GENEVA, 24 MARCH 2004

See full summary of debate below

See other UN statements: by Kofi Anan
and by Acting UN rights chief Bertrand Ramcharan.
Click here for summary of comments by international agencies
and the 23 March 2004 UNCHR vote to hold the urgent session below

UN Watch Testimony
Delivered by Executive Director Hillel Neuer

Mr. Chairman,

The convening of this Special Sitting is yet one more egregious illustration of the unending pattern and practice of discrimination by this Commission against one state.  And the plight of millions of human rights victims worldwide will now go ignored to make time for this transparent political maneuver.

UN Watch aims to uphold the principles of the UN Charter, including its guarantee of “the equal rights of nations large and small.”

Mr. Chairman,

Is the Commission practicing equality when, out of 192 states, only one is singled out, year after year, for differential and discriminatory treatment?

When one Agenda Item is allocated to consider the human rights record of the whole world — and then another, entirely separate Agenda Item is exclusively devoted to the scrutiny of one single state?

When every state may join a regional grouping – which is a necessity for meaningful UN participation — except one, Israel?

Is the Commission practicing equality when repressive regimes such as Syria, Iran and China are granted immunity from Commission censure, while one single state, the Jewish State, is ritually denounced, not once, but five times?

Mr. Chairman,

Do we really need a “Special Sitting” today with which to berate Israel, when virtually the entire 60th Session – regardless of subject or agenda item  – has already been precisely that?

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

___________________________

 

COMMISSION HOLDS SPECIAL SITTING ON SITUATION IN OCCUPIED
PALESTINIAN TERRITORY FOLLOWING THE KILLING OF SHEIKH YASSIN

 

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Commission on Human Rights
MORNING
24 March 2004
Adopts Resolution Which Condemns Continuing
Grave Violations of Human Rights in the Territory,
Including the Tragic Assassination of Sheikh Yassin

The Commission on Human Rights this morning strongly condemned the continuing grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular the tragic assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on 22 March 2004 in contravention of the Hague Convention IV of 1907.

In a resolution adopted following an urgent special sitting on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, the Commission noted with grave concern the implications of such targeted assassinations, liquidation and murder of political leadership by the Israeli occupation forces on the overall situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly the possibility of a fresh wave of violence.

The Commission called upon Israel to accord fullest respect to the principles of international humanitarian law and to desist from all forms of violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The resolution was adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, two against and 18 abstentions.

Action on Resolution

The Commission, by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, two against and 18 abstentions, adopted resolution E/CN.4/2004/L4 on the grave situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in which it strongly condemned the continuing grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular the tragic assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on 22 March 2004, in contravention of the Hague Convention IV of 1907; noted with grave concern the implications of such targeted assassinations, liquidation and murder of political leadership by the Israeli occupation forces on the overall situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly the possibility of a fresh wave of violence; and called upon Israel to accord fullest respect to the principles of international humanitarian law and to desist from all forms of violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (18): Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Special Sitting on the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Following the Assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said that this hall had become accustomed to Israel-bashing, and today the forum had clearly reached its nadir by lending a hand and moral standing to terrorism, the most despicable of all evils. One saw a prominent United Nations organ manipulated, not for the first time, and heading toward the establishment of a precedent of lending support to acts of terrorism instead of condemning them unequivocally. The Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League had once again distracted the Commission from its primary role to examine and discuss human rights violations worldwide. Was there not an ulterior motive in insisting spending so much time on Israel to the detriment of all other situations worldwide?

During the wave of violence that had been thrust upon Israel during the last three and a half years, he noted, 945 Israeli lives had been lost, thousands injured and hundreds maimed for life. The primary instigator and orchestrator of that campaign of horror had been Hamas, founded and led by Sheikh Yassin. Sheikh Yassin had not been an innocent spiritual leader, nor an elderly gentleman. He had been a prominent practitioner of international terrorism and a chilling manipulator of the lives of his followers, who under the guise of his “leadership” distorted lofty religious principles to recruit suicide bombers, including women and children.

The operation against Yassin had not been an act of vengeance, but part of an ongoing effort to confront terrorism and its sources, he stated. What would any person concerned for the lives of Palestinians, as well as Israelis, expect Israel to do? Sheikh Yassin preached extremism and hatred. Whatever criticism and concern one might have with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one certainty should remain undisputed. The war against terrorism had been thrust upon Israel; there was no equivalence to be made between those perpetrating terrorism and those fighting it. No principle of international law could ever justify the murder of innocent civilians.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said the Commission had often adopted resolutions requiring Israel to put an end to its violation of rights in the occupied Arab territories and to put an end to their operations of liquidation, assassination and extra-judiciary executions, crimes which violated the right to life, and yet the Government of Israel ignored these demands and resolutions, and rebelled and flouted them as it always had. Israel had continued to flagrantly violate human rights, assassinating civilians, so that the number of victims had continued to grow.

These were crimes that did not just require the holding of a special session to condemn the Government of Israel. The international community as a whole should assume its responsibilities. The United Nations as a whole should take a stand on these flagrant violations, and call upon Israel to respect the resolutions adopted. Israel resorted to all available means, as it had the resources of a Superpower behind it, which allowed it to commit these crimes against the Palestinian people. In this case, as in all others of Palestinian civilians, the Israeli Government claimed the right to sit in judgment and to execute the innocent. After having committed these criminal acts, the Israel Government congratulated itself.

All these actions carried out by Israel for years in the occupied Arab territories and Palestine made Israel a terrorist State, like individuals and groups that used such means to achieve their objective, which was to force Palestinians to leave their land. All these massacres pursued the same objective. They did not merely terrorize Palestinians, but were a threat to the international community. However this crime was characterized, it was a flagrant violation of the right to life, and required that the Commission put an end to the Israeli Government’s activities. Israel could not be allowed to continue with its being a fertile land for the flouting of these laws, under the pretext of security.

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said Israel had made the physical liquidation of its opposers a doctrine which was commonly called State terrorism. Never, including the worst moments of contemporary history or even the Rwandan genocide, had a political or military leader openly called for the extermination of the human family, instead, all had tried to hide or deny it. The arrogance of Israel towards the international community was explained by its heavy guilt. Since March 2002, the international community had cultivated silence on the status of the Head of the Palestinian Authority, democratically elected and yet humiliated. The legitimate defense exercised by the Palestinian people during half a century was the only way for them to be heard. The injustice done to the people of Sheikh Yassin only fed the despair of Palestinian youth. This injustice where the victims of yesterday had become the executioners of today fed the fight of the Palestinian people, who found in their collective memory the resources for their just fight against a State that was regularly denounced not for what it was, but for what it did.

CAROLINE MILLER (Australia) said that Australia had not support the convening of the special sitting resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Australia had voted against the proposal because it saw it as clearly intended to single Israel out for unbalanced criticism. It would do nothing to advance the cause of peace in the region. Australia had consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism. Hamas was a terrorist organization proscribed under the Australian law. It had used suicide bombers to target and murder many innocent Israelis. Australia urged calm and called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint. Violence would not settle the Middle East dispute.

SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain) said the assassination of Sheikh Yassin constituted an unprecedented escalation of Israel’s policy of targeted killings. It would open the doors wide to further assassinations. Bahrain’s Government condemned the crime committed by Israel and warned that the country’s policy of targeted killings would not lead to peace, but to further bloodshed. That policy was based on killing outside of the law and the Commission should condemn any such pretext. Moreover, the rights of the Palestinian people should be guaranteed. The Commission was called upon to condemn this Israeli action.TOUFIK ALI (Bangladesh) strongly condemned the premeditated act of extra-judicial killing which was flagrantly in violation of international law and against civilized behaviour. The Israeli occupation of the occupied territories was a disregard of international humanitarian law, and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people should be recognized. Israel should withdraw from the territories and Palestinians should be given a sovereign and independent homeland. The peace process, resulting in a just and lasting solution should resume, with the aim of a just, lasting, and comprehensive settlement in the region.

CARLOS ANTONIO DA ROCHA PARANHOS (Brazil) reaffirmed that international terrorism was a serious concern to the international community. Terrorism had been increasing, but it was not a new phenomenon. In order to combat terrorism, cooperation should be improved in two aspects: adoption of repressive measures against terrorist organizations and international crime, and promotion of tolerance, democratic values and greater attention to social and economic demands of society. There was no direct relation between poverty and terrorism. But it seemed clear that economic disputes and social exclusion — moreover when they were associated with lack of social and political liberty — were factors that might contribute to the rise of illicit acts. Brazil condemned the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin. It deplored recent actions and retaliatory reactions, which opposed Israelis and Palestinians, and appealed to both parties in the conflict for moderation.

JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said that the special sitting provided the opportunity to express Chile’s position on the serious situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Chile deplored the assassination carried out by Israel, and also condemned all acts of terrorism. It expressed its firm rejection of all acts of violence, from whatever quarter, particularly when they flouted international law. Recalling that the Secretary-General had said that responses to terrorism must be in support of human rights, he said that respect for human rights and international law were fundamental elements to the fight against terrorism. Nothing could justify the murder of men, women and children, be they Israeli or Palestinian, for any reason whatsoever.

The current situation in the region stood in total contradiction of the rights of the Palestinians to their own State and of Israel to exist within secure and internationally-recognized borders. Chile called upon the parties directly involved to do everything possible to reverse the spiral of violence and to get the peace process back on track. For this, the Quartet and the international community must provide support.

SHA ZUKANG (China) said the act of assassination by Israel was strongly condemned in the belief that the practice of targeted liquidation was not conducive to the settlement of the Middle East issue, rather, it would trigger more conflicts and bloodshed and further destabilize the region. The Middle East issue should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation based on relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace. Israel should cease the practice of assassinations, stop its military actions in the Palestinian-controlled areas and return to the track of a political solution. China would unswervingly support the just cause of the Palestinian people and work together with the international community to press for substantive progress in the Middle East peace process.

ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of Congo) said the recent events in the Gaza Strip and in Palestine in general could leave no one indifferent. There was concern for the mass violations of human rights which was engendered by an occupation that did not stop having disastrous effects on the situation of the population of the region. Israel and Palestine were condemned to live side by side if not together, and the chain of violence was ruining the hopes caused by the Road Map. Terrorist acts were condemned under all their forms. The assassination of Sheik Yassin, perpetrated with much cynicism, was a clear violation of the rules of international law and human rights, as it was an extrajudiciary execution, and was unacceptable, even more so since it could only increase tensions in the region, and created a further obstacle to the necessary dialogue which should lead to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. The assassination was condemned, and Congo would vote in favour of the adoption of resolution L4.

MANUEL A. GONZALEZ-SANZ (Costa Rica) said Costa Rica believed in dialogue, which was the only democratic way of resolving conflicts. No country could be prevented from defending itself. Costa Rica appealed to the parties for moderation and to endeavour for the peaceful solution of the conflict. Palestinians and Israelis had the right to live in peace as all other peoples of the world. Conflicts, wherever they occurred, affected humans. Both sides had the opportunity to enter into a peace dialogue. The execution of any human being could not be justified. He hoped that the draft resolution would be balanced and would call the country in question to refrain from extrajudicial killings.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said that the so-called Palestinian question constituted a history of repeated wars and occupations, and the continued frustration of the rights of the Palestinian people. The world had become accustomed to the terror and barbarism to which the Palestinian people had been subjected. Then, a few days ago, the world had been shocked by the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and voices had been raised in unison to condemn that crime. The Sheikh, bound to a wheelchair, had been killed as he left a mosque. The Sharon Government had justified its actions by claiming self-defense. Yet, in fact, the Israeli regime was conducting a clear policy of State terrorism.

Israel’s use of violence had reached amazing limits, he said, including the use of tanks, and rockets fired from planes and helicopters. Israel’s military capability had been built up over the years by its ally, the United States. The strategic alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv provided Israel with total immunity. Unequivocally condemning the killing of Sheikh Yassin, he said his Government would continue to express its solidarity with the Palestinian people and would vote for the draft before the Commission on the assassination.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said the special sitting was a wise and brave decision of the Commission in reaction to the assassination of Sheik Yassin. Egypt had been the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and ever since it had always unswervingly considered that peace was a strategic and irreversible option, and had cooperated with all parties in order to ensure a just and lasting peace based on justice and the principles of international legality. Justice and international legality were the only driving force. The assassination was condemned as a barbaric and uncalled for act which would only lead to an escalation of violence in the region. It appeared that Israel did not want peace, and wished to continue the cycle so that it would always have an excuse to live in a hostile environment and continue to accumulate weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s governmental policy of extra-judicial killings could not be compared to the acts of a desperate people whose human rights were ignored. Israel should refrain from using violence, and it was hoped the special sitting would give back hope to the Palestinian people and let them know the world had not forgotten them and they would no longer be oppressed.

AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said he wished to recall that his country had yesterday voted against a special session on this issue, as it held that the matter could be discussed under regular agenda items of the Commission, including the one on the occupied Palestinian territories. On the other hand, he had also expressed his country’s categorical opposition to assassination as a means of achieving any political objective whatsoever and had denounced it as a flagrant violation of human rights. Therefore, the Eritrean delegation would vote for the resolution.

HARDEEP SING. PURI (India) said the killing of Sheikh Yassin had further inflamed passions in the Middle East, and there was concern that it would fuel the cycle of violence and counter-violence in the region, causing a set-back to the efforts to resume the peace process. There could be no military solution to the Middle East problem. States of course had the right to defend themselves, but they also had the responsibility to uphold international law. The people of Palestine deserved the full support of the international community to enable them to realize their national aspirations. There could, of course, be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terror. The international community had to be relentless in fighting the war to eradicate this scourge; no ends could be justified by use of the means of terrorism.

EDDI HARIYADHI (Indonesia) said that with the Special Sitting, the Commission took the role it deserved in exercising its moral authority in the face of the flagrant violations of human rights by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory following the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and other civilians. It was a matter of grave concern that the world had to watch time and again this recurrent pattern of systematic killings designed and perpetrated by the Israeli Government against Palestinian leaders. The Commission should prevail on the Israeli Government to stop such cold-blooded carnage, and should urge Israel to fully respect the principles of international humanitarian law and to desist from all forms of violation of human rights against the Palestinian people. The Commission should send a clear, united and strong message to the Israeli Government by adopting the resolution.

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that respect for human rights constituted the foundation of all sustainable and peaceful democratic systems and served as an effective conflict prevention measure and the basis of fruitful and peaceful relations between peoples. Israel and the Palestinian Authority had committed themselves to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and the European Union called upon them to live up to their obligations and commitments.

The Union had already condemned the extra-judicial killing of Sheikh Yassin and seven other Palestinians, she said, and had expressed its consistent opposition to that practice, carried out openly by Israel, which was contrary to international law and undermined the rule of law, which was a key element in the fight against terrorism. The Union had also repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, which had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis. The Union, moreover, recognized Israel’s right to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks, but held that Israel was not entitled to carry out extra-judicial killings.

The present cycle of retaliatory violence caused widespread suffering to both sides, she continued. The Union called for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction. The Israeli Government was called upon to lift the obstacles that prevented humanitarian organizations and medical personnel from carrying out their functions effectively and reiterated the fact that all parties must do their utmost to ensure the safety of the civilian population, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

She also reiterated the conviction that there could be no military solution to the conflict. The Union remained committed to the objective of two States, living side by side in peace and security, in the framework of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, as laid out in the Quartet’s Road Map. Both parties were called upon to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities under the Road Map. Finally, the people of the region were called upon to look beyond the last atrocity and summon the political will to overcome the current impasse in the peace process.

On the draft before the Commission, she said the European Union would have preferred the opportunity to discuss the draft with its sponsors with a view to improving its balance and regretted that it did not call for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence. The European Union members on the Commission would therefore abstain on the draft resolution.

MOHAMMAD REZA ALBORZI (Islamic Republic of Iran) said the international community had once again been witness to yet another act of brutality and barbarism and extra-judicial targeted assassination by Israel. The relentless massacre of Palestinians and targeted assassinations were strongly condemned, as these acts were clear instances of State terrorism, which further revealed the violent face of the Israeli Government before the international community. That these atrocities were perpetrated at the very time when the Commission was in session clearly manifested Israeli continued defiance of this body and was an appalling affront to the Commission’s credibility. It was high time that the Commission considered some sort of preventative mechanism to bring an end once and for all to the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

SHIGERU ENDO (Japan) said the killing of Sheik Yassin could not be justified, and gave no consideration to the full consequences. It was profoundly regrettable, as it gravely impaired the realization of peace, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights. The murder would not only exacerbate the cycle of hatred and violence, it would also impact the entire Middle East region negatively, and therefore this act was condemned by Japan. The Government of Japan strongly urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint in order to prevent further deterioration of the situation, and encouraged both sides to exercise their initiative to calm the situation and resume dialogue immediately.

SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was a crime that would only lead to further escalation, violence and instability in the region. It was another crime against the Palestinian people and a clear violation of all norms and international conventions. The policy of assassination which led only to more escalation and violence was totally rejected. Security and stability would not be achieved until Israel withdrew from the occupied Palestinian territories, returned to the negotiations and adhered to the principles of a comprehensive and just peace. The international community should assume its responsibility in bringing the peace process back on track and help spare the region from the violence. Work would continue to revive the Middle East peace plan, the Road Map, and help the Palestinians to end the Israeli occupation of their lands and establish their own viable State.

DHARAR ABDUL-RAZZAK RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said that the Commission had agreed to this special sitting in order to consider a serious subject with negative consequences – the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and a number of his colleagues. Among the negative consequences of the event, he warned that it could only contribute to a deterioration of the situation and further terror.

GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon) said the targeted assassination of a Palestinian spiritual and political leader by Israel was a criminal act of grave implications that affected not only the Middle East but international peace and security. It also set a new code of conduct in international relations based on liquidation and extra-judicial executions. The killing of the Sheikh as well as the Israeli practices posed a serious threat, as they jeopardized the rules that insured a minimum of understanding in an already troubled world. Violence bred violence, undermined the prospects of just and comprehensive peace, yet left Israel with no other choice than peace, and to legally and practically acknowledge the Palestinian people and mainly their right to live in a viable, independent and sovereign state with dignity and pride.

ABDARAHMAN BEAMRAN (Libya) said his Government firmly condemned the assassination of Sheik Ahmad Yassin and his colleagues and said it was State terrorism perpetrated by Israel. While Israel claimed it was working to reach peace and security, it was doing the opposite and must return to the negotiating table to return peace to the region. The Palestinian people deserved independence and Sheikh Yassin had been a symbol of independence for his people.

RAJMAH HUSSAIN (Malaysia) expressed Malaysia’s deep shock and concern at the news of the assassination by Israeli forces of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the Palestinian spiritual leader of Hamas. Malaysia was concerned that the cold-blooded assassination would further heighten tensions in the region, escalate the cycle of deadly violence and further jeopardize the implementation of what was already a very fragile Quartet’s Road Map towards a permanent two-State solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The act of extrajudicial assassination of the political leadership of the Palestinian people was not an act of self-defence as claimed by Israel, but was tantamount to an at of State terrorism, which could not be condoned, either by the most powerful country in the world or indeed by any other country. The act shamelessly disregarded international law and the principles of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said he firmly condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. This heinous crime could only lead to the further escalation of violence and would further impede the peace process. The spiritual leader’s death would only lead to chaos. Furthermore, targeted assassinations would not be able to provide Israel with security. It was the responsibility of the international community as a whole to act more firmly to relaunch the peace process.

LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA GÓNGORA (Mexico) said his country regretted the actions taken by the Israeli army which had resulted in the loss of Sheikh Yassin. Mexico believed these actions broke down the necessary political conditions needed to put an end to escalating violence and to ensure peace in the region. It recognized the right to the self-determination of the Palestinian people, urged the international community to apply the Road Map, and urged the parties not to take unilateral decisions that placed obstacles in front of the road to peace. Societies had the right to live in peace. The protection of the rule of law and respect for human rights was essential to eradicate these acts. The Security Council must take a stance against international terrorism and the international community must continue together to endow the United Nations to guarantee that human rights and fundamental freedoms must be recognized fully

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said his country strongly condemned the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yasssin and other civilians by Israel. This would have dangerous consequences that would destabilize further the region. Morocco rejected violence and everyone should return to the negotiating table. It was the responsibility of the international community to condemn Israeli acts. Violence could not give security to Israel, and would increase the tension in the region. The physical liquidation of political leaders and individuals was incompatible with the human rights that the international community was advocating for. In cooperation with the parties concerned, measures should be taken so that Israel withdrew from the territories it occupied and allowed the Palestinian people to create their own State with Jerusalem as its capital.

JILLIAN DEMPSTER (New Zealand) said the use of extra-judicial killings by a State was particularly abhorrent. Assassinations such as the extra-judicial killing of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin clearly violated the norms of international human rights law. Not only that, but they did not achieve their stated goal, were counter-productive to peace efforts in the Middle East, and would likely only produce further violence. The assassination further damaged the already slender prospects for peace. New Zealand condemned terrorist activities, and called on the Palestinian leadership to take tangible steps to demonstrate its commitment to stopping extremists from committing such acts. Tactics such as this assassination simply further fed the cycle of violence and undermined the position of those on both sides who sought a durable, negotiated resolution to the dispute. Israel should cease the policy of targeted assassinations, and leaders on both sides should take action to break the escalating cycle of incident and response that was eroding the prospects of the Road Map.

ABDUL BIN RIMDAP (Nigeria) said that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin had been a great shock. Nigeria rejected terrorism in all its forms, including State-sponsored terrorism. It joined other States in their determination to combat this threat to international peace and security. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was locked in a cycle of violence. Killings on both sides could not continue forever. The international community must help both sides to move toward peace, based on the Quartet’s Road Map. The parties must return to the negotiating table. Affirming his intention to vote for the draft resolution, he said Nigeria would continue to consistently oppose all forms of terrorism.

AHMED MOHAMED MASOUD AL-RIYAMI (Oman) said the session demonstrated a greater awareness of the rights of the Palestinian people which was very important. These acts committed by Israel should be seen as deplorable acts which trampled on the most fundamental rights, including the Geneva Conventions. A firm decision must be taken to put an end to these acts.

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said that some delegations had questioned the necessity of the special sitting. The Organization of the Islamic Conference was also of the view that it might not be needed if Israel had stopped its acts of violence, and the killing and liquidation of Palestinian political leaders and civilian population. Through its occupation, Israel had continued to commit flagrant crimes against the Palestinian people. It was that situation and the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin that had prompted the holding of this special sitting.

FAHD AL-THANI (Qatar) said that his country had deplored and condemned the barbarous acts committed by Israel in the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. That crime demonstrated the repression and oppression of Israel’s policy against the Palestinian people and represented Israel’s determination to undermine the peace process. The international community must act to bring such acts to an end and to protect the Palestinian people and their leaders. Finally, the Palestinian people should be reassured of the international community’s solidarity with their cause of realizing their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

VLADIMIR PARSHIKOV (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation supported the proposal to hold the special sitting since it was concerned about the worsening situation in the Middle East in general. The recent acts committed by Israel were a serious threat to the Road Map to peace and these acts of violence would nullify every effort taken by the Quartet. Both parties must show restraint and a high level of responsibility to commit themselves to peace. The Russian Federation would also vote in favour of the proposed draft resolution of the Security Council condemning all acts of terrorism including those committed recently by Israel.

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that Israel had no use for the resolutions adopted by this august Commission, nor for the Geneva Conventions. The assassination of Sheikh Yassin was a crime. Israel also tortured detainees and prisoners in contravention of international law. The international community was urged to put an end to such crimes, including that committed against Sheikh Yassin. This criminal act must be deplored in this forum. Otherwise, the Commission risked losing its credibility. Full solidarity with the sufferings of the Palestinian people must also be expressed.

OUSMANE CAMARA (Senegal), endorsing the statements made by Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and by the Republic of the Congo, on behalf of the African Group, expressed his concern on the escalation of violence in the Middle East, with the latest trigger being the assassination of the historic Palestinian leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, by Israeli forces. In the face of that barbaric act of flagrant violation of human rights, the Senegalese people expressed their profound indignation and condemnation. Senegal, which presided over the UN Committee on the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, expressed once against its total solidarity with the martyrdom of Palestinian people and would support the draft resolution tabled before the Commission.

DUDU KHOSA (South Africa) said that her country condemned the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of Hamas. Such extra-judicial killings constituted a contravention of international law and relevant United Nations conventions, and only strengthened those not committed to achieving peace in the Middle East. Such acts could only lead to retaliation and counter-retaliation, further eroding any progress being made in the implementation of the Road Map. South Africa reiterated its position that the only way to end violence and extra-judicial acts was to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, and for both parties to the conflict to enter into unconditional negotiations. The United Nations and international community were also called upon to act decisively to create the conditions for the two-State solution. Continued Israeli occupation, the destruction of infrastructure and collective punishments and assassination would only make the realization of such a solution more difficult.

SARALA M. FERNADO (Sri Lanka) said extra judicial killings were in contravention to international law and should be condemned in no uncertain terms by peace-loving countries. Terrorism brought immense pain to innocent civilians, broke social systems, generated hatred and darkened the future of the generations to be born. For a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict, all parties should exercise restraint and refrain from any form of violence, as these only contributed to diminish hopes for a lasting peace. It was hoped that Palestine and Israel would continue to honour their commitments and further the progress towards achieving a lasting solution in the negotiations based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and other peace initiatives.

MOHAMED ELHASSAN AHMED ELHAJ (Sudan) said the situation in Palestine was the focus of the world’s attention. The international community must help the Palestinian people achieve their self-determination. The act committed on 22 March was just one element of Israel’s strategy aimed to liquidate Palestinian leaders and the international community must commit itself to putting an end to the violence. Sudan supported the draft resolution and called on others to do so.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) deplored that Israel did not respect its international obligations and that it continued to practice, despite international condemnation, a policy of summary killings and extrajudicial executions and other violence. In addition, the Israeli forces used disproportionate means of force and had caused victims among the civilian population. In the name of the principles of international laws, Switzerland also condemned the acts of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian armed groups, which were one of the abject means of indiscriminate killings directed against the Israeli civilians. The Palestinian Authority was called to show its determination in the fight against and prevention of such acts. International humanitarian law, to which Switzerland attached great importance, implied the obligation to distinguish the civilian population from the combatants, as well as civilian property and military objectives.

HUSSAM-EDIN A’ALA (Syrian Arab Republic) said that he deplored the criminal action of Israel in killing Sheikh Yassin upon his emergence from the mosque. This was one in a series of actions of destruction, feeding into a litany of crimes by Israel against the Palestinian people. Israel’s actions constituted flagrant flouting of international law and all international institutions were bound to condemn such crimes and punish Israel. The world must listen to the voices raised on the streets of the Arab world. The United Nations and the international community must fulfil their responsibilities toward the Palestinians. His country would support the draft resolution.

HABIB MANSOUR (Tunisia) said Tunisia deplored the acts which would be a prelude to the escalation of violence in the region. It called on the international community to adopt a firm position to ensure that international laws were respected in this regard. A few hours before the assassination, the President of Tunisia had made a statement calling on the two parties to commit themselves to peace.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said that his country’s commitment to individual freedom and democracy provided the foundation for its society. Across the globe, the United States stood with those who fought for fundamental freedoms and brought this commitment to the Commission on Human Rights. Noting that the Commission’s agenda was already full and that several agenda items, of which Israel was the focus, contained one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions, he said there was already sufficient opportunity to address issues of Israeli conduct within the existing agenda. In fact, there was more than sufficient opportunity. The focus of an entire agenda item on the castigation of only one country without any discussion of those promoting terror and violence was wrong. It was important for all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to remain focused on measures to bring the violence and terror to an end.

Noting that the Quartet had met on Monday in Cairo, he said the international community must remain focused on achieving the peace sought by all. There should be no detours; one-sided unbalanced resolutions could only detract from Quartet efforts. Finally, he said, this was not the time to consider this matter, nor the forum. The United States was dismayed to see the Commission taking up an issue of which the Security Council was presently seized. The Council had the primary responsibility for such questions. The United States’ commitment to the two-State vision was reiterated and both sides were called upon to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities thereunder.

BLANCANIEVE PORTOCARRERO (Venezuela) said that the Commission’s decision to hold the special sitting was appropriate. The Palestinian people were at present suffering from occupation and violence by Israel. The Government of Venezuela had already issued a communiqué condemning the assassination of Sheik Ahmad Yassin. The Government fully expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. The conflict in the Middle East should be resolved through peaceful negotiation and not by violence.

MANAF AL-SALAHI (Yemen) said his country condemned the escalating Israeli policies which had taken a dangerous turn with the assassination of last week which was a clear violation of international norms and laws. This act may bring the region into spiralling violence. The peace process as a whole had reached a stalemate and it would be difficult for the peace process to be revived unless the international community pursued the road to peace in a strict way.

MAJID TRAMBOZ, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (speaking on behalf of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; December twelfth Movement International Secretariat; International Indian Treaty Council; North-South XXI; African Society of International and Comparative Law; International Association against Torture; International Educational Development; Comité international pour le respect et l’application de la charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples; African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters; World Muslim Congress; International Islamic Federation of Students Organizations)  said that the non-governmental organizations condemned the assassination of Sheikh Yassin as a violation of the Geneva Conventions. They also condemned the systematic policy of extra-judicial and summary executions employed by Israel as its policy of State terrorism in general. They condemned the de facto impunity that the United Nations had conferred on Israel which, without suffering any penalty, had ignored resolutions from various United Nations bodies over the years. Moreover, they expressed their support for a peaceful method of resolving the conflict in Palestine.

FRAUKE DE KORT, Al Haq speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Al Haq; World Organization against Torture; International Commission of Jurists, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Norwegian People’s Aid; Habitat International Coalition), said that they were gravely concerned at the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. The groups condemned all attacks on civilians as violations of the right to life, whether State or non-state actors carried them out. Israel had a right to protect the security of its citizens in its territory. However, that should be exercised in accordance with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. As the need for the special sitting demonstrated, Israel was flagrantly disregarding those obligations through its policies and actions. Since the outbreak of the current Intifada in September 2000, Israeli security forces had extrajudicially executed over 200 Palestinians. Israel’s policy and actions were gross violations of both international human rights and humanitarian law. Its targeted policy of killings was also a grave breach of international humanitarian law.

LAZARO PARY ANAGUA, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”; Women’s International Democratic Federation; Federation of Cuban Women, Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos, World Peace Council; Centro de Estudios Europeos), said the long suffering of the Palestinian people had been exacerbated by last week’s acts by Israel which were a clear expression of State terrorism. These extra-judicial killings had taken place at a time when violent acts were being perpetrated worldwide; this act, and those like them, provided a challenge to human rights. How could Israel have the endorsement of the United States and of Western Governments? Israel has become the most dangerous State in the Middle East.

SHIMON SAMUELS, of Simon Wiesenthal Congress in a joint statement with International Association of Jewish Lawyers and jurists, Women’s International Zionist Organization; International Council of Jewish Women, said that everyone present in the room knew who the real Sheikh Yassin had been; the contrast between his physical image and his enormous political influence was astonishing and had been used by him for even greater impact. Hamas would survive Yassin, continuing to seek the destruction of the State of Israel and to infect young minds with a culture of death, violence and hate. The removal of Yassin was an act of war, as terrorism was ipso facto a form of war demanding countermeasures. The special sitting constituted another example of single-State bashing and holding Israel to double standards. No such session had been called to sanction the targeted assassination of United Nations High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello.

DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, recalled that it was 15 years ago that a member of his group had alerted the Commission to the Hamas charter of hate and death. The 20-page Hamas covenant, dated 18 August 1988, was a blatant blueprint for genocide. Its aims were clearly defined in article 8 under the slogan “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution; jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes”. Article 7 was explicitly genocidal: Hamas aspired to implement Allah’s promise, whatever time that might take. The Prophet, Allah blessed him and grant him salvation, had said that “The day would not come about until the Muslims would fight the Jews, until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees”. It was time for the condemnation of the direct and public incitement to commit genocide — inspired by the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said the convening of the special sitting constituted yet another egregious example of the unending pattern and practice of discrimination by the Commission against one State. The plight of millions of victims worldwide would go ignored to make time for this transparent political maneuver. The United Nations was not practicing equality when, out of 192 Member States, only one was singled out, year after year, for differential and discriminatory treatment, nor was the Commission practicing equality in granting immunity from censure to Syria, Iran and China – all repressive regimes. Was it truly necessary to have a Special Sitting to beat Israel when virtually the entire sixtieth session of the Commission had already been exactly that?

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