordinated manner to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone report. Slovenia also reiterated its support for the efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict. Israel had the right to self defence but also had specific duties under international humanitarian law. Slovenia urged Israel to stop all settlement activities.
CARLOS PORTALES (Chile) said that today they were considering the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission headed by Justice Goldstone. Chile recognized the serious way in which the report analysed the attacks carried out by the Israeli Armed Forces and Palestinian armed groups within the context of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Chile believed that the whole point of the recommendations contained in the report should be to investigate the complaints of serious violations committed by the Israeli Army and Palestinian armed groups. Three fundamental elements of international law required here were the establishment of the facts; bringing the perpetrators to justice; and providing compensation to victims. It was essential therefore for the draft resolution to call on the parties involved to hand down justice as required by the recommendations in the report, fixing appropriate penalties. If there were no results, those cases should be brought before an international court. The message of the Council should be clear. Chile reiterated its appeal that the Council display an open attitude and seek the broadest possible consensus, while living up to the expectations of the victims of human rights violations.
CARLOS ROBELO RAFFONE (Nicaragua) said that during the general debate of the recent General Assembly, their President had stated that Nicaragua stood side by side with the Palestinian people in their daily fight. Nicaragua, as a member of the Council, had supported the convening of the Special Session because they were deeply alarmed over the deterioration of the situation in the region. It was distressing that Israel continued to ignore the calls of the international community. The many attacks committed against the Palestinian people had only left a canvas of fear amongst the population which would be hard to erase for generations. For Nicaragua, the report was clear and balanced and they believed that it should be dealt with in a serious way. The report contained a set of recommendations which should be implemented. They hoped that the Council would take this fresh opportunity to help achieve peace in the region.
KGOMOTSO DAPHNE RAHLAGA (South Africa) said at the outset, South Africa wished to reaffirm its clear and principled support for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State existing side by side with a secure Israel within the 1967 borders. Within that context, South Africa had consistently and unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible terms the escalation of violence and the collective punishment meted out to the Palestinian people. It had also expressed its concern at the continued settlement activity, the digging and excavation activity that changed the legal, geographic and demographic nature of Jerusalem. The recent attacks on the Al Aqsa Mosque were no different. South Africa called on Israel, which had for far too long defied the international community's calls to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, to respect without exception all the rights of the Palestinian people. The Council had the responsibility to call Israel to account for all the gross and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinian people, thereby contributing to the end of impunity, and the strengthening of the protection regime of international human rights law. Within that context, South Africa endorsed without equivocation the findings and recommendations contained in the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission to the Gaza Strip.
DOUGLAS M. GRIFFITHS (United States) said that the report raised important issues and serious allegations and that the United States had serious concerns about many of its conclusions and recommendations which were, in their view, flawed. Reflecting on how the Council could move forward constructively, he said that the United States believed the Council should consider four key elements in shaping its approach. The first element was fairness, which meant an acknowledgement of Israel’s fundamental right to self-defence and the recognition of the civilian casualties that had resulted from the Gaza conflict. A second key element was the wider context of negotiations in the region. All had to be mindful of this. A third element was appreciation of the complex interplay of the principle self-defence and compliance with the laws of war, including responsibilities for civilian protection. It was not the job of the Council to offer military strategies. A fourth element was accountability. There had been several calls for it on each side; these must be heard and deserved a response. The United States urged the Council to insist that Hamas cease ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) observed that they were here in the Council once again to examine the wretched situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in light of the Goldstone report. The troubles of the Palestinian people had not started yesterday, they had been going on for 60 years now. Algeria had to ask the international community how long this was going to go on. The Council had had several Special Sessions now and the occupying forces still enjoyed total impunity, continuing with policies of blockade and collective punishment. How long could the Palestinian people continue to see their territory nibbled away? This debate had taught them that they had to allow the victims to be accused of the same crimes. The losers were all those who were committed to peace and worked against acts of extremism. Algeria supported the recommendations of the report, but wished to differ with the procedure that put the victim in the dock along with the accused.
OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) condemned the grave situation witnessed in East Jerusalem and which had resulted in the grave violation of the sanctity of the Al Aqsa mosque by Israel. Israel’s continued attempts to judaise the city of Jerusalem and the attacks against mosques and churches all constituted great violations. The Goldstone report had given irrefutable proof that Israel had committed crimes. The United Arab Emirates hoped the Council would end up adopting the resolution.
FELIX PENA (Venezuela) reiterated its commitment to the cause of the long-suffering Palestinian people, and testimony to this was that Venezuela had supported the holding of this Special Session. During the twelfth regular session, Venezuela had commended the report submitted by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip. For decades the Palestinian people had been suffering as no others had because of the occupation of its territory and the systematic and massive violations of human rights of its inhabitants. The United Nations had to send an unequivocal signal of its commitment to peace based on respect for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories made it incumbent upon the Council to live up to its responsibility. The report submitted by the Fact-Finding Mission gave clear proof of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights, as practised by the Israeli army. These practices amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Any delay of action on the report would have negative effects. Yemen believed that a just peace could only be achieved once the appropriate tools were met and by first and foremost ending Israel’s occupation.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) expressed grave concern and condemned the continued violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly further expansion of settlements, unhindered construction of the separation wall and digging and excavation works in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and the restriction of the free movement of Palestinian citizens. In addition, thousands of Palestinians continued to be detained and imprisoned by Israel and civilians in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continued to suffer from a further deteriorating humanitarian crisis. All those atrocities had to cease immediately and without precondition and the illegal occupation, which was the root cause of all the misery and sufferings of the Palestinians, should be terminated once and for all.
OTHMAN HASHIM (Malaysia) said that Malaysia wished to add its voice in condemning the escalation of the continuing gross and systematic violations of a wide range of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the occupying power, as seen from the recent events in East Jerusalem. They were also seriously concerned that those human rights violations by the occupying power could seriously undermine the ongoing peace process. Malaysia joined others in reasserting the importance of the Goldstone report. The Council would be well within its mandate to endorse the report.
HAMZA OMER HASSAN AHMED (Sudan) expressed thanks to all who had supported the holding of this Special Session. The daily Israeli violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were shameful. Israel had spared neither children nor women. That racist war machine had destroyed land and property in a way that had not been seen since the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Sudan appreciated the efforts made by the Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone, and the courage shown in the report it had issued. Sudan called for the condemnation of the systematic policy of the Israeli authorities to not cooperate with United Nations organs. The international community should pressure Israel to end the blockade of Gaza and release prisoners and detainees. Sudan supported the Goldstone report and all the recommendations contained therein. This Special Session and the report of the Fact-Finding Mission showed that they were on the right track. No country should remain above the law.