Update on Efforts to Reconvene Conference of High Contracting Parties

Efforts continue regarding the calls for reconvening the Conference of the High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. These efforts began with a request by the League of Arab States in Geneva to reconvene the Conference, as well as at the invitation of the General Assembly in resolution ES-10/7 (20 October 2000) of the 10th emergency special session for the depositary "to consult on the developments in the humanitarian situation in the field… with the aim of ensuring respect for the Convention in all circumstances in accordance with common article 1 of the four Conventions". In response, Switzerland, in its capacity as depositary of the Conventions, conducted consultations with the High Contracting Parties, which began with a note in late 2000.

In late March, Switzerland sent another diplomatic note to the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, which included a summary report on the steps taken and the developments thus far on the issue. This included an update regarding the replies received by the Swiss from the High Contracting Parties in response to previous notes requesting their views on whether they deemed such a meeting appropriate and on the objectives of a new meeting of the Conference. The responses received were summarized in the report as follows:

  • "Numerous States supporting the reconvening of the Conference or not opposing it, have expressed their concern about the worsening humanitarian situation and the loss of life in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Thus a very large number of replies indicate that the objective of a meeting of High Contracting Parties should be the improvement of the humanitarian situation in the filed. Some States take the view that the Conference, while reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, should ensure respect for the Convention (cf. Art. 1) in the occupied Palestinian Territories."

  • "A great number of States support the reconvening of the Conference without further conditions, some of them urging for an early date to be set."

  • "A significant number of States support the reconvening of the Conference in principle but expresses reservations with regard to the timing of such a meeting. Some of these States suggest that after a further period of reflection by all High Contracting Parties of possibly two months, the Depositary should again seek their views on the utility and possible timing of a Conference."

  • "Some States suggest that the question of reconvening the Conference should be considered as a subsidiary measure after present or foreseen use by the international community of other mechanisms following the same aim."

  • " A small number of States have expressed opposition with regard to the reconvening of the Conference. Some of these consider such a meeting to be counterproductive (with regard to humanitarian goals or peace efforts) and without a legal basis with the Fourth Geneva Convention."

As far as the Palestinian side understands, the small number of States expressing opposition were specifically 6, including of course Israel and the U.S. The other 4, unfortunately and suprisingly, were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. The significant number of States who suggested a further period of reflection of 2 months were basically the members of the European Union. Irrespective of the reason behind that position, the fact is that the 2 months have almost passed. That makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of the High Contracting Parties support the reconvening of the Conference at this stage.

In concluding its note, Switzerland indicated readiness to continue consultations with the Parties with a view to achieving the largest possible consensus on the timing, objectives and modalities of a possible reconvening of the Conference given the development of the humanitarian situation in the field. It is Palestine’s view, however, that all of this should have been achieved by now, and we now look forward to and anticipate the speedy reconvening of the Conference.