U.N. International Meeting on 15th of July Conference on Geneva Convention Held in Cairo

The United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem was held in Cairo, Egypt from 14 to 15 June 1999. The Meeting was organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) for the purpose of considering important issues with regard to the upcoming Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is scheduled for 15 July 1999 in Geneva.

The plenary discussions of the U.N. Meeting in Cairo focused on the serious matter of continuous Israeli grave breaches, breaches and violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The panels and presentations were arranged with a view towards considering enforcement measures and developing possible options for outcomes of the upcoming Geneva Conference.

Participants in the Meeting represented a variety of governmental and intergovernmental institutions and other international organizations and included several experts in international law and human rights issues. The first statement delivered at the opening session of the Meeting, on 14 June, was by H.E. Mr. Sayd El-Masry, Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt. He participated in the capacity as representative of the Host Country for the Meeting. The opening session was then addressed by the following: Mr. Chinmaya Gharekhan, Under-Secretary-General and U.N. Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, in the capacity as representative of the Secretary-General of the U.N.; a statement read on behalf of H.E. Dr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguene Ka, Chairman of the CEIRPP; and H.E. Dr. Nabil Shaath, Minister for Planning and International Cooperation of the Palestinian National Authority, in the capacity as representative of Palestine. These statements were followed by an hour of general statements made by various representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies.

The afternoon session of that day consisted of presentations by experts in Plenary I, which addressed "Violations by Israel, the occupying Power, of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem." Presentations were made by H.E. Mr. Taher Shash, Legal Advisor to the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Former Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Cairo; Mr. Farouk Abu Eissa, Secretary-General of the Arab Lawyers Union in Cairo; Dr. Jordan Paust, Professor of Law from the University of Houston; and Mr. Mazin Qupty, Attorney-at-Law from Jerusalem. The presentations made during this session were comprehensive, providing an informative background on Israeli violations of the Convention and the implications concerning international law.

The following day, Plenary II was held on "Enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention". This plenary session also involved presentations by several experts. The experts included: Mr. Khader Shkirat, Director of LAW - the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment in Jersualem; Ms. Miranda Joubert, Advocate from the Legal Affairs Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Pretoria, South Africa; Mr. David Delparaz, Head of the ICRC delegation in Cairo; Dr. Ali Ibrahim, Professor of International Law from Ein-Shams University in Cairo; Mr. Farouk Garfe Jarufe, Lawyer, Professor of International Law from Catholic University of Valparaiso in Chile; and H.E. Dr. Hussein A. Hassouna, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the U.N. The session focused on the obligations and capabilities of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, in accordance with common article 1 and under international law, regarding possible measures to enforce the Convention and ensure its respect by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

The third plenary was held during the afternoon session of 15 June. Plenary III was entitled "The Upcoming Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Measures to Enforce the Convention, Geneva, 15 July 1999 – Possible Outcomes". As clearly indicated by the title, the expert presentations during this plenary mainly discussed viable outcomes of the July Conference. Such preliminary discussions prior to the Conference were considered to be very important by the organizers and participants of the Cairo Meeting. The panelists who made presentations during Plenary III included: Dr. Paul Tavergnier, Professor from the University of International Law (Paris XI) and Director of the Research and Studies Center of Human Rights in Paris; Dr. Ahmed Hassan Al-Rashedi, Professor of International Law from the Faculty of Economic and Political Science of Ein-Shams University in Cairo; H.E. Mr. Akh Morshed, Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh; Dr. Hilaire McCoubrey, Director of Postgraduate Affairs of Hull University Law School in the United Kingdom; and Dr. William A. Schabas, Senior Fellow from the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., Professor of International Human Rights Law at Quebec University in Montreal.

The closing session of the Meeting was held in the evening on the 15th after completion of the third plenary. H.E. Mr. Sayd El-Masry, representative of the Host Country, once again addressed the meeting and H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguene Ka, Chairman of the CEIRPP, closed the Meeting. Prior to his statement, however, concluding remarks were made by H.E. Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., whose statement emphasized the Palestinian position and goals regarding the upcoming Geneva Conference.

The two-day Meeting concluded with the issuing of a "Final Document", which summarized the important points raised by the participants in the Meeting with respect to the forthcoming Conference in July and the Fourth Geneva Convention in general as it applies to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The following are some of the main points emphasized by the participants, as detailed in the Final Document: (The texts below are verbatim excerpts.)

  • The participants were unanimous in their view that the Palestinian people had been subjected to flagrant violations of their basic human rights as well as their rights as protected persons under Israeli occupation.
  • The participants expressed their utmost concern at the continuing settlement activities, which include illegal land confiscations, transfer of Israeli citizens to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, in clear violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • The participants reaffirmed the existing international consensus on the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem…
  • The participants appealed to all the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations in accordance with common article 1, which requires the High Contracting Parties to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances.
  • The participants strongly supported the convening of the Conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, as recommended in General Assembly resolutions ES-10/3, 4, and 5. They also strongly supported that the High Contracting Parties convene the said Conference on 15 July 1999 at the U.N. Office at Geneva in accordance with General Assembly resolution ES-10/6.
  • The participants called upon the High Contracting Parties to strive for concrete results by the Conference to be incorporated in a declaration or a resolution or both.
  • The Conference should emphasize the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to ensure respect for the Convention. It should reaffirm, among others, the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.
  • The participants called upon the High Contracting Parties participating in the Conference to establish a follow-up mechanism…to ensure the full application of the Convention.

[For the full text of the Final Document please visit our web site.]