COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON
VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, ISRAELI
SETTLEMENTS, SYRIAN GOLAN, DEFAMATION OF RELIGION AND RACISM

Commission on Human Rights
57th session
18 April 2001
Morning
 

The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted five resolutions in which it condemned human rights violations carried out by Israel in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine; expressed grave concern at continued Israeli settlement activities; denounced Israeli actions in the occupied Syrian Golan; expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions; and urged all Governments to take all necessary measures to combat offenses such as racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

In a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 28 in favour to 2 against and with 27 abstentions, the Commission expressed grave concern at the deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate recourse to force, which could not but aggravate the situation and increase an already high death toll, and urged the Government of Israel to make every effort to ensure that its security forces observed international standards regarding the use of force.

The Commission also adopted a resolution on the Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, approved by a roll-call of 50 in favour to 1 against and 1 abstaining, in which it expressed grave concern at continuing Israeli settlement activities, including the expansion of settlements, the installation of settlers in the occupied territories, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, the confiscation of property, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads. It also expressed grave concern at and strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence.

On the situation of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour to 2 against and with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel to comply with relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 497 (1981) in which the Council decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel rescind its decision.

Also this morning, the Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 28 in favour, 15 against and 9 abstentions a resolution on combatting defamation of religions as a means to promote human rights, social harmony and religious and cultural diversity, in which it expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human-rights violations and with terrorism.

And in a resolution on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted without a vote, the Commission urged all Governments to take all necessary measures to combat such offenses, and called upon States resolutely to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia or intolerance.

The Commission will meet at 3 p.m. to continue to take action on draft resolutions.
 

Action on Resolutions

The Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 28 in favour, 15 against and 9 abstentions a resolution on combatting defamation of religions as a means to promote human rights, social harmony and religious and cultural diversity(E/CN.4/2001/L.7/Rev.1), in which it expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human-rights violations and with terrorism; encouraged States, within their respective constitutional systems, to provide adequate protection against all human rights violations resulting from defamation of religions and to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all regions; and called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote and include human rights aspects in the Dialogue among Civilizations, among other things, through integrating them into topical seminars and special debates on the positive contributions of cultures, as well as religious and cultural diversity, and through collaboration by her Office with other international organizations in holding joint conferences designed to encourage that dialogue and promote understanding of the universality of human rights and their implementation at various levels.

The result of the roll-call vote was as follows:

In favour (28): Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

Against (15): Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (9): Burundi, Guatemala, India, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.
 

A Representative of Belgium on behalf of the European Union, said religious intolerance in all its forms was a matter of great concern to the European Union. It was the duty of all States to protect and promote freedom of religion and belief. Discrimination was a problem that could affect a number of different countries in a number of different ways. Last year, the EU had urged the co-sponsors of a resolution on defamation of religions not to raise the subject again in the Commission. This was not against any one religion. The EU was concerned about the overall approach taken in this resolution. This draft stressed one religion above all others. The concept of defamation could be easily abused by extremists to censure all debate on religious freedom. The EU had taken a number of steps to promote a dialogue in this context. Freedom of expression and freedom of religious were fundamental components of promoting tolerance in societies.

A Representative of Canada also speaking on behalf of Norway, said that the two countries were acutely aware that religious intolerance was a matter of great concern to all areas of the world and for all people of the world. The resolution attempted to deal with very serious issues. It had, however, proven to be divisive and had not advanced the promotion and protection of human rights in a meaningful way. Canada and Norway found troubling the degree to which questions of racism and questions of religious intolerance were mixed in that resolution in such a way that did not promote a greater understanding of the relationship between the two issues, rather unhelpfully confused them. The resolution also did not adequately address questions of the links between diversity and the fight against racism. Canada and Norway intended to vote against the resolution.

A Representative of the Russian Federation said his country supported the resolution.

A Representative of India said his delegation shared the concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and with terrorism. It also expressed concern at the negative stereotyping of religions. However, terrorism had no religion, and some quarters were using the issue to perpetuate their own agenda. India would abstain.
 

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2001/L.9) on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted without a vote, the Commission urged all Governments to take all necessary measures to combat such offenses; called upon States resolutely to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes motivated by racism or xenophobia or intolerance; recognized the vulnerability of victims; called upon all States to intensify their efforts to prevent political parties from promoting and inciting racial discrimination; expressed its deep concern at and condemnation of manifestations of racism or xenophobia or related intolerance against migrant workers and members of their families; categorically condemned any role played by some print, audio-visual or electronic media in inciting acts of violence motivated by racial hatred; urged Governments to take all necessary measures against such incitement; urged States to declare an offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred; to declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities promoting and inciting racial discrimination; and not to permit public authorities or public institutions to promote or incite racial hatred; encouraged the mass media to promote ideas of tolerance and understanding among peoples; recommended that States give priority to education as a principal means of eradicating racism; requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to undertake research and consultations on the use of the Internet for the purposes of incitement to racial hatred and xenophobia; encouraged all States and other entities to contribute generously to the host country trust fund established to finance the activities of the World Conference; and recommended that the World Conference pay particular attention to the situations of children and young people, indigenous people, and migrants.

In a resolution on the human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/CN.4/2001/L.6), adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour to 2 against and with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel to comply with relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 497 (1981) in which the Council decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel rescind its decision; called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasized that the displaced population must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their properties; called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and to desist from its repressive measures against them; determined that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to alter the character and legal status of the region were null and void; called upon Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures and actions referred to above; and requested the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Governments.

The result of the roll-call vote was as follows:

In favour (29): Algeria, Argentina, Burundi, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zambia.

Against (2): Guatemala and United States.

Abstentions (21): Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

A Representative of Israel said it must be remembered how Israel came into possession of the Golan Heights. It was in a war waged by its neighbours. Syria lost the land in the war of 1967. There had been negotiations over the years, and at one point, the two countries were very close. Alas, these hopes were dashed by the Syrians refusal at the time. This resolution was interfering with the on-going negotiations and it should be rejected.

A Representative of Syria said the documents of the Security Council and of the Commission clearly showed that Syria had not attacked Israel from the Golan. In fact, Israel had entered Syrian territory and annexed the territory that it now occupied. Israel had charged that Syria refused a compromise. Could Syria compromise annexation by force?

A Representative of Guatemala said that fulfilment of Security Council resolutions on the Middle East were fundamental to any firm and lasting peace. But Guatemala could not accept partial fulfilment of resolutions. Syria, for its part, had to recognize the State of Israel and assume its own security obligations in the area. That was why Guatemala would vote against the resolution.

A Representative of China said Syria was an important country in the Middle East. China appreciated Syria's decision to solve this conflict through negotiations. The Golan Heights were an important part of Syria. China would work with the international community to help the Middle East peace process. China would vote yes on the resolution.
 

In a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (E/CN.4/2001/L.30), adopted by a roll-call vote of 28 in favour to 2 against and with 27 abstentions, the Commission expressed grave concern at the deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate recourse to force, which could not but aggravate the situation and increase an already high death toll, and urged the Government of Israel to make every effort to ensure that its security forces observed international standards regarding the use of force; strongly deplored the practice of so-called "eliminations", or extrajudicial killings, of certain Palestinians carried out by Israeli security forces; expressed grave concern at the closures of and within the Palestinian territories; expressed concern at the large number of persons, including children, detained during recent months and at the continued detention of some detainees without any criminal charges having been brought against them; expressed grave concern at the Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, such as the construction of new settlements and the expansion of existing ones, the expropriation of land, the biased administration of water resources, the construction of roads and house demolitions, and called on the Israeli security forces to ensure the protection of the population in the occupied territories, including preventing, investigating and prosecuting acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers; reaffirmed that the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war was applicable to the Palestinian territory and other Arab territories occupied by Israel; condemned the expropriation of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, the revocation of identity cards of the citizens of the Palestinian city of Jerusalem, the imposition of fabricated and exorbitant taxes with the aim of forcing Palestinian citizens out of Jerusalem; condemned the use of torture against Palestinians during interrogation; called upon Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; welcomed the recommendations contained in the report of the High Commissioner and those contained in the report of the international commission of inquiry, urged the Government of Israel to implement them and requested the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to follow up on the implementation of those recommendations.

The result of the roll-call vote was as follows:

In favour (28): Algeria, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zambia.

Against (2): Guatemala and United States.

Abstentions (22): Argentina, Belgium, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

A Representative of Israel said there should be careful reflection about the nature of the text and its motives. The text spoke not about human rights nor the cessation of violence through negotiations. If this resolution was designed to curb human rights, it would have taken a balanced approach, not one that was detached from reality. It would have called for the restoration of security cooperation in accordance with prior agreements. If the Palestinians were committed to ending incitement, they would have insisted that the media and the preachers in the mosques end their rhetoric of the hatred of Israel. Peace would not be reached by forcing Israel to make concessions alone. According to this draft, all had been decided in advance -- Israel would have to yield to Palestinian demands immediately. This was a one-sided and politicized text. It contained accusations against Israel and Israel alone. Israel was unfairly singled out in the Commission. It had been subjected to verbal barbs in this very hall. Would anybody stand for the use of such language against any other country, or any other people. He urged the Commission to put an end to this discrimination. The resolution should not be supported.

A Representative of Palestine said the draft resolution L.30 had been the subject of lengthy negotiations -- over 40 days of negotiations. It was based on consensus, and the groups consulted had expressed no objections to this final version. The text dealt in a balanced, flexible manner with the current situation in Palestine; its language was very different from that of previous resolutions condemning Israel. It was strange to hear the Representative of Israel condemning Palestinians for struggling justly for their land and their lives. Israel had said the Palestinians were attacking Israelis, but in fact it was the Palestinians who were defending themselves against Israelis who had come onto their land and had attacked them. What land was being talked about? It was Palestinian land.

A Representative of Pakistan said the resolution dealt with the situation which represented one of the greatest historic wrongs that had been done to a people for the longest period of time. Last October, the Commission had adopted a strong and unequivocal decision deploring the aggression and repression against the Palestinian people. Pakistan was heartened by the actions taken by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and some mechanisms of the UN to protect the Palestinian people. At this session, it was the effort of Pakistan and other co-sponsors to promote a text which was moderate and constructive. There were lengthy consultations. This text was the product of these long and lengthy consultations. Unfortunately, the events of the past few days had caused a sense of despair with regard to the approach of moderation and constructive engagement. The Israel invasion and reoccupation of Gaza, the closure of Gaza, and the Israeli strikes against Lebanon were dangerous provocations, and brought tensions to a boiling point. These actions were a severe blow to the revival of the peace process. The Commission should focus on what needed to be done to reverse this situation, and bring this region back to the peace path.

A Representative of Kenya, on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group was gravely concerned about the situation in the occupied territories. It was concerned about the human rights violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. The international community had every right to be critical of the continued occupation. Israel had used excessive force against the intifada. It also used the practice of collective punishment. The African Group urged a return to the negotiating table. The full recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' report should be implemented. The African Group also welcomed the report of the commission of inquiry, which confirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The African Group asked the international community to intensify its efforts to push for a lasting peace in the Middle East, which was necessary for all inhabitants of the region. It could only be achieved if the human rights of Palestinians, including their inalienable right to self-determination, were respected.

A Representative of Malaysia said that the belligerent attitude of Israel continued with its violations of the rights of Palestinians and it had also attacked southern Lebanon. The Israeli violations had resulted in the deaths of more than 400 Palestinians and in the wounding of three thousand. The Palestinians were paying with their lives. The resolution should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible to reverse the situation.

A Representative of Indonesia said his country was following closely the development of the human rights situation in the occupied territories. There was a deterioration in the situation on the ground. Indonesia regretted the excessive force used by Israel, which had forced an already high death toll of Palestinians to increase. The Commission should take strong measures to ensure all human rights of Palestinians were being respected. The resolution should be supported.

A Representative of Guatemala said there should be a resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This had to be agreed upon -- not imposed. The language of this resolution was biased, and only fed bitterness and served to polarize both sides. It was not possible to promote the respect for the rights of some while damaging the rights of others. Peace in the Middle East hinged upon the Palestinian's right to self-determination, which could not infringe on the Jewish population's right to self-determination. There also had to be a recognition of Israel's right to exist as a State. The human rights of Israelis and Palestinians had to be promoted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The absence of such matters compelled the delegation to vote against this resolution. Guatemala would support a balanced resolution.

A Representative of the United States said that the United Nations texts would not improve the prospects for peace in the Middle East. The Commission should be urging the parties to fulfil their commitments and end the cycle of violence. By adopting the resolution, the Commission would fail to fulfil its potential to contribute to the protection of human rights in the Middle East. Her delegation was dismayed by the Algerian delegation's comparison of the Israeli occupation with that of Auschwitz. The resolution was not enough by itself and more should be done in the field. The United States would vote against resolution L.30.
 

In a resolution (E7/CN.4/2001/L.31) on the Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, approved by a roll-call of 50 in favour to 1 against and 1 abstaining, the Commission expressed grave concern at continuing Israeli settlement activities, including the expansion of settlements, the installation of settlers in the occupied territories, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, the confiscation of property, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads; expressed grave concern at and strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence; at the closure of and within the Palestinian territories which contributed, together with other factors, to the unrest and violence that had prevailed in the zone for several months; urged the Government of Israel to comply fully with previous Commission resolutions on the subject; to take concrete actions to fulfil its obligations and cease completely its policy of expanding the settlements and related activities; to forgo and prevent any new installation of settlers in the region; to implement the recommendations regarding the settlements made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her report, including to ensure that the Israeli security forces protected Palestinians from violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers; and urged the parties to create conditions which would allow the resumption of the peace process.

The result of the roll-call vote was as follows:

In favour (50): Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zambia.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (1): Costa Rica.
 
 

A Representative of Israel said the issue of settlements was one of the difficult issues that had been leftover for negotiations. This was agreed upon between Israel and the PLO in 1993 at the signing of the Oslo Accord. It also was discussed at the Camp David conference last July. This resolution would prejudge the results of the negotiations, and would act as a disincentive for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. This resolution should be defeated.

A Representative of Palestine said that the Israeli delegation was misinforming the Commission by saying that negotiations were going on with regard to the settlements situation, as if the issue was negotiable. The settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories were illegal and they should be dismantled.

A Representative of India, explaining its vote on L-30, said it was firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. India was convinced of the need for dialogue and peaceful negotiations between Palestine and Israel. It was deeply concerned about the violence that had characterized the region for the last six months. There had been wanton killings of innocents, including women, children and infants. There had been the desecration of places of worship, and hostage taking. Settlement activity was not conducive to peace, in fact, it had a destructive influence on the peace process. It was hoped that efforts to bring the sides back to the negotiating table would be effective. The events of the past few months should not be allowed to derail the peace process for which both sides had strived so hard. Alleviating the suffering of peoples was necessary to create a climate in which peace talks could occur and be effective.

A Representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the EU regretted that it was not able to support the draft resolution. The European Union underlined the need to respect and safeguard the human rights of persons living in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. While the present draft resolution was not completely in line with the corresponding General Assembly resolution, the main concern for the EU was a different one. The EU welcomed the Syrian delegation's openness to discuss the text.

A Representative of Japan, explaining its vote on L-30, said his country was gravely concerned about the situation of human rights of Palestinians since last September. It was also deeply concerned about the economic effects of the closure of the West Bank. Japan had actively engaged in talks with parties concerned in recent months. It had also forwarded emergency food and aid, and education and job assistance, to the Palestinian people. Although Japan shared the deep concern about the Palestinian people, it believed the draft resolution should have had more on the human rights aspects within the domain of the Commission. That was why Japan could not support the resolution.