Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady Nasser, First Secretary, before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), Item 89: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, 54th Session, 11 October 1999: 

Mr. Chairman,

              I thank you and extend to you my delegation’s congratulations upon your chairmanship of this important Committee. 

I wish to begin by expressing my delegation’s appreciation to the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, Ambassador John de Saram of Sri Lanka, as well as to his colleagues on the Committee, Ambassador Absa Claude Diallo of Senegal and Ambassador Hasmy Agam of Malaysia, for their efforts in carrying out the duties of the Committee throughout the reporting period under review. 

However, I must once more express regret that the valuable reports of the Committee have again been subject to delay, depriving delegations of sufficient time for thorough consideration.  This agenda item continues to be of great importance to my delegation and, we believe, to the international community as well, and the timely distribution of documents in this regard is necessary for an informed and constructive debate on the matter.

 Mr. Chairman,

              As we approach the eve of the 21st century, the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the lamentable condition of the Palestinian people continue to define and scar the landscape of the Middle East region that for decades has been burdened with constant conflict.  In resolution 53/53 of 3 December 1998, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices was requested by the General Assembly, “pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli lack of compliance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949…”.  Accordingly, the Special Committee’s mandate clearly continues to be relevant and its work must continue until the Israeli occupation is brought to a definitive end.  

Mr. Chairman, 

            There has been recent progress on the Palestinian-Israeli track of the Middle East peace process.  With the new Israeli government, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was concluded on 4 September 1999.   The Memorandum aims at the implementation of all the obligations of the interim period, in accordance with the Declaration of Principles and subsequent interim agreements, as well as of the Wye River Memorandum and the Hebron Protocol, and the resumption of the final settlement negotiations, which in fact began on 13 September 1999.  However, violations by Israel of international law and international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as of relevant United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, continue.

 During the reporting period, the occupying Power continued to commit numerous violations and breaches of international law in the occupied territory. The aggregation of these policies and practices continued to cause countless hardships to the Palestinian people, aggravating their poor living conditions and in many cases impeding genuine economic development. Israel’s frequent use of collective punishment, in violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people, included the demolition of homes, the imposition of closures, curfews and other restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods. The imposition of administrative detentions and the harassment, physical maltreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners also persisted. 

However, among the most incessant of the violations committed throughout the reporting period are those involving Israel’s illegal colonial settlement campaign in the occupied territory. As we speak, illegal settlement activities are being carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, by the Israeli authorities.  These illegal practices and measures encompass innumerable violations of international law and international humanitarian law, such as the confiscation of land and property for the building of settlements and bypass roads, the exploitation and theft of natural resources and the transfer of more Israeli settlers into the occupied territory. The violence perpetrated by extremist settlers is another outgrowth of these illegal activities.

 Israel’s practices and measures with regard to the illegal settlements are clearly part of its ongoing attempt to change the status of the occupied territory or parts of it and to change the demographic composition of the territory by creating facts on the ground.  In particular, this has been an integral part of the overall Israeli campaign to judaize Occupied East Jerusalem by making changes to its legal status, character and demographic composition.   In short, settlement activities are not only illegal, they are also in violation of the agreements reached between the two sides and their continuity will destroy the peace process.

 Mr. Chairman,

 All of the above-mentioned Israeli practices are in serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, which is applicable to all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.  There exists an established international consensus on the applicability of this Convention to all the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, as well as to all the other Arab territories occupied by Israel in 1967.  This applicability has been reaffirmed in 25 U.N. Security Council resolutions and in a multitude of resolutions of the General Assembly and other bodies of the United Nations.  The crux of the 4th Geneva Convention is to protect the civilian population, individually and collectively, “who at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or occupying Power of which they are not nationals” (Art. 4) and is applicable “in all cases of partial or total occupation” (Art. 2).

 In this connection, I would like to recall the recent convening of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1.  This Conference was convened in accordance with the recommendations of the 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, which resumed once more during the reporting period under consideration to address once more illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  For the first time in the history of the Convention, a Conference to consider a specific situation was held.

 In this regard, the statement issued by the Conference stated, inter alia, that “the participating High Contracting Parties reaffirmed the applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” and “reiterated the need for full respect for the provisions of the said Convention in that Territory.”  Further, it is significant that the High Contracting Parties adjourned the Conference “on the understanding that it will convene again in light of consultations on the development of the humanitarian situation in the field.” 

We believe that the convening of this Conference represents an extremely important step not only with regard to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, but also with regard to international humanitarian law and the efforts to ensure respect for, and compliance with, its instruments.  The international community should fervently strive to ensure universal respect for international law and international humanitarian law in all circumstances and in all cases.  In this regard, we reiterate once again in this forum that it is imperative that the Israeli government accept the de jure applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention and fully respect and comply with its provisions. 

Mr. Chairman,

              It remains our deep hope that progress will continue and that the prevailing situation will soon change.  However, we cannot expect the peace process to progress unharmed as long as Israel continues to violate international law, international humanitarian law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.  Progress in the peace process and a genuine improvement in the living conditions and the situation of the human rights of the Palestinian people are dependent upon Israel’s respect of these instruments and its compliance with its contractual obligations under the agreements reached.

              We once again express regret with regard to the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices during this past reporting period.  As stressed earlier, the work of this Committee remains important. Its functioning remains part and parcel of the work of the United Nations as it carries out its permanent responsibility toward the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects. It is therefore our hope that the resolutions under this agenda item will receive deserved support from all delegations.  I thank you, Mr. Chairman.