Info Service on Health Issues (November 06/7)
UN: HRC denounces Israeli violations in Beit Hanoun
week, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution condemning
Israelís killing of 19 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including seven
children and six women.
article below highlights the third special session of the UNHRC and
the statements of member states denouncing the Israeli assault on civilians.
It is reproduced with the permission of South-North Development Monitor
(SUNS) # 6143, 17 November 2006.
United Nations: HRC denounces
Israeli violations in Beit Hanoun
By Kanaga Raja, Geneva, 16 November 2006
The third special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday
adopted a resolution which expressed its shock at the horror of Israeli
targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, and decided
to urgently dispatch a high-level fact-finding mission there.
In the resolution adopted by a roll call vote of 32 in favour, eight
against and six abstentions, the Human Rights Council also denounced
the Israeli massive destruction of Palestinian homes, property and infrastructure
in Beit Hanoun.
The special session was convened following a request by Bahrain on behalf
of the Group of Arab States and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization
of the Islamic Conference.
The special session was requested to ''consider and take action on the
gross human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent one in Northern
Gaza and the assault on Beit Hanoun.''
Those who voted in favour of the resolution were Algeria, Argentina,
Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador,
Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico,
Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi
Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Zambia.
Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania,
and the United Kingdom voted against the resolution.
Those who abstained in the vote were France, Guatemala, Japan, Republic
of Korea, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
The resolution took note of the sense of shock expressed by Secretary-General
Kofi Annan on the Israeli military operation carried out on 8 November
in a residential area in Beit Hanoun, which resulted in the deaths of
at least 18 Palestinians, including eight children and seven women.
It expressed shock at the horror of Israeli targeting and killing of
Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun while they were asleep and other
civilians fleeing earlier Israeli bombardment.
The resolution emphasized that the Israeli targeting of Palestinian
civilians, including women and children, constitutes a gross violation
of human rights law and international humanitarian law.
It condemned the Israeli targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians,
including women and children, as well as of medics in Beit Hanoun and
other Palestinian towns and villages, and called for bringing the perpetrators
thereof to justice.
It also expressed its alarm at the gross and systematic violations of
human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
by the occupying power, Israel, and called for urgent international
action to put an immediate end to these violations, including those
emanating from the series of incessant and repeated Israeli military
The resolution called for immediate protection of the Palestinian civilians
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in compliance with human rights
law and international humanitarian law; and urged all concerned parties
to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from
violence against civilian population and to treat under all circumstances
all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva
Convention of 12 August 1949.
It further decided to dispatch urgently a high-level fact-finding mission
to be appointed by the President of the Council to travel to Beit Hanoun
to, inter alia, assess the situation of victims, address the needs of
survivors, and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian
civilians against further Israeli assaults.
It also requested the fact-finding mission to report to the Council
no later than the middle of December 2006 on progress made towards the
fulfilment of its mandate.
The third session heard statements from many countries.
Many speakers condemned Israel's military operations in Northern Gaza
in the past few months which had left more than 350 Palestinians dead.
There were accusations that Israel was using disproportionate force
and resorting to collective punishment. The attack on Beit Hanoun was
strongly condemned, and many called for a high-level fact-finding mission
to the town.
A number of speakers, led by the United States and Canada, expressed
their concern and regret for the deaths of civilians in Beit Hanoun,
but said that the draft resolution being circulated provided an unbalanced
view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called on the Palestinian
Authority to take concrete measures to address Israel's security concerns
and eliminate attacks against Israel.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour reminded the
Council of her forthcoming visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian
Territory in which she would have the opportunity to examine developments
on the ground, and would conduct field visits, as well as hold briefings
and meetings with authorities, civil society and non-governmental organizations,
and with United Nations partners.
Arbour said that her primary concern would be to emphasize the obligation
to protect civilians during armed confrontation, and the entitlement
of all, Palestinians and Israelis alike, to live free from fear, free
from want, and free from harm.
A representative of Palestine said that Beit Hanoun seemed today as
if it had been hit by a strong earthquake, just like the refugee camp
of Jenin had looked following the Israeli massacre and destruction there.
Once again, the Israeli army had unleashed its lethal power against
defenceless Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, shelling their homes
while they slept and targeting and shelling again those civilians fleeing
the earlier bombardments. The perpetrators of this horrendous war crime
should be brought to international justice.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
(OIC), said that the OIC looked forward to the visit of the High Commissioner
to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The OIC said that
too frequent human rights violations targeting one particular region
made a mockery of the human rights machinery if it could not respond
or take action in real time. It was eerie how gross and systematic violations
of human rights of Palestinians had been unleashed with regularity and
precision before, during and after Council sessions. In the face of
such violations, convening the Human Rights Council, which was a standing
body, was not an abuse of its mandate. Silence would be an unforgiven
Recent violations in Beit Hanoun were egregious, without a doubt, Pakistan
added. Since June this year, continuous military strikes had left more
than 350 Palestinians dead. The assaults in Beit Hanoun had intensified
killings of civilians and destruction of houses, properties and infrastructure
or whatever was left of them after earlier incursions. The use of disproportionate
force and resort to collective punishment had broken humanitarian law
by targeting unarmed civilians, mostly women and children.
The Council should meet its minimum obligations, Pakistan said. It should
condemn the Israeli killings, call for immediate protection to the beleaguered
Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and dispatch
a high-level fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun to investigate the
horrors inflicted on its people.
Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Arab Group condemned
the continued violation of the Israeli aggression and Israeli assaults
in Beit Hanoun, among other places. The deterioration as a result of
these Israeli attacks and military operations in northern Gaza which
led to the killing of 18 civilians in Beit Hanoun was evidence of the
violations by Israel of human rights and international conventions.
All the actions of the Israelis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
constituted violations of a number of international treaties and of
human rights law. The Council should exert pressure on Israel to respect
the mandate of the Council. The Arab Group called on the international
community to provide protection to the Palestinian civilians and to
bring an end to the Israeli violence and send a high-level fact finding
mission called for in the resolution.
Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Non-Aligned
Movement had historically maintained a clear and unequivocal principled
position concerning the recognition of the inalienable rights of the
Palestinian people, the rejection of the illegal occupation of Arab
territories by Israel, and the condemnation of mass, flagrant and systematic
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed
by the occupying power.
The Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people continued to intensify.
More than 280 Palestinians had been killed since 25 June, including
more than 60 children. The massacre at Beit Hanoun was another example
of the terrible suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the
illegal occupation of their territory by Israel, Cuba said.
Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed dismay at
the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and condemned
the Israeli military intervention in Gaza and in particular the atrocities
in Beit Hanoun, with over 300 Palestinian civilians killed or injured
including children, women and elderly people. The African Group expressed
its deep concern at the continued deterioration of the situation in
the occupied territories in Palestine and the use of excessive force
by the Israeli army. The African Group urged Israel to respect all existing
United Nations resolutions and human rights conventions, in particular,
the right to life and property.
Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern
over the escalating violence in the Middle East and the unacceptable
military operation in Beit Hanoun. It was shocked by the high number
of civilian deaths and casualties as well as the destruction of housing
and property. The European Union urged Israel to exercise the utmost
restraint and to cease its military operations.
It also called on the Palestinians to bring an end to acts of violence,
including the firing of Kassam rockets. It also called for the release
of all prisoners and for the peace process to be put back on track as
soon as possible. The European Union emphasized the importance of the
agreement for free movement and access, and called on Israel to ensure
that the border crossing be left open. The European Union also called
on Israel to immediately release Palestinian taxes and revenues.
Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority and its government because they
did nothing to stop the brazen firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli civilian
communities from within Beit Hanoun, setting the stage for an Israeli
response which became inevitable. Israel accused the Council of one-sidedness,
double standards and politicized decision-making, adding that those
who pushed for the special session were conspicuously ignoring tragedies
in other parts of the world.
Malaysia said that it was imperative to address gross violations to
humanitarian and human rights law. The world continued to witness violations
of the rights of Palestinians with impunity. The Security Council has
been rendered inadequate once more through the use of the veto power.
The Israeli military occupation had resulted in the deaths of more than
300 people, most of them civilians, said Malaysia. There had been arbitrary
detention. The recent killing of civilians in Beit Hanoun had shocked
the world. This was not the first time that Israel's occupation had
resulted in civilian casualties. Excessive, disproportionate, and indiscriminate
attacks by the Israeli army were responsible for those atrocities.
Morocco said that the Palestinian people were going through tragic circumstances.
In less than six months, the Council had to convene three times to review
the situation of human rights in the Middle East, and in this particular
case, including the situation in Northern Gaza and the attacks in Beit
Hanoun. Targeting civilians, Palestinian authorities and vital facilities,
impeding their free movement, and affecting vulnerable groups were all
acts of gross violations of human rights.
The United States said that the injuries and loss of life in Beit Hanoun,
and especially the deaths of a number of young children, were tragic.
The Human Rights Council should not address particular military actions
taken during a period of armed conflict that were clearly governed by
the law of war. It was indeed unfortunate that the Human Rights Council
was using its limited resources to discuss subjects not squarely within
its mandate when there were pressing concerns that fell explicitly within
With respect to the text of the resolution under consideration, the
US said that rather than attempting to honestly shed light on all the
facts contributing to the violence in Gaza, the resolution was a blatant
effort to exploit the tragic incident in Beit Hanoun to advance an unbalanced
view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US added that it remained
committed to the Road Map and sought to realize the vision of two States
- Israeli and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security.
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