After two days of hearings and a day of deliberations, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the main human rights body in the United Nations, narrowly endorsed Resolution E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev.1 condemning the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel against Palestinian civilians, and called for the creation of an international human rights inquiry commission to gather and compile information on the violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and provide the Commission with its conclusions and recommendations.
The fifth Special Session of the Human Rights Commission, also requested Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to undertake an urgent visit to the occupied territories to take stock of the violations and facilitate the work of the Commission and further instructed the Commission's special rapporteurs to carry out immediate visits to the area and submit reports to the Commission as well as the UN General Assembly.
The Resolution contains wide-ranging language, referring to the deaths of over 100 Palestinians since the end of September 2000 as constituting a war crime and a crime against humanity and the Israeli occupation itself as a grave violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. The resolution also referred to the ongoing closure of the Palestinian territories, house demolitions, and collective punishments as crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, the Resolution does not mandate inquiry of the violation of human rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, however, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General for internally displaced persons, is requested to undertake an immediate visit to the area.
The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 19 in favor and 16 against, with 17 abstentions. Voting against the resolution were Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. While the Resolution amounted to a tacit acknowledgement that fundamental international humanitarian and human rights law has not been incorporated into the Oslo process (including the refugees' right to return, restitution and compensation), those states opposed to the human rights-based prescriptions set down in the Resolution, ironically claimed that it would hamper efforts to restore calm and a return to the negotiation table.
The decisions adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights may represent a step forward in building a solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on international humanitarian and human rights law, rather than the unequal balance of political/military power in favor of Israel and supported by the United States that has governed the Oslo process.
BADIL welcomes the decisions of the UN Commission on Human Rights. In the context of ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people BADIL calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the members of the international commission of inquiry, and the Special Rapporteurs, to:
1. Address the issue of international protection for the Palestinian people and recommend national and international human rights mechanisms, as have been applied in other conflicts such as in the former Yugoslavia, to safeguard fundamental human rights inherent in all persons, in all places, and under all circumstances;
2. Address the protection needs of vulnerable groups, with special attention to the protection needs of Palestinian refugees who comprised a large number of those killed and injured, and who lack the protection afforded by the international community to all other refugees. The imperative of seeking solutions (including return, restitution, and compensation) to refugee problems is central to the concept of international protection.
BADIL also calls for an immediate joint consultation among existing international organs that provide protection for other refugees, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross (refugees and persons under occupation), and the UN Relief and Works Agency, to address the ongoing lack of protection for Palestinian refugees (absent since 1952), and measures/mechanisms for implementation of a full international protection regime.