Saturday, May 02, 2015

Israel: Palestinian Rights Committee Hears Call for Israel to Be Held to Account for Violations against Children during Gaza Conflict

Committe on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,
369th Meeting (PM)
General Assembly | Meetings Coverage

The top Palestinian diplomat at the United Nations this afternoon called on the Organization to include Israel’s army among the parties that committed grave violations against children during armed conflict, and to hold it accountable for attacks last year on United Nations-run schools sheltering civilians in Gaza.

“We appeal to all those involved including [Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict] Leila Zerrougui to include Israel on the list and to not cave to pressure to exclude Israel,” Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, told a meeting of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. He also appealed to the Committee’s Chairman to speak to the Secretary-General’s senior aides on the matter.

Mr. Mansour was referring to the Secretary-General’s next annual report on children and armed conflict, due in June, which would include an annex listing parties that recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children or engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals in situations of armed conflict on the Council’s agenda.

Israel, Mr. Mansour said, qualified to be on the list as deliberate attacks on more than 270 schools and 75 health centres in Gaza last July and August had left at least 540 Palestinian children dead and 3,000 injured. Adding that more than 400,000 Palestinian children still suffered from the traumatic effects of the war, he called it a clear example of the occupying Power’s collective punishment against Gaza’s 1.8 million residents — of which half were children.

“Those are human beings; they deserve justice and therefore accountability should be addressed by the Secretary-General, the Security Council and all those that respect the lives of human beings,” Mr. Mansour said. Many of those killed were civilians sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“The United Nations has to make sure that when they raise the flag over their facilities, then people should be granted protection,” he said. He thanked Jordan’s Permanent Representative for facilitating talks on the matter during her country’s term as Council President in April and said he would continue to work with her on the matter.

Mr. Mansour also expressed frustration over the slow pace of international aid for Gaza’s reconstruction. He said that, during the Council’s 21 April debate on the Palestinian question and other Middle East issues, the situation in Gaza was scrutinized extensively. Frank statements were made on the challenges on the ground in Gaza, and the need for Israel to lift its blockade on the enclave and permit the entry of promised funds for rebuilding, which remained in “the realm of promises not in the realm of implementation”.

Similarly, on the West Bank, Mr. Mansour said: “We do not see significant or noticeable improvement in East Jerusalem, or the so-called Area C or of the miserable situation in the Gaza Strip.”

He also voiced dismay over the Council’s failure to adopt a resolution setting a timeframe to end the occupation and create a Palestinian State within pre-1967 borders. Such a text must also set the basis for a political settlement and just resolution for Palestinian refugees, as well as create a new mechanism for “serious negotiations between us and the Israelis” involving all relevant Arab countries that could influence the talks in a positive way, he said.

If “one superpower holding a veto” in the Council failed to accept such a text, then he proposed the holding of an international conference to implement the Arab Peace Initiative, he said, stressing that “this one country is holding things close to their chest, saying they are reassessing and re-evaluating, but they are not telling us much more”.

Nevertheless, he welcomed the French Foreign Minister’s announcement that his delegation would take the lead and New Zealand’s role in that regard.

The Director of the UNRWA New York Office, Richard Wright, also took the floor, noting that today marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the commencement of its operations.

Since its inception, UNRWA had made huge efforts to build the human capital of Palestine refugee population, he said. But, huge challenges remained, notably the growing gap between needed and available resources, particularly for confronting emergencies in Syria and Gaza. On 2 June, he announced, the Agency would hold a high-level conference entitled “UNRWA@65”.

“The tone we wish to convey is that, if UNRWA is to continue to act as a stabilizing factor, then it has to be backed and supported to continue the work it has done over the last 65 years until a just and lasting solution is found to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with United Nations resolutions,” Mr. Wright said. He expressed hope for a simple and short outcome document of agreed conclusions.

The conference would feature a morning plenary session and two panel afternoon discussions, including one on protection challenges for vulnerable groups, such as children, people with disabilities, youth and women, and another on Palestine refugees in armed conflict. Six Palestinian refugees from Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria would participate.

Also addressing the Conference would be the Secretary-General and General Assembly President, Jordan’s Foreign Minister, European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, among other senior officials, Mr. Wright said. The top three UNRWA donors — the United States, Saudi Arabia and the European Union — and key hosts Jordan and Palestine had been invited to speak, as had all United Nations Member States and Observers, as well as non-governmental organizations.

Briefing on recent developments, Fodé Seck (Senegal) Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that 1 April was a historic day, as the State of Palestine had become a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The same day, Nikolay Mladenov replaced Robert Serry as the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.

A subsidiary body of the General Assembly, the Committee is mandated to support Palestinian rights, the peace process towards a two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders and a just resolution of all final status issues. Established in 1975, it also mobilizes aid for Palestinians.

Mr. Seck said he delivered a statement during the Council’s 21 April open debate, as well as during the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held in Vienna from 31 March to 1 April.

Wilfried Emvula (Namibia), Committee Vice-Chair, provided a summary of the Vienna seminar, saying its theme of “speeding up relief, recovery and reconstruction in post-war Gaza” was timely, given the slow pace of reconstruction and the mounting frustration of the Gaza population. The structural problems of the blockade, Gaza’s housing and environmental crisis and its energy and water deficit, which were threatening the very viability of the enclave, were also discussed.

The seminar generated considerable interest, he said, with officials of 49 Governments, the European Union, League of Arab States, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), 12 United Nations agencies and 27 non-governmental organizations in attendance.

The Committee also approved the provisional programme for the United Nations Round Table on the Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine, scheduled for 20 to 22 May in The Hague. The event, to be held in a closed, invitation-only format, would aim to explore legal ways and means to support achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as well as efforts to build the State of Palestine’s capacity in the context of its recent accession to the International Criminal Court.

The Committee, in addition, welcomed the arrival of the new Permanent Representatives of Pakistan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to the United Nations. Noting that Sri Lanka headed the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, and that Malaysia was a member, Mr. Mansour said the new ambassadors would be an important addition to the Committee’s work and the search for justice for the Palestinian people.

Also today, the Committee, on the recommendation of its Working Group, approved the applications of three non-governmental organizations seeking accreditation for participation in its activities: Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center of Ramallah; the Youth Vision Society of Gaza; and UFree Network of Norway, as an observer.

For information media. Not an official record.