The Human Rights Council continues urgent debate on Israeli raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza
Concludes Interactive Debate on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, Foreign Debt and Human Rights and the Right to Education
2 June 2010
The Human Rights Council this morning continued its urgent debate on the raid by Israeli Defense Forces on a humanitarian aid flotilla off the coast of Gaza, but postponed taking action on the draft resolution. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
In the urgent debate, speakers said the acts against the activists who were carrying food and medicines must not pass under silence, the same silence which had covered other acts of Israel, allowing it to commit further acts. The Council should act, Israel should release the detainees, lift the siege, and put an end to State terrorism and blatant violations of the most basic human and international laws. Many speakers underlined the urgency of carrying out an investigation into the incident under the auspices of the United Nations. Speakers condemned the disproportional use of force by Israel against humanitarian activities and considered this as an unacceptable act of piracy and sabotage to the peace process in the Middle East.
Speaking in the urgent debate were Syria, Iraq, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Viet Nam, Belarus, Austria, Iceland, Ecuador, League of Arab States, Maldives, Afghanistan, Peru, El Salvador, Canada, Somalia and Panama.
The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also spoke: Independent Commission of Human Rights, North South XXI, International Federation of Human Rights/Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, United Nations Watch, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, World Muslim Congress, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitie entre les Peuples.
The opening of the urgent debate took place on 1 June and is reflected in press release HRC/10/57.
The Council then resumed its interactive dialogue on the topics of transnational corporations and their impact on human rights, the effect of foreign debt on human rights, and the right to education, which it started yesterday.
John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, in concluding remarks, said the issues discussed would not be fully resolved with the end of his mandate in 2011 and future work would have to be built on the foundations that he had achieved thus far. Innovative approaches would also have to be developed to address all the different issues, such as how to adequately monitor the illicit trade of natural resources. With regard to State-related entities, for him the issue was quite simple: a state-owned enterprise could either claim to be a private entity or a public entity but in both cases they would be bound by certain principles. Finally, concerning the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it was essential that the capacity of the Office be increased.
Cephas Lumina, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, in concluding remarks, said it was important to continue to explore options for durable and lasting solutions to debt relief. The issue of possible control in the financial markets required consultation with people who had more intimate knowledge of functioning of financial markets, but some controls could include tightening of regulations to ensure transparency of foreign investments. In reference to the assessment of the current debt initiatives, Mr. Lumina said that those schemes had indeed contributed to the capacity of some States to proceed to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. Despite these gains, Mr. Lumina said more needed to be done to address debt relief in complement with other initiatives and in conformity with the principle of shared responsibility.
Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, in concluding remarks, said racism, intolerance and xenophobia were the most obvious causes of exclusion and intolerance of migrants and those of migrant origin in terms of their education opportunities, but there was also structural discrimination entrenched in their regard. It was truly urgent to make headway in training of faculty, strengthening the intercultural dialogue, the inclusion of migrant teachers in the regular educational system, expanding the grant system, and strengthening programmes abroad. It was necessary to make progress in equality and justice in education, and strengthen the vision of education as a human right, and to this end, it was urgent that countries that received migrant peoples ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
During the interactive dialogue concerning corporate responsibility and the impact of transnational corporations on human rights, speakers said transnational corporations gained great profits from host countries, and should therefore contribute to the welfare of employees in those countries. There was no global framework or norm for transnational corporations, bringing them under legal measures. Transnational companies often escaped as some countries could not afford extensive legal battles.
Regarding the impact of foreign debt on human rights, speakers remarked that reducing debt burdens would contribute to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights and that the economy was not above the priority of human rights, as it was at the service of the human person and the common good. The so-called vulture fund activities caused burden sharing among creditors, and undermined trade and investment opportunities in the countries they targeted. Speakers said that initiatives of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries were welcome steps toward the objective of creating better conditions for States to implement their obligations in the field of human rights.
With concern to the right to education, speakers said that the report showed the driving force of education in the area of development and that States had to address the needs of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in both formal and informal education sectors. The lack of justifiability of economic, social and cultural rights was at the core of the difficulties of achieving these rights. The education systems of States should conform to the obligations set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Special Rapporteur was asked which practices and formulas could best serve to provide success for regional strategies.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on transnational corporations and human rights, foreign debt and human rights, and the right to education were the Holy See, Canada, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sudan, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Netherlands, Brazil, Zambia and Argentina.
The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also spoke: International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, National Commission of Mexico, Centre Europe Tiers Monde, Amnesty International, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, Human Rights Advocates, International Commission of Jurists, American Association of Jurists, and the International Federation of Human Rights League.
The presentation by the three Special Procedures of their reports and the first part of the interactive dialogue took place on 1 June and is reflected in HRC/10/56.
The Council today is holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During its midday meeting, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. It will also listen to the presentation of a joint study on secret detention by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Working Group on enforced disappearances.
Urgent Debate on Israeli Attack on Humanitarian Aid Flotilla Bound for Gaza
FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria) said Syria highly appreciated the efforts of the peace activists from 40 countries, including Syria, and applauded their noble humanitarian feelings, strongly condemning the piracy committed by Israel in international waters against the freedom flotilla, confirming Israel's disregard for everything, including the most basic morals and principles. The acts against the activists who were carrying food and medicines must not pass under silence, the same silence which had covered other acts of Israel, allowing it to commit further acts. The Council should act, Israel should release the detainees, lift the siege, and put an end to State terrorism and blatant violations of the most basic human and international laws, which threatened to drag the Middle East into a war, the repercussions of which would not be limited to the countries of the region. There should be a just investigation into the acts of Israel, and the Irish assistance ship should be allowed to dock in Gaza today. Israel was killing activists who had come only to break the siege, a violation of the basic right to life and of humanitarian values.
MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq) said that the attack inflicted on the peace flotilla was in clear violation of international law. The attack was made on civilians and was in violation of the United Nations Charter. The flotilla was not carrying arms or military weapons but food and medicine for the citizens of the Gaza Strip, who have endured extreme suffering because of the blockade. Iraq strongly condemned the attack, which led to numerous victims. The name of the flotilla clearly indicated the peaceful intentions of the mission. Iraq called for an investigation under the auspices of the United Nations and also for the immediate release of all detainees, whose security should be ensured until their safe return home. Finally, Iraq said that the comments made by Israel were incorrect and that even the friends of Israel did not support them after this unjustified military action.
YONG CHANTHALANGSY (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said the Lao People's Democratic Republic deplored the unjustified attack of Israeli forces on the vessels carrying humanitarian aid, resulting in the killing of 10 persons and injuring many others. The Lao People's Democratic Republic strongly condemned the disproportional use of force by Israel against humanitarian activities and considered this as an unacceptable act of piracy and sabotage to the peace process in the Middle East. Lao People's Democratic Republic demanded an impartial investigation to be conducted under the supervision of the United Nations. The Government strongly urged Israel to put an end to the blockade and embargo against Gaza in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population living in this region. The Lao People's Democratic Republic demanded that Israel immediately release all those who were detained, surrender the vessels to their countries and come back to peaceful negotiations to promote peace and stability in the Middle East.
IBRAHIM A.E. ALDREDI (Libya) said Libya strongly condemned the crime perpetrated in the eyes of the international community against innocent activists carrying food and medicine. Israel continued its crimes on a daily basis, including bombing those under the blockade. Israel should not have dared to perpetrate these crimes, as it was not supported by other countries, and silence vis-à-vis these crimes could be interpreted as consensus. Where was the international community, where was international peace and security when a people was massacred on a daily basis. The Council should take up its responsibilities. Israel had committed a flagrant violation of all international laws - this was a challenge thrown to the international community, and Israel should be condemned for these crimes. An impartial investigative committee should be set up to investigate the affair fairly, and compensation should be paid to the victims.
VU ANH QUANG (Viet Nam) said that this latest military attack by Gaza constituted a step backward for humanitarian activities, which represented solidarity, tolerance and humanity. Viet Nam called upon the international community to ensure that an attack of this nature would never reoccur. Viet Nam strongly condemned the deliberate attack on the humanitarian convoy. It was a violation of human rights as well as humanitarian law. Viet Nam called for assurances from Israel that medicine, food and water would be provided to the wounded and the detained. Viet Nam remained committed to a peaceful resolution and called for vigilance and restraint.
ANDREI SAVINYKH (Belarus) said Belarus was seriously concerned about the incident of the interception of the humanitarian convoy by Israel and condemned the excessive use of force. It was a blatant violation of international legal norms by Israel and Belarus called for a comprehensive and impartial investigation of the incident. Belarus called on all actors in the Middle-East process to avoid a further escalation of violence. The Security Council had immediately reacted to the incident and had demanded that Israel immediately release the ships and those who had been on board. The Council should give its own assessment of the incident and Belarus found that the steps taken so far towards a resolution were in the right direction.
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said Austria was deeply shocked at the loss of lives and casualties and wished to express its condolences to the families of the victims. Austria was very disturbed about this dramatic escalation, and condemned the use of violence that had led to a high number of victims. There should be a full and independent investigation of this attack, which had occurred in international waters. Austria had consistently acknowledged Israel's right to protect its citizens against indiscriminate attacks emanating from Gaza, and repeated its call for an immediate end to such attacks. At the same time, it did not believe that these concerns could in any way justify what happened. The ongoing blockade was totally unacceptable and counterproductive, and the humanitarian situation remained of utmost concern. There should be an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of all crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods, and persons to and from Gaza. Israel should take immediate and credible steps to avoid any reoccurrence of such violent incidents, and act in full accordance with its obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.
KRISTINN F. ARNASON (Iceland) said Iceland strongly condemned the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla while the convoy was in international waters. Iceland was profoundly shocked to learn about the high number of casualties resulting from the raid. In this regard, Iceland expected full cooperation from the Israeli Government to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice. The siege of Gaza was contrary to international human rights law and humanitarian law, inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population. The Israeli raid received a strong response in Icelandic society and the Icelandic parliament would hold a debate later today on the issue. Iceland called on Israel to put all its efforts into reactivating the peace process and at the same time to cease all activities that put the peace process in jeopardy.
MAURICIO MONTALVO (Ecuador) said Ecuador condemned the attack by the Israeli army on the freedom flotilla in which civilians had been killed. The attack against the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip aggravated the situation in the Middle East and went against a peaceful solution to the conflict. Ecuador requested the immediate cessation of all acts of violence and exhorted Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and allow for humanitarian aid to enter. Ecuador demanded a strict compliance with international humanitarian law in the search for durable peace in the region.
SAAD ALFARARGI (League of Arab States) said Israel, which was always preaching democracy, had committed another crime to add to the list of its heinous crimes, attacking a liberty flotilla sailing on a humanitarian mission, with a long list of casualties. Killing civilians was a war crime and a crime against humanity according to the Geneva Conventions. Further, navigation in the high seas for peaceful purposes was legal. The Israeli aggression against the peaceful flotilla, whose only intent was to provide peaceful assistance, was a crime of war and a crime against humanity. This act of terrorism was condemned, and the international community should move swiftly to take deterrent actions against this rogue State that had committed acts of piracy and terrorism. This was a tragedy, and hopefully would provide an overdue course correction.
IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives) said that the Maldives was greatly saddened by the loss of civilian life in the attack on the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla. The Maldives extended its condolences to all those affected by the incident and condemned in the strongest possible terms this clear act of aggression against civilians, especially civilians engaged in humanitarian work. The Maldives called for an immediate independent international enquiry into the incident so that the facts may be ascertained and accountability established. This incident was yet another example of the grave injustice against the people of Gaza caused by the Israeli blockade, which was not only morally wrong but also short-sighted in that it spurred mistrust, animosity and hatred.
OBAID KHAN NOORI (Afghanistan) said that the right of self-determination of the people of Palestine had been denied for decades and their basic human rights had been violated. The illegal blockade imposed by Israel on the people of Occupied Gaza had worsened the humanitarian situation. Afghanistan strongly condemned the inhuman attack by Israel on the humanitarian activists and expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people. Afghanistan welcomed the Presidential statement by the Security Council, condemnation made by the Secretary-General and the statement of the High Commissioner in which she had called for immediately lifting the inhuman and illegal blockade of Gaza. It was time to call for an immediate cessation of all military activities and violence, a lift of the blockade, and the prompt release of ships and all civilians detained. Afghanistan called on the international community to help the provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza and hoped that the resolution would be adopted by the Council with consensus.
CARLOS SIBILLE RIVERA (Peru) said Peru condemned the violent intervention by Israeli forces on the humanitarian flotilla. In keeping with the norms of international law, Peru disapproved of the excessive use of force, and called for an exhaustive investigation into the facts. Peru also called upon all parties to re-establish dialogue, with the aim of achieving a permanent peace. The Government of Israel should allow the free flow of goods to the people of the Gaza Strip, in keeping with United Nations resolutions.
CARMEN ELENA CASTILLO-GALLANDAT (El Salvador) said El Salvador expressed its strong rejection of the violation of international human rights which occurred during the attack on the humanitarian convoy bound for Gaza. El Salvador deeply regretted the loss of human life and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims. The United Nations must conduct an exhaustive and transparent investigation into these hostilities and should send a message that such acts of aggression were unacceptable and would not be tolerated by the international community.
MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada) said Canada deeply regretted the loss of life and the injuries suffered in the events off the coast of Gaza on May 31 and called on all States and international bodies not to rush to conclusions before all the facts were known. Canada was concerned about the humanitarian situation of the people of Gaza and strongly encouraged all parties to work together to ensure that the humanitarian aid was delivered. Canada fully understood and sympathised with Israel's legitimate security concerns in the face of terrorism against its people and called on all parties to forgo the use of violence.
YUSUF MOHAMED ISMAIL (Somalia) said the Government and people of Somalia wished to express their deepest and most sincere condolences to the families of those killed during the attack by the security forces of Israel on the humanitarian activists on board the Gaza-bound flotilla. These acts of violence had no justification, and needed to be condemned and prevented. An immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and their circumstances was necessary. The appalling humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the Occupied Territories was of great concern. Israel should lift the blockade for the unconditional flow of humanitarian and reconstruction aid as well as for commercial goods and the movement of persons to and from Gaza. It was high time that the interest of the Palestinian people was put as a top priority - to do so, a comprehensive, coherent and far-sighted approach was much needed from all regional and international stakeholders.
GRISSELLE RODRIGUEZ (Panama) said that the Government of Panama deeply deplored the loss of life caused by the Israeli Defence Forces in its attack on the freedom flotilla. Panama echoed the words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and called for an independent investigation into this matter in order to look into the disproportionate use of force. Panama said that it would like to see the people of Gaza receive sufficient humanitarian aid and called upon Israel to lift the blockade. Dialogue and negotiation needed to be fostered and were important steps toward resuming the ongoing Middle East peace process.
KATHARINA ROSE, of Palestinian National Institution for Human Rights, said the Independent Commission of Human Rights denounced the unlawful attack of Israel on the humanitarian flotilla that resulted in death and injuries. It was a dangerous precedent and a violation of fundamental human rights. Israel's use of disproportionate and excessive force against civilians could not be justified. This aggressive attack against humanitarian aid reflected Israeli's systematic and decisive policy to suppress international popular solidarity and would have negative consequences on future solidarity initiatives to help the Palestinian people. The Independent Commission of Human Rights called on the Human Rights Council to take all necessary measures to stop all crimes and attacks on humanitarian activists. It also called for the lifting of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and bringing its humanitarian crisis to an end.
DANIELA MCBANE, of North-South XXI, in a joint statement with Union of Arab Jurists and Arab Lawyers Union, said North-South XXI totally condemned Israel's acts of aggression against the humanitarian relief vessels and Israel's premeditated murder of unarmed civilians, human rights defenders, who were attempting to deliver humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people of Gaza, who had been subjected to conditions of life that appeared intended to destroy them in whole or in part as a people. The Israeli Government should allow safe passage to the MV Rachel Corrie and the humanitarian goods it was carrying. Israel's acts threatened the peace and security of the entire international community, and to allow these acts to go unpunished threatened the legitimacy of the international community and the institutions it had erected to protect the human rights of peace-loving human beings. The international community must take urgent action in response to this flagrant flouting of international law and insist on the end of the blockade of Gaza.
JULIE GROMELLON, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, in a joint statement with Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said that more than 700 unarmed activists from over 40 countries were on board the eight-ship flotilla. The attack occurred in international waters and resulted in the killing of at least nine people and the injury of a further 60. The tragedy was the result of the prolonged impunity granted to Israel, despite Israel's documented and persistent disregard for international and humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The International Federation of Human Rights/Palestinian Centre for Human Rights called for the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip to be immediately lifted in line with the Security Council's resolution 1850 and 1860 and also for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently visit the Gaza Strip.
LAILA MATAR, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement with Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, condemned the unlawful assault by the Israeli navy on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza. The assault was unprecedented and illegal under international law. Israel had not been acting in self-defense when it attacked the flotilla which posed no threat to Israel. The United Nations must act immediately to investigate this act and ensure the basic standards of international law were upheld. The brutal attack off the coast of Gaza was just one example of the repression and violence Palestinian civilians faced on a regular basis in the Occupied Territories. This episode was a tragic reminder of the inevitable results of giving military forces a license to kill and impunity for war crimes. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies called on this Council and all members of the United Nations to end such impunity by urgently ensuring the full implementation of all recommendations contained in the Goldstone Report.
HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said the debate turned on one question - whether the flotilla was humanitarian or not. Evidence of the organizers' objective could be found in the path they chose. Israel offered to receive the flotilla's cargo and, after inspection, deliver it to Gaza, but the organizers rejected this, as they wished to cause a political incident. One supporter declared the aim of the flotilla was either achieving martyrdom or reaching Gaza - this was not a humanitarian state of mind. This operation was organized by a radical group, the IHH, with extensive documented ties to terrorist groups, and its objectives and goals had nothing to do with humanitarianism.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said Human Rights Watch was deeply concerned about the death of at least 10 activists after Israel security forces boarded ships that were part of an "aid flotilla" to Gaza. The incident raised grave concerns about possible unlawful and excessive use of lethal force. Human Rights Watch called for a prompt, credible and impartial investigation into the incident, which was essential to determine whether lethal force used by Israeli commandos was necessary to protect lives and whether it could have been avoided.
PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said Amnesty International called for an international inquiry into the deaths that were caused by Israel's military action against the aid flotilla and urged the Human Rights Council to call for the United Nations Security Council to ask the Secretary-General to establish an international inquiry. The Israeli authorities had the primary responsibility to investigate the conduct of their forces. However, the international nature of the incident and Israel's continuing failure to conduct credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes and other serious violations of international law in the context of the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict underscored the need for an immediate international investigation. The Council should call on Israel to invite the relevant Special Rapporteur to visit Israel to investigate the events.
LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru", said Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru energetically condemned the attack on the freedom flotilla, leading to the death of nine human rights defenders. The new brutal aggression by Israel in international waters, i.e. outside the territorial waters of Gaza, was international piracy, and constituted a serious violation of international law and a slap in the face of the United Nations Charter. Israeli allegations that the flotilla was carrying weapons and terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda were just cheap. Those responsible must appear before the International Criminal Court to account for the incident. There should be an urgent lifting of the economic blockade imposed on Gaza.
The Representative of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, joined all other speakers in condemning the unlawful and deadly attack by the Israeli Naval Forces on the humanitarian aid convoy in international waters. The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had always been grave and alarming and the resolutions passed by the Human Rights Council and other United Nations bodies were never respected by Israel. Nonetheless, the Human Rights Council should now deliver a strong response and message to Israel to immediately end the Israeli siege of Palestinian territories.