Human Rights Council Holds General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories, Starts General Debate on Follow-Up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action – occupied Palestinian territory

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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 follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Israel was not present to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, was disappointed at the absence of Israel in the debate, as it continued to undermine the international legal system since the last century, having committed the most terrible crimes and massacres since the Second World War. The blockade on the Gaza Strip had continued for 15 years, leaving thousands of wounded and martyrs, with children killed. The United Nations, Member States and regional groups were called upon to put pressure on the occupying power to put an end to its aggression, including by implementing articles 146-8 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, allowing the Fact-Finding Mission to exercise its mandate, and allowing the Special Rapporteur and mandate holders to visit Palestine.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said the acts of aggression on Palestine had become part of a systematic pattern by Israel, with deliberate targeting by air and seaports, a deliberate violation of international law, endangering civilians, compromising humanitarian assistance, and endangering international and regional peace and security. The occupying power continued its systematic human rights violations against the people of the occupied Syrian Golan. These violations were being committed in the context of the intensification and expansion of settlements, with confiscation of land and an effort to create demographic change, flouting international law and United Nations resolutions, under the protection of the United States and the West.

In the general debate, some speakers said that the building of Israeli settlements was only made possible through crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of apartheid. The continuing illegal acts, including torture of prisoners, abuse of children, disregard for justice and accountability, and the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip, were rejected. The Palestinian people should be allowed to achieve their legitimate aspirations, including an independent Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 borders, in line with the long-standing international consensus recognising these rights. Israel needed to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan to the pre-1967 lines. However, some speakers pointed out that this was the only country-specific agenda item, adding that the Council should stop the biased treatment of Israel and avoid inflammatory and ahistorical comparisons.

Speaking in the debate were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the Group of African States, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Gulf Corporation Council States, State of Palestine on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Qatar, Cuba, Venezuela, Senegal, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, China, Namibia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bolivia, Sudan, Luxembourg, Indonesia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Iraq, Djibouti, Morocco, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ireland, Brunei Darrusalam, Russia, Maldives, South Africa, Jordan, Nigeria, Chile, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrein, Lebanon, Türkiye, Botswana, Oman, Egypt, and Iran.

The Palestine Independent Commission for Human Rights took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, Institute for NGO Research, Jerusalem Institute of Justice, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, World Jewish Congress, Defence for Children International, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Human Rights and Democratic Participation Centre, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Human Rights Information and Training Centre, B’nai B’rith, Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Meezaan Centre for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Commission of Jurists, Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International-Lawyers.Org, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Institute for Protection of Women’s Rights, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, and Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

The Council then started a general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Some speakers said peace, security, democracy, respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms were the concepts enshrined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action since 1993. However, the international community was still dealing with backlash and resistance to fulfil the commitment to protect every human right of every person. The right to self-determination was a human right, and people living under foreign occupation could take any action under the United Nations Charter to realise this right, and effective legal protections should be taken to protect such people from human rights violations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Human rights defenders, particularly women, were suffering, as civil society shrunk around the world, facing threats to its members at many different levels. Many speakers stressed that all human rights were interdependent, indivisible and inter-dependent, including the right to development, the operationalisation of which required national development policies, fair economic policies and a suitable international environment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking in the general debate were Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ukraine on behalf of a group of countries, Greece on behalf of a group of countries, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, State of Palestine on behalf of a group of Arab States, Lithuania, Cuba, Venezuela, India, China, Namibia, Armenia, United States, Nepal, and Indonesia.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found hereOpens in new window. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-first regular session can be found hereOpens in new window.

The next meeting of the Council will be on Monday, 3 October at 10 a.m., when it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, followed by the continuation of the general debate on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

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

Statements by Countries Concerned

FEDERICO VILLEGAS, President of the Human Rights Council, noted that Israel was not present to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said State of Palestine was disappointed at the absence of Israel in the debate, as it continued to undermine the international legal system since the last century, having committed the most terrible crimes and massacres since the Second World War. The United States continued to protect Israel, using its right to veto 43 times over the years. There was absurdity and blind bias. The blockade on the Gaza Strip had continued for 15 years, leaving thousands of wounded and martyrs, with children killed. The United Nations, Member States and regional groups were called upon to put pressure on the occupying power and end the Israeli aggression, including by implementing articles 146-8 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, allowing the Fact-Finding Mission to exercise its mandate, and allowing the Special Rapporteur and mandate holders to visit Palestine.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should urgently open a file on the information that had been sent to the Court. Member States should cease to buy weapons from Israel, and stop dealing with Israeli products, in particular those produced in the settlements, and boycott them. Around 780 Palestinian administrative detainees should be released, including women, children and the sick, including those who were dying. The theft of Palestinian farms and natural resources should cease urgently. The attacks on Christian and Muslim religious sites should cease. There was a need to put an end to the siege on Gaza, and to end the colonialist settlements, all violations of international law. The Members of the Bureau and any Members of the Council that wished to visit were invited to see the situation in Palestine for themselves.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said the acts of aggression on Palestine had become part of a systematic pattern by Israel, with deliberate targeting by air and seaports, a deliberate violation of international law, endangering civilians, compromising humanitarian assistance, and endangering international and regional peace and security. Double standards prevailed: the occupying power continued to subject the Palestinian people to collective punishment through the siege affecting the Gaza Strip, and to expropriate Palestinian lands and homes in the West Bank and restrict the movement of Palestinians. There was torture in Israeli prisons. Palestinians were not allowed to exercise their religious rituals freely.

The occupying power continued its systematic human rights violations against the people of the occupied Syrian Golan, confiscating their lands and subjecting them to discriminatory treatment, imposing heavy financial burdens on their access to electricity and healthcare, whilst impeding their agricultural activities. These violations were being committed in the context of the intensification and expansion of settlements, with confiscation of land and an effort to create demographic change, flouting international law and United Nations resolutions, under the protection of the United States and the West. Syria saw the occupied Golan Heights as an inalienable part of its territory, and rejected Israel’s measures to perpetuate this occupation, calling on all States to reject these, as they were null and void, and without effect. Syria had unwavering support for the rights of the Palestinian people to establish their own sovereign State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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

In the general debate, some speakers said that the building of Israeli settlements was only made possible through crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of apartheid. The continuing illegal acts, including torture of prisoners, abuse of children, disregard for justice and accountability, and the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip, were rejected. Israel was continuing with grave human rights violations against defenceless civilians. Many speakers said the Council should uphold its legal and international obligations, with the aim of ensuring the two-State solution, including a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, following genuine political negotiations.

Israel, the occupying power, should withdraw from the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and cease the flagrant and brutal violations of human rights, several speakers said. The Palestinian people should be allowed to achieve their legitimate aspirations, including an independent Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 borders, in line with the long-standing international consensus recognising these rights. The unjust blockade against Gaza made the people there live in horrifying economic, financial and humanitarian conditions. Gaza had become an open-air prison where Palestinians were deprived of the most basic conditions of life.

Some speakers said Israel had to be held accountable for its continuing violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in all the occupied territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan. Israel needed to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan to the pre-1967 lines.

The continued attacks on sacred sites destabilised the region as a whole and they should cease. Jerusalem was a holy city for all monotheistic religions. All Palestinian prisoners should be released.

Some speakers said colonialism, oppression and apartheid were rejected, as they continued to take a heavy toll on the realisation of the human rights of the Palestinian people and the inhabitants of the occupied Arab territories. Israeli settlement activities and any attempts to annex the West Bank were rejected, as this undermined the two-State solution and caused even more suffering for the Palestinian people. The establishment of the independent State of Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian refugees, and the relevant international laws could not be deferred further, and the international community should oversee peace negotiations and settlements to this end. One speaker said Israel’s attempts to change the demographic make-up of the occupied areas was a form of ethnic cleansing and could be assimilated to crimes against humanity.

The abstention of some States from the debate was of concern, with some speakers pointing out that this was an opportunity to deal with racism and human rights violations. The violations committed by Israel and by settlers were violations of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These violations were at an all-time record high, with the deaths of many, including children. The policy of incursions and attacks against Palestinian towns and cities by the security forces and settlers were on the rise. The occupying power continued to build colonial settlements, aimed at replacing the rightful owners of the land by immigrants, in total denial of international law. There should be no double standards when dealing with conflicts, no matter the parties involved.

The international community should work to bring an end to the unjust and unfair occupation, and to the ongoing settlement practices, showing the need to retain this agenda item before the Council. Some speakers said the international community should find a just settlement for the Palestinian cause, allowing Palestinians to enjoy the peace and freedom the rest of the world enjoyed, and hold Israel accountable for the heinous crimes it had committed. The call for an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was urgent. The Human Rights Council must ensure peace and justice for the Palestinians; not holding Israel to account allowed it to continue to escalate its human rights violations. Israel must ensure it allowed access by the United Nations and its mechanisms to the occupied Palestinian territories and all other areas. The only way to achieve peace and security was for the Palestinian people to have their own State.

Some speakers pointed out that this was the only country-specific agenda item, where the Council singled out and forced a two-day annual debate solely on Israel. Since 2006, the Council had adopted 81 condemnatory resolutions against Israel, with only 201 resolutions addressing the rest of the world combined. The Human Rights Council must be concerned with advocating for the general observance of human rights, not the systematic denunciation of a single country, and it should hold itself accountable in that regard. While the situation in Israel was complex, it had no relation to apartheid. Israel was a liberal democratic country where the rights of all citizens, irrespective of race or religion, were protected. Comparing it to an apartheid regime was wrong and created global animosity against it and Jewish communities worldwide. The Human Rights Council should stop the biased treatment of the State of Israel and avoid inflammatory and ahistorical comparisons.

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

In the general debate, many speakers said peace, security, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were the concepts enshrined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action since 1993. However, the international community was still dealing with backlash and resistance to fulfil the commitment to protect every human right of every person. The triple crises of health, underdevelopment and the economy had shown that having a differing approach to different human rights was flawed and needed to be abandoned. There should be an equitable response to the extent of the socio-economic crisis.

Some speakers said the right to self-determination was a human right, and people living under foreign occupation could take any action under the United Nations Charter to realise this right, and effective legal protections should be taken to protect such people from human rights violations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty of occupied territories needed to be respected. The adherence to the United Nations Charter was reaffirmed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. All States had an obligation under international law to not recognise illegal annexations, nor illegitimate referenda. Voting at gun point did not constitute democracy.

Media freedom and the right to freedom of opinion and expression were key elements of democratic governance and pluralistic and inclusive societies, according to some speakers. All persons needed to be fully informed to form opinions and meaningfully participate in decision-making processes that affected their lives. When media and journalists were silenced, accountability was eroded, and the consequences for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and development were worrying. There was no democracy without media freedom and pluralism. An attack on media representatives was an attack on democracy. Human rights defenders, particularly women, were suffering, as civil society shrunk around the world, facing threats to its members at many different levels.

Sexual harassment was a human rights violation that had a negative impact on the victims, and it should be eliminated, along with exploitation and abuse. Some speakers noted that the Human Rights Council had a gender-focal point, and a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, but it was important to recognise that fighting sexual harassment was not a one-person job. All United Nations Member States should lead by example: it was important to build inclusive and supportive workplaces where harassment was unacceptable, and to build networks to provide support to survivors.

Many speakers said all human rights were interdependent, indivisible and inter-dependent, including the right to development, the operationalisation of which required national development policies, fair economic policies and a suitable international environment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Global challenges to human rights were increasing, with conflicts, terrorism, poverty and Islamophobia, requiring attention to take effective measures to achieve justice for the victims. Some speakers said the increased number of human rights violations because of the increasing conflicts and incidents of terrorism around the world were of concern. In order to effectively implement the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community should address related human rights and humanitarian crises. There was a dangerous growth in State-sponsored Islamophobia, and States should work to combat the dangerous trends of bigotry that were on the rise.

The call in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action to avoid the use of unilateral coercive measures was still being ignored, said some speakers. It was important to guarantee objectiveness and non-selectivity in reviewing human rights issues. There could be no implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action if human rights continued to be used as a means to bring pressure to bear and attempt to effect regime change. Only dialogue and genuine respect were the way that the international community could genuinely ensure human rights for all across the world. The imposition of unilateral coercive measures violated international human rights, prevented the achievement of the right to development, and was an infringement of the fundamental human rights of millions of people, as they only served to increase poverty, particularly among the most vulnerable.

Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

HRC22.108E


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