High Commissioner for Human Rights Reports on Visit to
Occupied Palestinian Territory
On 17 October 2000, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights
convened its 5th Special Session to consider the severe
deterioration of the human rights situation of the Palestinian people
since 28 September, due to continuing human rights violations by Israel.
On 19 October, the Commission adopted resolution S-5/1, in which it
decided, inter alia, to request the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights (UNHCHR), Ms. Mary Robinson, "to undertake an urgent visit to
the occupied territories to take stock of violations of the human rights
of the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupying Power."
The mandate of the UNHCHR requires her to, inter
alia, promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of all human
rights; enhance international cooperation for the promotion and protection
of human rights; and engage in dialogue with all Governments with a view
to securing respect for all human rights. Accordingly, High Commissioner
Robinson undertook an important and timely mission to the region from 8-16
November 2000 to urgently examine the human rights situation of the
Palestinian people. During that mission, she visited the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, after which she issued a
Throughout her visit High Commissioner Robinson met with
various individuals and official representatives, including governmental,
NGO and U.N. officials, to discuss the recent deterioration of the human
rights situation of the Palestinian people. During her visit to the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, she also visited a hospital, refugee
camps, schools and sites affected by the ongoing violence and viewed
illegal Israeli settlements as well as Israeli military installations. In
addition to hearing the views of several hundred people, the High
Commissioner received written submissions and briefs, all of which were
considered in preparation of her report.
The following are excerpts from various sections of the
report of the UNHCHR:
- "The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories
is bleak. The civilian population feels besieged by a stronger power
prepared to use its superior force against demonstrations and
stonethrowing by adolescents… At each meeting in the occupied
Palestinian territories pleas for international protection or for some
form of international monitoring presence were voiced."
- "In the occupied Palestinian territories, discussions concerning the
present crisis and its impact on human rights were linked to the reality
of the occupation itself. That reality was described by Palestinians as
one of grinding, petty humiliations, discrimination and inequalities,
which were ultimately dehumanizing."
- "Particular areas of concern with regard to recent developments
included: excessive and disproportionate use of force, including alleged
attacks on medical personnel; the arbitrary destruction of property; the
effects on Palestinian residents of Israeli settlement activity,
including restrictions on freedom of movement; the serious economic
impact on the residents of the occupied territories; the violations of
the human rights of children; and restrictions on access to humanitarian
- "An effective closure of the occupied territories has been applied
since the beginning of October and the movement of the population there
continues to be heavily restricted."
- "According to the Office of the U.N. Special Coordinator,
[Palestinian] unemployment has tripled since the beginning of October,
which translates into a loss of household income of some 10 to 11
million dollars per day."
High Commissioner Robinson’s report ended with several
conclusions and recommendations, some of the most important of which are
- "Mindful of the urgent and widespread calls for international
protection made to her during her visit to the occupied territories, the
High Commissioner believes that every effort should be made to explore
the feasibility of establishing an international monitoring presence."
- "The High Commissioner recalls that the General Assembly and the
Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly reaffirmed the de jure
applicability of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the
Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to the occupied
Palestinian territories. Article 1 of the Convention places a duty on
all the High Contracting Parties ‘to respect and to ensure respect’ of
the provisions of the Convention ‘in all circumstances’. It would be
appropriate for the High Contracting Parties to assume their
responsibility under the Convention."
- "The construction of new settlements should cease and those located
in heavily populated Palestinian areas should be removed. As well as
protecting settlers, the Israeli security forces should also protect
Palestinians from violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers."
- "Compensation should be provided to the victims of unlawful use of
force, including for the loss of property."
- "The enjoyment of economic rights within the occupied Palestinian
territories, including the right to development, should be protected."
- "All holy sites and access to them by all faiths should be
- "The Israeli authorities should ensure freedom of movement of
international and national staff of U.N. agencies and facilitate access
by them to those in need of assistance."
- "Cooperation with the U.N. agencies is vital to ensure effective
humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territories."
This report of the UNHCHR is considered a very important
and revealing document. It is strongly hoped by the Palestinian side that
the report will be taken into serious consideration by the concerned
parties, particularly by the U.N. Security Council during its
deliberations regarding the establishment of a monitoring force to protect
Palestinian civilians at a time when their lives have been endangered
daily by the violent actions of the Israeli occupying