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Al-Rabat Conference on Palestinian Refugees: Press Release (CIHR) and Al-Rabat Declaration

CIHRS Press Release:

Human Rights Organizations Call for Expelling Israel from the United Nations

The Third International Conference of the Human Rights Movement in the Arab World called upon the League of Arab States to take the practical measures necessary for expelling Israel from the United Nations. This is based on Israel's violation of one of the conditions for accepting its membership to the UN in 1949, that is its failure to implement the UN Resolution 194 of 1948 that requires it to allow the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and to pay compensations.

This was part of the recommendations of the Rabat Declaration on the Rights of the Palestinian Refugees. The Rabat Declaration was adopted by the conference organized by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHRS), in coordination with the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, from 10 to 12 February 2001 in Rabat, Morocco.

The conference started with keynote addresses by Mr. Muhammad Ugar, the Moroccan Minister for Human Rights, and the representatives of the organizers. The inaugural session was chaired by Mr. Khaled el-Nassery, Chairman of the Arab League's Permanent Committee for Human Rights. The conference was attended by human rights organizations from 7 Arab countries and from Palestine of 1948, Arab and foreign experts, academics, jurists, officials, in addition to representatives of international human rights organizations, the United Nations, and Arab and foreign diplomats.

The conference discussed 13 papers on five themes. Four major international human rights organizations gave statements on their positions on the Palestinian refugees issue. They were: Amnesty International, The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, The International Federation for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch.

In its closing session, the Conference discussed the Rabat Declaration (attached) setting out the main recommendation. Moreover, the conference made three practical recommendations:

1- Charging the CIHRS with submitting the conference's recommendations as embodied in the Rabat Declaration to: the Secretary General of the Arab League, for presentation to the next Arab summit in March in Amman; the Secretary General of the United Nations; the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the United Nations Human Rights Commission; Sweden, in its capacity as the president of the European Union during this period; and the international human rights organization.

2- Calling upon the Palestinian organizations in the West Bank, Gaza and Palestine of 1948, to follow up the conference's recommendations, in coordination with the Arab networks in Europe and the United States concerned with the implementation of the right of return.

3- Calling upon the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Palestine, to continue its work for documenting all the information and documents pertaining to the refugees, in cooperation with the concerned organizations and networks.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies(CIHRS)
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Future of the Palestinian Refugees under the Current Political Settlement
The Third International Conference of the Human Rights Movement in the Arab World

The Rabat Declaration on the Rights of Palestinian Refugees

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), in cooperation with the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Human

Rights Network (EMHRN), with the participation of experts and representatives of Arab and international human rights organizations, and with generous facilitation from the Moroccan government, organized the Conference on the Future of the Palestinian Refugees under the Current Political Settlement/the Third International Conference of the Human Rights Movement in the Arab World from the 10th to the 12th of February, 2001, in Rabat, Morocco.

The participants,

Having reviewed the relevant international human rights declarations, conventions and covenants and the Casablanca Declaration issued by the First International Conference of the Human Rights Movement in the Arab World,

Having reviewed the papers presented to the Conference,

Having examined the tragic and inhuman conditions of the Palestinian refugees and displaced persons in the homeland and the Diaspora for more than fifty-two years,

Having considered Israel's intransigence and refusal to comply with the resolutions of international legality on the refugees' right to return and compensation, and the Israeli continuous practices of banishment, displacement and human rights violation,

Having considered the attempt by some international parties to circumvent the resolutions of international legality by suggesting permanent settlement in the host countries and compensation as an alternative to compelling Israel to comply with the will of the international community,

Decide to adopt the following declaration.

The Conference affirms that:

First: Israel bears full responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugees issue, through systematic expulsion, whether direct or indirect, massacres, killings, terror and intimidation. These acts are corroborated by Israeli documents as well as testimonies by some Israeli officials and historians. Israel bears the responsibility in full also because of its persistent rejection of the return of the Palestinian refugees.

Second: According to the UN General Assembly Resolution 194, the Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homes and property is a personal right for every individual and a collective right for the refugees as a whole. No one is to be authorized to conclude any agreement that denies refugees, individually or collectively, their right of return.

Furthermore, the establishment of the Palestinian state, or a refugee's acquiring of another nationality, does not deny refugees the right to return to their own towns and villages.

Third: Compensation for property usurped and for the grave psychological, economic and social suffering of Palestinians for more than fifty-two years is not an alternative to the enforcement of the right of return. Indeed, as the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 sets out, compensation should be paid in addition to return.

Fourth: Any political settlement that does not ensure the rights of the Palestinian refugees will not lead to a lasting, comprehensive peace in the region. The Conference reaffirms that the international community bears the main responsibility for enforcing resolutions adopted by its institutions concerning the Palestinian people's enjoyment of their right to self-determination, the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and providing them with international protection until their return.

Fifth: Pending the implementation of the Palestinian refugees' right of return, they must enjoy their human rights to the full, namely their civil, social, economic and cultural rights, in the (temporary) Arab host countries. The Conference further reaffirms that safeguarding these rights is not the same as permanent settlement in host countries, which is rejected by Palestinians and Arabs in general. Nor does it mean relinquishing the right of return. Rather, it helps support the refugees' resistance to attempts to eliminate this right.

Sixth: Arab host countries are responsible for enforcing the relevant Arab League resolutions, conventions and recommendations. The Conference calls for putting an end to the gross infringements of the international and regional resolutions on the rights of Palestinian refugees in a number of Arab host countries. It is incumbent upon international and Arab human rights organizations to dedicate more attention to such condition.

Seventh: The Conference urges international and regional development agencies and donor states to provide the necessary financial support to:

1- The Arab host countries, in order to realize all of the economic and social rights of the Palestinian refugees.

2-Civil society institutions in the Palestinian communities, so as to be able to carry out their role in improving their conditions.

3- The Palestinian National Authority, so as to enable it to accommodate the Palestinians displaced in the wake of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip after the June 1967 war.

4- The UNRWA, in support of its role concerning the Palestinian refugees.

Eighth: The Conference reaffirms the right of the Palestinians displaced within Israel to return to their original towns and villages, to reclaim their property, and to be compensated for their damages and suffering. Institutions working towards the implementation of these rights should receive support.

Ninth: Israel's continued rejection of the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948, which was one of the conditions for its admission to the UN according to General Assembly Resolution 273 of May 11th, 1949, leads in effect to annulling the decision to accept its membership. This makes it obligatory that the United Nations expel Israel and impose sanctions on it until it complies in full with UN resolutions. Accordingly, the Conference calls upon the League of Arab States to start forthwith taking the practical measures necessary for implementing this recommendation.

Tenth: The forced displacement of millions of Palestinians because of the acts of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Israel, which included slaughters and acts of brutal terrorism, are crimes against humanity to which statutory limitations do not apply. The relevant civil society institutions as well as international and Arab human rights organizations should perform their duty to work for bringing perpetrators of such crimes to international justice, including working for the establishment of an ad hoc criminal tribunal.

Eleventh: The Conference reaffirms its profound appreciation of the international organizations and networks that took a principled stand in supporting the Palestinian refugees' right of return, and urges them to further their efforts in this regard. The Conference also calls upon the international and Arab human rights organizations to coordinate their efforts in this regard with the networks organizing the international campaign for the implementation of the Palestinian refugees' rights to return and compensation.