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28 March 2001

Oral intervention on the question of the violation of human rights
in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01- 09, 16 March 2001

The following is the full text of the intervention made on Wednesday, 28 March, to the 57th Session of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, meeting in Geneva, 19 March - 27 April 2001:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I speak on behalf of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches whose mandate it is to advocate the rights of its member churches and their constituencies, including the churches and Christians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, to the international community.

We would first like to thank the High Commissioner and the Inquiry Commission for the thorough and revealing reports, E/CN.4/2001/114 and E/CN.4/2001/121.

The statement adopted on February 5th 2001 by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches on the current situation in the Holy Land demonstrates the extent to which the churches are gravely concerned and share the frustration of the Palestinian people with the non-implementation of countless UN resolutions as well as the accelerating rate of systematic abuse of their human rights by Israel. (And I quote from the statement:)

"We are deeply disturbed by a pattern of discrimination, routine humiliation, segregation and exclusion which restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, including access to the Holy sites and includes the disproportionate use of military force by Israel, the denial of access to timely medical assistance, the destruction of property, including tens of thousands of olive trees, and which requires special permission for Palestinians to enter areas under Israeli jurisdiction and establishes 'cantonization' of the land, so that the Palestinian land is separated from one another - a pattern so reminiscent of policies that the World Council of Churches has condemned in the past". (End of quote)
Mr Chairman, the World Council of Churches is receiving alarming calls from its member churches on the ground detailing a desperate situation for both Muslim and Christian indigenous Palestinians. The continued violence against civilians and repressive forms of collective punishments, such as the even harsher closures of recent weeks which seal off entire towns and villages and the continuing bombing and shelling of civilian neighbourhoods, have resulted in gross and massive violations of civil and political, as well as socio-economic rights, creating countless impoverished families, exacerbating the situation and undermining the peace process. The consequence of this will only be more violence and bloodshed for innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

However, Sir, the churches joined in the WCC are convinced that for the tragic humanitarian situation to be alleviated and the violations of human rights to end, the underlying causes of the present conflict must be dealt with. Israel must comply with relevant and authoritative UN resolutions, including those demanding an end to Israeli military occupation, which in itself constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. Israel's repeated defiance of international law, its continuing occupation and the impunity it has so long enjoyed are the fundamental causes of the present violence and threaten the peace and security of both peoples.

Only after occupation and the accompanying violations of collective human rights end can the Middle East move towards a real peace process based on the rule of law, and both Israelis and Palestinians be able to walk together along the path of peace, justice and reconciliation.

The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches therefore hopes that this 57th Session of the Commission of Human Rights will:

  • Follow up on the implementation of Resolution E/CN.4/S-5 of 19 October 2000, including:
    • its call upon Israel to put an immediate end to any use of force against unarmed civilians and to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention;
    • its call upon the international community to put an end to the ongoing violations of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, including the military occupation itself;
    • its request for the visits of the Special Rapporteurs.
  • Endorse and follow up on the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inquiry Commission as expressed in their submitted statements to this Session, including:
    • the establishment of an adequate and effective international presence to ensure full protection of the human rights of the Palestinian people;
    • the need for a negotiated, comprehensive, just and durable peace.
I thank you Mr Chairman for giving me the floor.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.