Human Rights Council holds separate general debates on the universal periodic review, and on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied arab territories


30 September 2020

30 September 2020

The Human Rights Council this morning held separate general debates on the Universal Periodic Review, and on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review were Germany on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Kuwait on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, India, Venezuela, Bahrain, Nepal (video statement), Sudan, Iraq, Cuba, China, Iran, United Nations Population Fund, Uganda, South Sudan and Georgia.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations : International Catholic Child Bureau, UPR Info, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Asociación Civil, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Universal Rights Group, Partners For Transparency, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, European Centre for Law and Justice, Alsalam Foundation, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, African Development Association, Association Thendral, ABC Tamil Oli, Tamil Uzhagam, African green foundation international, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva, Association of Youths with Vision, African Heritage Foundation Nigeria, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l'Afrique, and Tourner La Page.

The Council then held the general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

At the request of Palestine, the Council observed a minute of silence to pay homage to the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who passed away.

State of Palestine and Syria spoke as concerned countries.

Speaking in the general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Kuwait on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement  South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan, Libya, Qatar, Indonesia , Senegal, Mexico, Chile, Bangladesh, Namibia, Venezuela (video statement), Bahrain, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria, Jordan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Cuba, Morocco, China, Iran, Timor-Leste, Mozambique, Algeria, Lebanon, Russian Federation, Yemen, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Tunisia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Malaysia (video statement).

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations : the National Human Rights Institution of the State of Palestine, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, World Jewish Congress, Palestinian Centre of Human Rights, Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, B'nai B'rith, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, European Union of Jewish Students, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Union of Arab Jurists, United Nations Watch, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Human Rights Information and Training Centre, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, and Defence for Children International.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

At 3 p.m., the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group of experts on people of African descent.  It will then hold an interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on alleged reprisals.  The general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 1 October.

General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

Noting that the Universal Periodic Review could only be effective if all United Nations mechanisms ensured proper follow-up to recommendations, speakers called on all States to encourage the participation of civil society in all stages without fear of harassment, intimidation or reprisals.  Selectivity, as well as the practice of naming and shaming, should be avoided.  Speakers noted that discussions between the country under review and the international community had positive levels at the State level, and warned against any form of politicization of human rights issues.  The capacity-building needs of countries, as well as their social, economic and historical characteristics, must be considered in the context of the Universal Periodic Review.  Several delegations denounced the restrictions of civic space and reprisals against human rights defenders in the context of Universal Periodic Reviews.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had to encourage the participation of all non-governmental organizations, and more particularly the smaller ones, which worked at the national or local levels.  Specific mandates that were created without the agreement of the targeted States should be rejected, some speakers said.  Other speakers urged the Council to address the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights in the context of the Universal Periodic Review.  Speakers encouraged the 12 States whose outcome reports would be adopted during this session not to view the implementation of their recommendations as a purely bureaucratic exercise, but rather an opportunity to embark on a democratic and participative process. 

General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories

At the request of Palestine, the Council observed a minute of silence to pay homage to the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who passed away.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Israel was not in the room and did not take the floor as a concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that by exploiting the international community’s preoccupation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the occupying power continued its attacks against civilians, targeting children, health workers, women and older persons, restraining freedom of movement, cutting down trees and restricting fishing, as well as the blockade of Gaza.  The funds of the Palestinian Authority were being confiscated.  Thousands of Palestinians were in jails in Israel.  Thousands of Palestinians were dying because there was no healthcare available.  There was collective punishment.  There were 66 bodies of Palestinians that were kept in cold rooms by Israel, in violation of international laws ; they should be released and given back to the families.  Five thousand new settlements had been built, including close to east Jerusalem, to remove territorial continuity between the north and the south of the West Bank.  Criticizing the plan touted by the United States, the State of Palestine said the annexation it provided for was a violation of international law and the right to self-determination, preventing the establishment of two States.  The international community should not cede American diktats, and must boycott products coming from the occupied territories.

Syria said the occupying power continued its occupation of the Syrian Golan in violation of Security Council resolutions, pursuing actions against Syrian citizens and violating their right to work, health, property, and freedom of movement.  Natural resources were being pillaged, which facilitated the construction of settlements, which, in turn, furthered human rights violations.  The occupying power continued to discriminate against Syrians in the Syrian Golan.  This made the situation of Syrian citizens more precarious, as they faced expropriation of their agricultural lands.  Their lives were being made impossible by the occupying power, which sought to push them out of the Syrian Golan.  The debate under item 7 put pressure on the occupying power to stop the occupation, which it was continuing because it had the protection of certain States.  There must be accountability as these States were trying to remove item 7 from the agenda.  Syria condemned the perpetuation of the occupation and the expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan as well as the attempts to change the demographics and legal status of the occupied territories.  The settlers must stop their barbaric practices.

General Debate

Speakers said those who spoke of peace and coexistence could not continue to ignore the illegal actions that only perpetuated violence and suffering in the occupied territories.  The blockade had forced people in Gaza to live in deplorable conditions, which showed that Israel was more interested in continuing its occupation than pursuing peace.  Emphasising that the Council had an ethical and legal obligation to act effectively with a view to protecting the Palestinian people, speakers called for an immediate end to the occupation and the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.  They said that the detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, and all other forms of collective punishment targeting the Palestinian people must end.  Expressing concern, some speakers recalled that the period from March to August 2020 had seen the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owed structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month, the highest average destruction rate in four years.  The removal of item 7 from the Council’s agenda would ensure that the violations in the occupied Palestine were unheard and remained unaddressed.  The systemic impunity from which Israel was benefitting was appalling.  The plan put forward by the current United States administration was abominable, and posed a threat to the fundamentals of international law.  Others said they had normalized their relations with Israel through an agreement that sought to foster security, peace and tolerance in the region.  Stressing that population transfers contravened the fourth Geneva Convention, speakers urged Israel to cease and desist from measures that amounted to collective punishment.  Some speakers said that the Council was still stuck in the past, with its biased agenda 7, perpetuating and entrenching animosities from a forgone era.  The double standards that the Council applied to Israel, by singling out just one of the 193 United Nations Member States, not only flouted the universality of the application of human rights, but also, enabled anti-Semitism.




For use of the information media; not an official record