Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Item 110: Human rights questions, 51st Session, 22 November 1996:

Madame Chairperson,

My delegation believes that agenda item 110 represents an issue of great importance to the whole human family.

One of the major problems facing the international community, which must be seriously and urgently addressed, is the failure to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and various other human rights instruments have made it clear that the promotion and protection of human rights is a duty of all states. They also considered the promotion, protection and realization of these rights, as well as promotion of the right to development, to be basic elements necessary for the establishment of peace, prosperity and justice in any society. The challenges facing us today require the transformation of the ideals and outcomes of these conferences and instruments into concrete action. The implementation of the various programs of action adopted will be the real test of the strength of our commitment in this regard.

Madame Chairperson,

The worst human rights violations are those human rights violations committed collectively against a whole people or a group, race or ethnicity. In the forefront of these is the imposition of foreign occupation, deprivation of the right to self-determination, different forms of collective punishment and the seizure of a people's natural resources and wealth. All of the above are an accurate description of the violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying Power. Imagine a people under foreign military occupation, with foreigners being brought in under armed protection, confiscating their land and implanting alien buildings, stealing the water and going around with their guns terrorizing the people, all with the aim, at the end of the 20th Century, of colonizing that land. This is happening to us, and it is only one aspect of the collective human rights violations committed against our people.

Madame Chairperson,

Add to the above all kinds of individual human rights violations carried out against the Palestinian people: detention, imprisonment, summary executions, assassination, obstruction of movement and obstruction of means of livelihood. All of these constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law. Further, such policies and practices lead only to dangerous consequences adversely affecting the peace process and threatening its existence. However, I will refrain from discussing any further details in this regard as all of the above is essentially addressed within the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee) under agenda item 85: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

This matter is also being dealt with in the Commission of Human Rights during the discussions of the "Report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967", submitted by the Special Rapporteur. It is shameful, however, that Israel has consistently refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. Allow me to take this opportunity to indicate the readiness of the Palestinian side to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. At the same time, we stress that it is imperative for the Rapporteur to remain within the mandate given to him by the Commission. Israel remains the occupying Power and the Fourth Geneva Convention remains applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.

Madame Chairperson,

With the beginning of the peace process and the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, all of us had hoped, and actually believed, that this repulsive image of human rights violations would be put behind us or, at least, would disappear quickly. Unfortunately, reality is different. Nevertheless, our people have not given up on the peace process. We remain committed to it and we continue to hope that soon the impasse will end and the situation on the ground will change drastically and positively and that, accordingly, the Palestinian people will begin to experience a genuine change in their human rights situation and thus in their living conditions. This is the path that will bring the peace process to fruition and lead to a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I thank you, Madame Chairperson.