ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATES ON SITUATION IN PALESTINE AND OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORES, VIENNA DECLARATION

18 March 2013

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, and started a general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Presenting her report on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Israeli settler violence continued to be perpetrated with impunity and that Israel had an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property from such violence.  The situation of thousands of Palestinians detained and imprisoned by Israel, including the detention of Palestinian children, was a matter of deep concern.  In Gaza, the rights to life and security remained priority concerns.  On the Palestinian side, there was a pattern of indiscriminate attacks by armed groups targeting civilians and launching of rockets from populated areas.  

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that Israel, the occupying power, continued to violate international law and to expand its settlements.  Israel’s pirating of Palestinian tax and customs revenues had serious implications for the economic situation of Palestine.  Since the beginning of occupation in 1967, 800,000 Palestinians had been detained by Israeli forces, they had been severely beaten and tortured, and 203 had died in Israeli detention centres.  An investigation into those acts of violence must be conducted.

Syria, also speaking as a concerned country, said that Israel, the occupying power, continued to deny the legitimate rights of the population of the Syrian Golan.  Syria drew attention to the tragedy of the prisoners languishing in jail for a quarter of a century under circumstances of inhuman detention and noted the multiplication of abductions by Israel of farmers, children and shepherds.  Israel was also constructing an 8-metre-high separation wall in the Occupied Syrian Golan, and had granted to the United States the right to prospect for oil and gas in the Golan.

Israel did not take the floor as a concerned country.

In the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, speakers deplored the continuing refusal of Israel to cooperate with the Council and other United Nations mechanisms, and condemned the ongoing violation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians by the Israeli occupying power.  Concern was also expressed at the arbitrary detention of Palestinian citizens, including children, the displacement of Palestinians and the destruction of their properties due to Israeli settlements, the continuing blockade imposed on Gaza, and the impunity with which Israel continued to violate international law.  Some speakers said that the legitimacy of the Council would remain in question as long as Israel was unfairly singled out under its own agenda item.

Speaking in the general debate were Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, United States, Switzerland, Indonesia, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Libya, Kuwait, Egypt, China, Algeria, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Norway, Russian Federation, South Africa, Senegal, Iran, Cuba, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Turkey. 

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Man, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the Council of Churches, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, Norwegian Refugee Council, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, North-South XXI, International Organization for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Press Emblem Campaign, Human Rights Watch, Union of Arab Jurists, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, International Buddhist Relief Organization, World Barua Organization, United Nations Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Hope International, Association of World Citizens, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, European Union of Jewish Students, Touro Law Centre – the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations.         

In the general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, some speakers stressed the need to fight against discrimination based on gender identity and status, and drew attention to incidents of violence against women and cases of discrimination against migrant workers.  Other speakers emphasized the indivisibility and universality of human rights, pointed out that objectivity and non-selectivity should characterize all efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights, and commended the creation of, and work carried out by, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.     

Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Gabon on behalf of African Group, United States, Indonesia, Austria, Venezuela, Kuwait, Botswana, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Iran spoke on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and the Programme of Action.  

The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 March, when it will continue its general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and the Programme of Action, followed by its annual thematic discussion on technical cooperation.  The Council will then hold a general debate on racism, racial discriminatioin, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.   

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of HRC resolutions S-9/1 & S-12/1 (A/HRC/22/35); and an addendum to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding concerns related to adherence to international human rights and international humanitarian law in the context of the escalation between the State of Israel, the de facto authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza that occurred from 14 to 21 November 2012 (A/HRC/22/35/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary General on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/22/36).

The Council has before it a Note verbale dated 5 October 2012 from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/G/1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/22/62).

Presentation of Report of High Commissioner for Human Rights

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting her report, said that Israeli settler violence continued to be perpetrated with impunity, with reports of 169 injured Palestinians and damage caused to thousands of olive trees, churches and mosques.  Israel had an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property from such violence, and it should also hold perpetrators accountable.  Investigations were not opened into most incidents of settler violence and only 9 per cent of the investigations opened had resulted in an indictment.  Excessive use of force by Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank remained a priority concern, with at least seven Palestinians having been killed and over 3,000 injured during the reporting period.  The situation of thousands of Palestinians detained and imprisoned by Israel, including the detention of Palestinian children, was a matter of deep concern.  Ms. Pillay urged Israel to ensure that its policies and practices were in compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards. 

In Gaza, the rights to life and security remained priority concerns.  Israel should reassess its regulations concerning the use of live ammunition against civilians, and should adopt sanctions for members of the security forces who did not respect those regulations.  Israel should also adhere to provisions regarding access to agricultural and maritime areas in Gaza, and should cease its blockade.  On the Palestinian side, there was a pattern of indiscriminate attacks by armed groups targeting civilians and launching of rockets from populated areas.  Ms. Pillay concluded that in the occupied Palestinian territory serious violations of international law continued to be committed on a widespread scale and that the lack of accountability for such violations remained a major concern.  One step in the right direction would be to ensure civilian oversight of relevant investigations and prosecutions. 

Statement by the Concerned Countries

Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that Israel, the occupying power, continued to systematically violate international law, starting with the continuation of the occupation of Palestine, which was the worst form of violation.  Grabbing more of the Palestinian land and expanding settlements continued as Israel announced the establishment of more settlements in the remaining Palestinian territory.  Israel had added a new violation in the form of pirating of tax and customs revenues of the State of Palestine which had serious implications on the economic situation in the country.  Palestine strongly rejected and condemned the policy of killing of civilians and destruction of private and public property and did not support the launch of rockets.  Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, some 800,000 Palestinians had been detained, more than 20 per cent of the whole population of the State; they were severely beaten and tortured and 203 had died in Israeli detention centres.  This issue must take the attention of the international community and investigation in those acts must be conducted.

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said that Israel, the occupying power, was continuing its denial of the legitimate rights of the population of the Syrian Golan and this had many facets.  Syria recalled the tragedy of the prisoners languishing in jail for a quarter of a century under circumstances of inhuman detention.  Syria noted with grave concern the multiplication of abductions by Israel of farmers, children and shepherds who were held in Israeli prisons.  Israel was also constructing an eight-metre high separation wall in the Occupied Syrian Golan.  The right to prospect for oil and gas in the Golan was granted to the United States.  This was one flagrant violation of the principle of permanent sovereignty of persons under occupation of their natural resources, as well as sovereignty over land, water and energy resources.  Syria also expressed concern and regret at the persistence of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with or host the Fact-Finding Mission and its refusal to undertake to respect the recommendations and serious condemnations of its violations of human rights.  Syria called on the Council to take a decisive position concerning those violations, going beyond formal condemnation.  The Council’s credibility and status were at stake. 

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

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that long-term stability and security were sustainable only if human rights and international humanitarian law were fully respected by all.  The European Union strongly condemned the rocket attacks launched on Israel from the Gaza Strip.  It also recalled the applicability of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Occupied Golan Heights.  The European Union encouraged parties to pursue actions conducive to an environment of confidence necessary to ensure meaningful negotiations.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the continuous violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and their properties, including places of worship, and said that Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly violated international law.  The prolonged occupation of Palestine by Israel remained the main obstacle to the realization of the right of Palestinians to self-determination.  Israel should end its occupation, and the international community should respect its obligations towards establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. 

Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israel persisted in its occupation of Palestine and, in so doing, was following a line of conduct which systematically violated international law and humanitarian law.  Israel continued to refuse Palestinians their right to self-determination and by pursuing its policy of settlements it sent a clear message to the international community that it was far from ready to negotiate in order to establish peace.  The blockade of Gaza also violated international law and customs.   

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, said that Israel must be held accountable for continued grave and systematic violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and must lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.  Israel must also open border points to facilitate the free movement and circulation of goods within Occupied Palestinian Territories, comply with the opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the wall, release all Palestinian prisoners, and stop the destruction of Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem.

United States reiterated the commitment of the United States to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and said that ending the underlying conflict was vital to addressing human rights issues in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  Direct difficult and painstaking negotiations between Israel and Palestine remained the only way to peace and a two-State solution.  The United States said that the legitimacy of the Human Rights Council would remain in question as long as one country was unfairly and uniquely singled out under its own agenda item. 

Switzerland stressed that mutual recognition of the right to existence of Israel and Palestine and the two-State solution remained the precondition for a lasting peace and stability in the region.  Switzerland urged parties to strictly comply with their specific obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and condemned the expansion of settlements.  Israel must address the constant attacks and intimidation by Israeli settlers and use administrative detention only as exceptional measure.
    
Indonesia condemned Israel’s continued systematic and gross violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people.  The excessive use of airstrikes, bombardments, incursions, levelling operations, as well as the use of live ammunition to enforce access to restricted areas both on land and sea, were indeed deplorable.  The international community should continue to immediately urge Israel to halt its continuous human rights violations and other punitive measures against the Palestinian people. 

Maldives called upon Israel to freeze its settlement activity and construction of the separation wall, and to dismantle them.  Israel’s practice of administrative detention in which thousands of Palestinians were detained for prolonged periods without prosecution or access to justice was a blatant violation of international law. Maldives called on Israel for the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners and detainees without delay.

United Arab Emirates highlighted the situation of Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The different reports of international organizations and non-governmental organizations spoke of the horrific situation of Palestinian children and linked this to the serious circumstances surrounding occupation.  Women and old people were also mentioned.  The international community had to bear in mind that the future of the Palestinian children would never come about unless they enjoyed a free and independent State.
 
Malaysia welcomed the upgrade of Palestine’s status as a Non-Member Observer State of the United Nations, but pointed out that much needed to be done for the Palestinian people to achieve their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine.  Malaysia condemned the blockade of Gaza and Israel’s continued military aggression in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and called on Israel to end its arbitrary detention of Palestinians and to release all Palestinian prisoners, especially women and children.

Venezuela said that since the occupation of the Syrian Golan by Israel in 1967 the withdrawal of the occupying Israeli forces had yet to materialize.  Venezuela condemned the failure of the international community to take concrete measures which would make possible the full implementation of all resolutions on the Syrian Golan.  The impunity with which Israel continued to act in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was a matter of deep concern, especially the large number of civilian deaths reported, which included many children.  The ongoing blockade on Gaza was inhumane.    

Ecuador reaffirmed its 2010 recognition of the independence of the Palestinian State and called on both sides involved actively to engage in dialogue in order to ensure peace in the region.  Ecuador strongly condemned the illegal Israeli settlements as a means of consolidating the occupation of the Palestinian territories.  It also condemned the practice of extrajudicial killings used as a tool to combat terrorism.  Ecuador reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian cause and for the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian State.

Libya said that the report reflected the negative impact of Israeli settlements on the human rights of Palestinians and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, and represented a breach of Israeli’s obligations under international humanitarian law.  Libya called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, investigate torture cases and assure accountability, and on the international community to take a staunch stand towards violations of Palestinian rights.

Kuwait condemned in the strongest terms the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands.  Kuwait called the attention of the Human Rights Council to the new film called “The Gatekeepers”, the central theme of which was the incredible tactics of Israel and the lack of its strategy.  Israel would not abide by international law and international humanitarian law because Israel was untouchable and unaccountable.  Peace would happen only if the inalienable rights of the Palestinians were respected.

Egypt said that regardless of the General Assembly resolution 67/19, the Palestinians were still deprived of their rights, and Israel continued its occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands.  The international community’s determination was needed to ensure the compliance of Israel to international law and relevant resolutions.  Palestinian prisoners were deprived of their basic rights such as the right to an attorney and the international community must address this issue.

China said that China supported the Council’s continued attention to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  China was opposed to Israel’s construction of settlements.  Such construction should be stopped, Palestinian detainees should be released, and the blockade on Gaza should be lifted.  China had always supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate rights as well as their membership in the United Nations.

Algeria said that the death as a martyr of Arafat Jaradat opened up the case of prisoners and the Council was called to look into this.  Algeria welcomed the fact that the United Nations had raised the status of the presence of Palestine and it hoped this would continue until a Palestinian State would be established.  A lasting peace could only come along with the end of the occupation.

Tunisia asserted that the wide scale and systematic violations perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people was enough to take up the time of Special Rapporteurs and the like for years to come, and said that a parallel with the apartheid system could be found.  Discriminatory practices were inherent from the occupying State since its creation, but now there was increased codification of these acts. 

Sri Lanka congratulated Palestine on having gained observer status at the United Nations and said that it continued to support its request for full membership.  Sri Lanka remained concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and urged for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted.  The continuing Israeli settlement activity in Palestine contributed to the growing lack of trust.  Both sides should exercise restraint in order to secure the right to life in the interest of regional peace. 

Norway said that it remained concerned abut the human rights situation in Palestine and called on all sides involved in the conflict to comply with international law.  Based on the report, the Israeli settlement policy should stop immediately.  Also, it was the obligation of the Israeli authorities to enforce the rule of law in the occupied territories, which included protecting Palestinian civilians against forced displacements and the destruction of property.  The de facto authority in Gaza should impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  

Russian Federation called on Israel and Palestine to refrain from acts of aggression and said that it remained alarmed by the escalation of violence in the area.  The Russian Federation condemned the detention of Israeli soldiers and the arbitrary detention of Palestinians.  The continuation of settlements in Palestine by Israel was illegal, as was the destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and both practices should cease immediately.  The Russian Federation underlined the importance of protective efforts by the international community.
 
South Africa remained gravely concerned about the Israeli settlement policy, which had led to the fragmentation of the West Bank and the isolation of Jerusalem from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The reality of an independent State of Palestine could not be avoided and it remained the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the future Palestinian State was viable and sustainable.

Senegal commended the Fact-Finding Mission for the work done and for the quality report submitted to the Council.  The report underlined that the construction of the separation wall, the expansion of settlements and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners presented violations by Israel under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The settlements seriously impacted on all the human rights of the Palestinian people, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Iran said that the violations of the rights of the Palestinian people were characterized by constant denial of their right to self-determination and systematic discrimination against them that occurred on a daily basis.  The international community had a historic responsibility to consider the question of Palestine, but the measures taken so far were inadequate; impunity of the occupying power was guaranteed by some members of the United Nations Security Council.

Cuba hoped that one day it would no longer be necessary to have this debate as the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians would have been met.  The ongoing denial and refusal of Israel to cooperate with international missions was shameful and disrespectful.  The use of force against the civilian population continued to be the rule.  Cuba reaffirmed the need for a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.  It expressed full support for the recognition of the Palestine State under the 1967 borders.

Bahrain said that the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing noted the need not to discriminate against the Palestinian people, and yet they were not able to implement their rights because of Israel’s discriminatory practices.  The occupying power was methodically pursuing its violation of the rights of Syrian citizens in the Syrian Arab Golan, confiscating land and holding Syrian nationals in inhuman conditions.  The Council could not continue to be silent.  

Saudi Arabia said that the Human Rights Council had been able to adopt a series of resolutions on the violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and noted the importance of these resolutions being implemented.  It recalled the disastrous living conditions of the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and other Occupied Territories, as a result of escalating Israeli settlements and illegal practices.  This was one of the major obstacles to peace negotiations.

Jordan said that Israel continued its violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and denied the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  The ongoing settlement activities carried out by Israel in addition to civilian killings, arbitrary arrests, and confiscation of land ran counter to international human rights and humanitarian law.  Jordan continued to support Palestine’s right to establish an independent and sovereign State.  The international community should assume its responsibilities in that respect.   

Iraq said that the human rights situation in the Syrian Golan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories was worsening, and reaffirmed the relevance of all the resolutions which had been adopted by the Council in earlier sessions.  The latest reports shed light on the serious, ongoing violations to which the Palestinian people were being subjected.  The continuing blockade of Gaza constituted illegal action, as did the behaviour of Israeli settlers which was part of the Israeli policy to alter the demographics in the area.

Oman said that the human rights situation in Palestine was extremely serious.  Israel continued to ignore international human rights resolutions and refused to cooperate with international mechanisms.  The arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of Palestinians by Israeli occupying forces was a clear violation of international law.  Oman appealed to the international community to resume its responsibilities vis-à-vis the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination.

Yemen condemned all Israeli violations of rights in Palestine, including the expansion of settlements which Yemen considered illegal.  Israel was expanding the settlements to change the demographic situation on the ground; this was a breach of international law and the international community must compel Israel to cease this expansion.  The policy of systematic settlements of Israel was a major obstacle for the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine on sustainable and lasting peace in the region.

Lebanon welcomed the resolution of the General Assembly to grant observer status to Palestine and noted with concern the continuation of Israel’s policy of rebelling against the international community, which must meet this with resolution, and not with standing still and observing the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power.  The construction of the separation law represented a violation of all the obligations to which Israel subscribed.

Bangladesh said that the new settlements negated the inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their native land and that the legal regime of segregation operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had enabled a privileged legal space for settlements and settlers.  Palestinians had the right to a life of dignity and the Council must stand by the oppressed; it must take a clear and unequivocal stand on Israel’s defiance of international law.

Turkey strongly condemned the inhumane blockade of Gaza that had taken its toll on the Palestinians in terms of housing and basic services.  It was unacceptable that Israel took unilateral steps in exploiting the natural resources in the Occupied Syrian Golan in contravention of international law.   Turkey denounced Israel’s persistent lack of cooperation with the Human Rights Council.  This disrespectful attitude added insult to injury.

BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian and Residency Rights said that unlike other refugees that benefitted from international humanitarian aid and legal-political protection, Palestinians had endured a protection gap since the 1950s.  The Council was urged to look into the matter of reclassifying Palestinian refugees and support initiatives aimed at increasing financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists encouraged both the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to engage in truthful peace negotiation talks.  Unfortunately, it was its impression that such a positive move was not the will of other States and Members of the Council.  Instead, they would rather extend the unfortunate situation cynically for their political interests, and this tendency was reflected in the proposed resolution on the Occupied Golan Heights.

Al-Haq–Law in the Service of Man said that it was outraged at the death of Arafat Jaradat, which was caused by torture inflicted while in Israeli custody.  The absolute prohibition against torture was one of the fundamental standards of the international community and Mr. Jaradat’s death was symptomatic of the utter disregard with which Israel held the lives of Palestinians.  Since 1967, 71 Palestinians had died as a direct result of torture in Israeli detention centres but none of the complaints filed since 2001 had resulted in criminal investigation.  

Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the Council of Churches remained concerned about the increasing use of excessive force by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians, which had caused the death of six civilians, including two children, in January 2013.  Israel had an obligation to respect the right of life and to protect the Palestinian population, which it had so far failed to do.  The Council should take firm steps to ensure that incidents of use of live ammunition against civilians be thoroughly investigated.

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples drew the Council’s attention to the increasing number of cases of ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.  The cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system was widespread, systematic and institutionalized.  The Council should condemn the Israeli policy which targeted Palestinian minors and should urge Israel to implement immediately the recommendations contained in the Goldstone report.

Norwegian Refugee Council said that over the past years forced displacement had significantly increased in Palestine as a result of Israel’s policies.  In January alone, Israeli forces had demolished 139 Palestinian structures throughout the West Bank, displacing 251 Palestinians.  The Fact-Finding Mission’s report represented progress in documenting the legal, political and economic framework used by Israel to forcibly displace, dispossess and discriminate against Palestinians.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that the Fact-Finding Mission had clearly described a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population and that this policy had developed with little reaction from the international community.  The report of the Fact-Finding Mission was an opportunity for the Council to create a framework for halting the expansion of Israeli settlements.

North-South XXI welcomed the special attention given at this session to condemning the settlements and regretted that stronger action had not been taken.  The Council should urge the General Assembly to ask the International Court of Justice if the settlements constituted a serious violation of international law, thereby incurring the State responsibility of Israel for an internationally wrongful act and all of its attendant consequences.

International Organization for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination drew the Council’s attention to the human rights violations linked to the expansion of settlements, whose implications on the Palestinian people had been widely reported by the Fact-Finding Mission.  In view of the recent developments the international community could not wait until Israel created more precedents but should react as soon as possible to restore peace and justice in the region.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies was extremely concerned about the key role played by businesses and international commercial trade in enabling the construction and expansion of settlements.  It called on the President of the Council to exhaust all means to ensure that Israel resumed its collaboration as soon as possible, and further called on Member States to fulfil their legal obligations with regards to Israel’s breaches of peremptory norms.

Press Emblem Campaign was deeply concerned about the difficulties Palestinian journalists had to face in carrying out their duty.  There was a need for the enactment of a new Access to Information Law.  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was called upon to dedicate a chapter of his annual report to the violations of the fundamental freedoms and rights of the media workers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

Human Rights Watch said that the report should prompt Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards Palestinians in the West Bank.  Israeli authorities had confiscated Palestinian-owned lands and allocated them to settlers.  They had also refused to give Palestinians access to water, electricity and road networks in areas under exclusive Israeli control, and had demolished Palestinian homes, water cisterns and other structures.  Palestine should go to the International Criminal Court about these crimes.  

Union of Arab Jurists said that Israel continued to consider that it was above laws and international treaties, which it methodically violated.  The Palestinian people had been deprived of their right to self-determination and the remaining Palestinians in the Occupied Territories were being moved by Israeli authorities so that illegal settlements could be built despite relevant international resolutions.  Israel also continued to exploit the natural resources of the occupied Syrian Golan in violation of international law. 

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that Israel’s suspension of cooperation with the Council was a matter of concern because its refusal to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism could become customary.  The appalling conditions of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes to enable the expansion of Israeli settlements were matters of serious concern.  A robust mechanism should be adopted to force Israel to respect its international obligations. 

International Buddhist Relief Organization drew the attention of the Council to the caste-based discrimination against Dalit women and children and presented several cases of rape of Dalit women and girls.  The Council should urge the Indian Government to eliminate the caste-based system which was a source of discrimination.

World Barua Organization said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had recognized that gender-based violence was incompatible with the dignity of human beings and must be eliminated.  Dalits were discriminated against because of their caste and women were victims of gender-based violence.

United Nations Watch said that the decision of Israel to stay out of the Council was condemned by democrats and despots alike.  A lot had been heard about how Israel violated many rights and principles, including the principle of universality, and United Nations Watch asked why there had never been an inquiry in human rights violations occurring in other countries and regions.
    
International Commission of Jurists called on the Human Rights Council to strongly support the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission.  It was deeply concerned that this settlement policy had allowed for the establishment of a segregated legal system under which Palestinians were subject to military orders and military courts.  The Council should call on the Security Council to adopt effective measures aimed at putting an end to such discriminatory practices as well as Israel’s settlement policy.

ONG Hope International said that according to the latest International Monetary Fund report the deteriorating economy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was having consequences for social cohesion.  Young people’s situation was partly resolved as there were training programmes to help them achieve labour skills and job generating activities.  It called on the representatives of Israel to commit themselves to ensure building permits for its training centres. 

Association of World Citizens said that a report of the International Labour Organization a few years ago delved into the situation of workers in the Arab Occupied Territories.   Unfortunately no significant change had occurred with respect to the situation.  Such a change would be impossible as long as restrictions imposed by Israel and the occupation continued to exist. 

CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation urged Israel to resume cooperation with the Council and commended the work of the Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli settlements.  The report demonstrated that a multitude of human rights were violated because of the existence of Israeli settlements.  The continued invocation of repressive legislation to silence independent dissent and civil society voices in Israel and the Occupied Territories was of critical concern.

European Union of Jewish Students said that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had stated in February 2013 that Zionism was a crime against humanity.  If that were true, then what could be said about human rights violations which took place in Iran, Syria, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and many other countries?  When would the United Nations rise to the challenge and confront mass human rights violations around the world, where anti-Semitism was on the rise?  

Touro Law Centre – the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust said that today only a few thousand Jews remained in the Arab World, with the vast majority of them having been expelled from their native lands.  Meanwhile, there were millions of free Arab citizens in Israel, where they enjoyed more rights than any of the citizens of Arab countries.  There was an “apartheid Palestinian State” and double standards were applied to Arab citizens living in the Jewish State and in Arab countries.   

Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations, in a joint statement, said that Israel had feared that another Fact-Finding Mission would open the way for a long series of resolutions along the lines of the Goldstone report.  Far from advancing the peace process, the report had only reinforced Israel’s doubts about returning to active participation in the Council.

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

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that 20 years on, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was still relevant in guiding practitioners in addressing human rights challenges.  It had laid the groundwork for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union would not support any attempt to interfere in its independence.  The persistent persecution of human rights defenders was an issue of concern and the European Union condemned all acts of intimidation and violence against them.

United States was concerned about reports of crimes committed against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Africa, the Americas and the Middle East, including in the Sinai, some of whom were victims of trafficking.  Smuggling of people and trafficking in persons created criminalized economies and often took place in locations that lacked security and law enforcement.  All States should take effective measures to respond to crimes against migrants, prosecute perpetrators and protect victims of organized crime, including kidnapping, human trafficking and smuggling.

Indonesia said that two decades after the Vienna Declaration’s consensual adoption, challenges remained.  Indonesia called on States to refrain from applying double standards as well as politicization in endeavours for the cause of human rights.  A confrontational approach would never lead to the improvement of the human rights of people on the ground.  More attention needed to be given to strengthening the solidarity and political will of all States.

Austria said that the anniversary of the Vienna Declaration was an opportunity to look at institutional developments, the positive developments of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the growth of Special Procedures and the growth of national human rights institutions in line with the Paris Principles.  However, there were still victims of violations of human rights and efforts should not relent.  The permanent implementation gap should be addressed. 

Venezuela said that it considered that the implementation and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration was an excellent opportunity to recall and to recommit to the principles that regulated human rights.  The United Nations was created to work for the quest of human dignity, peace and international security, through international cooperation.  It was inappropriate that the topic of technical assistance and cooperation had turned into a mechanism to point fingers at States without their consent. 

Kuwait said that the Vienna World Conference was an extremely important event because that was where the cornerstone for human rights had been set with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Kuwait was at the head of the Arab League in terms of its human development index and it had acceded to a number of international instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights.   

Botswana said that it fully subscribed to the values and principles of the Vienna Declaration, which continued to guide States on their obligations to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In light of the escalating human rights abuses around the world, States had a responsibility to take measures in order to end confrontation and to enhance cooperation in human rights.  Botswana commended the Office of the High Commissioner on the work it continued to carry out. 

Libya said that today was an occasion to reflect on the progress which had been made and on the remaining challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights.  The rights of children and of persons with disabilities were an integral part of human rights, which included civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  The Vienna Declaration had re-affirmed the importance of abiding by non-selectivity and objectivity.   

Algeria said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirmed that all rights required the same attention, but the world still continued to witness preferential attention given to civil and political rights over other human rights.  Hostage taking by terrorist groups was on the increase and all States should combat payment of ransom vigorously as it allowed the continuation of terrorist activities.

Morocco said that with the strengthening of the rule of law and the freedom and human rights framework, Morocco had crowned the national movement that had started in the 1990s.  The National Action Plan for Human Rights had been launched recently in Rabat; it was a first in North Africa and had endowed Morocco with an operational framework and institutional mechanism to improve human rights in the country, particularly for the most vulnerable.

Iran expressed regret that two decades after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, many issues it had underlined had not received adequate attention, including enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights and attention to national and regional human rights particularities.  Despite the calls of the Vienna Declaration, some States were using unilateral measures to advance their political purposes.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/040E