U.N. Human Rights Commission of Inquiry Reports on Israeli Violations

In November 2000, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, mandated by resolution S-5/1 (19 October 2000) of the 5th Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory to examine the situation of Israeli violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. Also pursuant to that resolution, a Commission of Inquiry was established, which was comprised of Mr. John Dugard, Mr. Richard Falk and Mr. Kamal Hossein. On 28 March 2001, the Commission of Inquiry presented a report to the 57th Session of the CHR, meeting in Geneva. The Commissionís report, which was very critical of Israelís use of military force against the civilian Palestinian population under its occupation, included several conclusions and recommendations.

Presenting the report following the Commissionís visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Commission President Dugard stated that they found Israelís use of force to indeed be disproportionate to the threat posed to it. The Israeli forces were guilty of using excessive force against civilians, both demonstrators and bystanders, from the very outset of the second intifada and particularly against juveniles. He stressed that the suffering imposed upon the Palestinian people had been orchestrated with military precision by a vastly superior force, equipped with the most advanced military technology.

Moreover, he stated that the Commission did not accept that a State party to the 4th Geneva Convention could unilaterally categorize a conflict or situation in such a way that the constraints of humanitarian law were abandoned and the resolutions of the Security Council were ignored. As such, the Commission recommended the establishment of an international presence in the region to monitor compliance by all parties with human rights norms and international humanitarian law standards. The Commission found no justification for the refusal to establish such a presence in a territory that had once been under international mandate and was entitled to international assistance in the achievement of full statehood.

The Commissionís other conclusions and recommendations included, inter alia, the following:

  • A durable peace must come through negotiations that would end the occupation.

  • The High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention should reconvene in conference, on an urgent basis, to establish an effective international mechanism for ensuring the Convention is applied in the occupied territories.

  • The targeted shooting of individuals by the IDF or by settlers or sharpshooters of either side amounts to extrajudicial execution.

  • The blockade imposed by Israel had exacerbated the living conditions of Palestinians, severely affecting the Palestinian economy and leaving thousands unemployed. The blockade had also seriously affected the Palestinian health, educational and sanitary systems.

  • Israeli imposed closures, curfews and other restrictions on the movement of people and goods should be immediately ended. Medical relief and treatment should not be impeded.

  • The Commission should establish a "high profile periodic monitoring and reporting undertaking" to consider the degree to which the recommendations of the report are implemented.

During the meeting, a message was also delivered by the CHR "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories", Giorgio Giacomelli. He briefly discussed a report he submitted to the CHR updating his October 2000 report to the 5th Special Session. The update focused on the continuing use by the Israeli military of disproportionate and unrestrained force in the form of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas against civilians. This excessive use of force, the Special Rapporteur reported, had dramatically increased the Palestinian civilian death toll and injuries since 28 September 2000. The report also focused on the critical impact that ongoing Israeli policies have had on the Palestinian economic sector. In this regard, he indicated that, according to U.N. statistics, the Palestinian poverty rate had steeply increased since September.

High Commissioner Robinson also addressed the meeting, presenting her report of her visit to the region. She noted that the human rights situation in the occupied territories had worsened since her trip and expressed grave concern over the continuing use of excessive force by Israel. While recognizing that many Israelis believed their security was under serious threat and that they had also suffered losses, she stated that the long-running occupation had caused extensive physical and psychological damage to the Palestinians, who suffered grave losses of life, severe injuries, destruction of property and economic losses. In concluding, Mrs. Robinson called for an end to the cycle of violence and urged both sides to return to the path of peace.

Several delegations, including Palestine, made statements following the presentation of the above-mentioned reports. Regrettably, the statement made by the U.S. representative harshly and rudely attacked the High Commissioner and the work of the CHR as being biased and unfair.