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Human Rights Council holds general debates on the Universal Periodic Review and on the human rights situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

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AFTERNOON

1 October 2021

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held general debates on the Universal Periodic Review and on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. The Council also heard the presentation of a report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the allocation of water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and an oral update by the High Commissioner on the implementation of resolution S-30/1.

In the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers said that this unique mechanism made it possible to contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in all 193 United Nations Member States. The Universal Periodic Review was an extremely effective mechanism of the Council that enjoyed universal support. Some speakers pointed out that the lack of progress in the realisation of human rights was not on account of a lack of willingness on the part of States but due to a lack of capacity to achieve targets. Renewed emphasis should be placed in the review on the enhancement of the State's capacity through technical assistance and capacity building, in consultation with and with the consent of the concerned State. One speaker said the Universal Periodic Review was not an isolated process but should be closely linked to and complementary with the work of treaty bodies and other United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the work of national human rights institutions and civil society organizations.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review were Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, Malaysia on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Belgium on behalf of a group of countries, India on behalf of a group of countries, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Cuba, India, China, Sudan, Iraq, South Africa, Kenya, Belarus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Georgia, Algeria, Lesotho, Guyana, Gambia, Tunisia and Iran.

The following non-governmental organization also spoke on the Universal Periodic Review: International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Joint statement:International Catholic Center of Geneva Co-sponsors: Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII , Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Mouvement International d'Apostolate des Milieux Sociaux Independants, Edmund Rice International, VIVAT International, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), Amnesty International, Federation for Women and Family Planning, European Centre for Law and Justice, Centre Europeen pour le droit, les Justice et les droits de l'homme, Réseau International des Droits Humains, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Joint statement:Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada Co-sponsor: Lawyers for Lawyers, International Service for Human Rights, International Bar Association, Tourner La Page, Action of Human Movement, and Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule.

The Council then heard the presentation of a report and an oral update under agenda item 7 on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Christian Salazar Volkmann, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,

introducing the report on the allocation of water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 43/32, said it presented a rights-based analysis of the allocation of water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The report found that water was unavailable in a sufficient and continuous manner in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with nearly 660,000 Palestinians having limited access to water. The report also found that water was inequitably distributed between Palestinians and Israelis. The quality of water in Gaza was of low standards and 96 per cent of households received water that did not meet drinking water quality standards.

Mr. Salazar Volkmann, presenting an oral update on the implementation of resolution S-30/1 under item 7, recalled that resolution S-30/1 decided to "urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021". On 22 July 2021, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed Navi Pillay of South Africa as Chair of the Commission, accompanied by Miloon Kothari of India and Chris Sidoti of Australia as fellow Commissioners. The secretariat was expected to be fully recruited in early 2022.

Israel was not present to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said Israel's theft of water deprived Palestinians of the right to water. Ninety-seven per cent of the water available in Gaza could no longer be used. The share of water available to Israeli settlers was not the same as what was available for Palestinians. Israel continued to Jewdify Jerusalem and expel the Palestinian population. The 13-year blockade of Gaza had prevented reconstruction efforts and was an obstacle to distributing vaccines. All of these practices were a systematic apartheid type policy.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said Israel consolidated its occupation through settlements and their expansion, as well as confiscation of lands, looting of natural resources, and transferring people to the occupied lands in order to methodologically change the demographics in a total disregard of its commitments under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Item 7 on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab States was an important tool to monitor and document the violations by Israel.

In the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab Territories, some speakers strongly condemned the continuous grave violations and abuses committed by Israel. They said Israeli settlements were at the core of colonial occupation and were only made possible through the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The expansion of settlements also continued to deprive Palestinians of vital water resources needed for a decent standard of living. A number of speakers regretted the continued boycott by some countries of item 7, which dealt with the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. Some speakers said item 7 was created for no other purpose than to institutionalise the Council's obsession with Israel and to create a false record to demonise and delegitimise Israel. The Office of the High Commissioner's report on water contained no Israeli government data and was based almost entirely on unverified claims from the Palestinian Authority and non-governmental organizations, several of which were tied to a Palestinian terrorist group. Other speakers said that anti-Semitism permeated the United Nations' institutions and at the tip of the iceberg lay item 7. They said the United Nations anti-Israel bias legitimised and enabled violence against Jews. The Council was urged to abolish the anti-Semitic item 7.

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

Palestine Independent Commission for Human Rights took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Institute for NGO Research, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, European Union of Jewish Students, World Jewish Congress, Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, Joint statement:Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Co-sponsor: Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man , Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, United Nations Watch, B'nai B'rith, Joint statement:Ingenieurs du Monde, Co-sponsor: United Nations Watch, The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Joint statement:*Centre Europe - tiers monde*, Co-sponsor: International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Joint statement:Defence for Children International, Co-sponsor: Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Joint statement:Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Co-sponsors: Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights , Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Habitat International Coalition, Joint statement:Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Co-sponsor: Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man International Service for Human Rights , Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, American Association of Jurists, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Next Century Foundation, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International Human Rights Council, and Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations.

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-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work on Monday, 4 October, to hold a general debate on agenda item 8 on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Work. This will be followed by an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on People of African Descent.

General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

Speakers said that the Universal Periodic Review was one of the pillars on which the Council relied; this unique mechanism, which consisted of reviewing the achievements of all United Nations Member States in the field of human rights, made it possible to contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in all 193 United Nations Member States. The Universal Periodic Review was an extremely effective mechanism of the Council that enjoyed universal support. Some speakers pointed out that lack of progress in the realisation of human rights was not on account of a lack of willingness on the part of States but due to a lack of capacity to achieve targets. Renewed emphasis should be placed in the review on the enhancement of the State's capacity through technical assistance and capacity building, in consultation with and with the consent of the concerned State. While considering such capacity building and technical assistance, the recommendations that enjoyed the support of the concerned State must be focused on. One speaker said this would strengthen the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and lead to the desired impact on the ground - and would also reinforce the Council's role in the global promotion and protection of all human rights.

Speakers said the Universal Periodic Review was a useful peer review mechanism which provided States with the opportunity to present their human rights approaches and share challenges as well as best practices through open and transparent dialogues. It was also noted that the Universal Periodic Review potential to make long-term advancements in the area of human rights in all Member States required all States to be involved and to base their recommendations on objective and reliable information. One speaker said the Universal Periodic Review was not an isolated process but should be closely linked to and complementary with the work of treaty bodies and other United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the work of national human rights institutions and civil society organizations. Civil society played a crucial role in several phases of the Universal Periodic Review process, such as in the preparation of the Universal Periodic Review sessions, the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes, and in contributing to the quality of the national reports. States were called upon to take the necessary measures to ensure and enhance civil society cooperation in their work without fear of reprisal or persecution, harassment or intimidation at home or abroad.

Some speakers said the Universal Periodic Review was a useful platform for international cooperation - allowing all States to be treated on an equal footing. Some speakers regretted that the recommendations were not all implemented, adding that the results did not always correspond to the realities on the ground. They said the Universal Periodic Review had the potential for change, but it was often used as a public relations exercise instead. One speaker urged the Council and all Member States to further hold governments accountable for obligations rather than engage in a box-ticking exercise full of pro forma declarations.

**Presentation of Reports by the High Commissioner ****on the Allocation of Water Resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, Pursuant to Resolution 43/32, and of the High Commissioner's Oral Update on the Progress Made in the Implementation of Resolution S-30/1**

CHRISTIAN SALAZAR VOLKMANN, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,

introducing the report on the allocation of water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 43/32, said it presented a rights-based analysis of the allocation of water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It recommended measures to ensure implementation of equitable access to safe drinking water in accordance with international law. The report found that water was unavailable in a sufficient and continuous manner in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with nearly 660,000 Palestinians having limited access to water. The report also found that water was inequitably distributed between Palestinians and Israelis. In addition, Israeli authorities treated the nearly 450,000 Israeli settlers and 2.7 million Palestinians residing in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) under two distinct bodies of law. This resulted in unequal treatment on a range of issues, including access to water.

In Gaza, about one million people -- half of the population -- was estimated as being in need of water and sanitation interventions. The quality of water in Gaza was of low standards and 96 per cent of households received water that did not meet drinking water quality standards. Israeli practices and policies affecting water infrastructure, destruction during military escalations, the impact of closures, power shortages and challenges in water governance, had all contributed to this situation. The negative consequences of the limited availability of safe drinking water were disastrous for Palestinians in Gaza. The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (known as Oslo II) remained the key agreement on regulating water use in the West Bank. Intended to be a five-year interim agreement, it remained in place until today, and had proven inadequate and inequitable. Israel's prioritisation of permanent water supply for Israeli settlements, to the detriment of the Palestinian population, severely affected the enjoyment of human rights of Palestinians, including rights to water and sanitation.

The report included recommendations to all parties to increase efforts to treat and reuse water in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

Mr. Salazar Volkmann, presenting an oral update on the implementation of resolution S-30/1 under item 7, recalled that resolution S-30/1 decided to "urgently establish an ongoing independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021". On 22 July 2021, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed Navi Pillay of South Africa as Chair of the Commission, accompanied by Miloon Kothari of India and Chris Sidoti of Australia as fellow Commissioners. In accordance with its usual process of support to operationalisation of new investigative mandates, the Office of the High Commissioner had dedicated an internal initial surge capacity to commence this process, consisting of two staff members. With the aim of ensuring the rapid operationalisation of the work of the Commission of Inquiry, the recruitment of a temporary start-up team to form the Commission's own independent secretariat was underway to commence the substantive implementation of the mandate. The secretariat was expected to be fully recruited in early 2022 and would be located in United Nations premises in Geneva. The Commissioners were due to undertake their first mission to Geneva by the end of the year, which would be their first in person meeting, to undertake further consultations and consider next steps in their programme of work.

Statements by Countries Concerned

Israel was not present to take the floor.

Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, thanked the High Commissioner for her report and update, asking the High Commissioner to update the list of firms in line with the resolution. The report stressed the importance of being able to enjoy the right to water but Israel's theft of water deprived Palestinians of the right to water. Ninety-seven per cent of the water available in Gaza could no longer be used. The share of water available to Israeli settlers was not the same as what was available for Palestinians. Sabotage work had been carried out by Israelis since the hostilities in May. Israel continued to Jewify Jerusalem and expel the Palestinian population. Palestinians, including children and women, had been killed and Palestinian territories and resources had been confiscated, and provocations by settlers had taken place. All of these were increasing. The 13-year blockade of Gaza had prevented reconstructions efforts and was an obstacle to distributing vaccines. All of these practices were a systematic apartheid type policy. Some said that Israel had a right to self-defence but the world had to realise the extent of the suffering of the Palestinians. The Palestinian occupation must end to allow the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, create their own State and find a solution to the problem of the return of refugees.

Syria, speaking as a country concerned, said Israel consolidated its occupation through settlements and their expansion, as well as confiscation of lands, looting of natural resources and transferring people to the occupied lands in order to methodologically change the demographics in a total disregard of its commitments under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Item 7 on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab States was an important tool to monitor and document the violations by Israel. Syria thanked countries participating in the general debate and denounced countries, which pretended to be guarantors of human rights while adopting double standards with regards to Israeli violations. Israel, the occupying power, continued its illegal measures and settlement activities in the occupied Syrian Golan, which violated the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolutions. In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israeli plans and pressures aimed at forcing Syrians to leave their land by besieging their villages and cities with settlements and settlement projects, preventing them from demographic and urban expansion, plundering their natural resources and using them to the benefits of settlements and settlement activities. Israel subjected Syrians to discriminatory treatment, imposed high financial costs on them to obtain medical care, and impeded the marketing of agricultural products, which constituted the main source of their livelihood.

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

Speaks regretted the inability of the Office of the High Commissioner to enter the occupied Palestinian territories - and the failure of the Israeli Government to respond to a request to provide information in connection with the preparation of the report. The report reviewed the increasing need of the Palestinians for water due to population growth, and the impact of the expansion of settlements on their rights to clean drinking water and sanitation, and reaffirmed the duties of the occupying power to respect international human rights law and the right to clean water and sanitation. Speakers strongly condemned the continuous grave violations and abuses committed by Israel. Israeli settlements were at the core of colonial occupation and were only made possible through the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The expansion of settlements also continued to deprive Palestinians of vital water resources needed for a decent standard of living, as indicated in the High Commissioner's report. Speakers urged the High Commissioner to continue updating the database of companies operating in settlements as mandated by resolution 31/36 of 2016.

Speakers condemned, in the strongest term, the violations of human rights as a result of the Israel occupation and excessive use of force, including practices of the occupying power that had severely impacted the enjoyment of Palestinians' rights to safe drinking water and sanitation - which was part of its obligations under international human rights law. Israel must fully comply with its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. Speakers said access to water and sanitation must be addressed urgently in order to reduce the impact on vulnerable Palestinian communities and prevent irreversible damage to ecosystems and human health. There was a need to better regulate the distribution and use of water for industrial purposes, in order to increase its availability for personal and domestic use. Some speakers urged Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian houses and to acknowledge the rights of the Palestinian people, supporting the two-State solution and encouraging peace talks. The right to water should never be used as an instrument of political pressure. A number of speakers regretted the continued boycott by some countries of item 7, which dealt with the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Some speakers said item 7 was created for no other purpose than to institutionalise the Council's obsession with Israel and to create a false record to demonise and delegitimise Israel. The Office of the High Commissioner's report on water contained no Israeli Government data and was based almost entirely on unverified claims from the Palestinian Authority and non-governmental organizations, several of which were tied to a Palestinian terrorist group. Other speakers said that anti-Semitism permeated the United Nations' institutions and at the tip of the iceberg lay item 7. They regretted that the Human Rights Council---which included some of the largest violators of human rights---had enshrined criticism of Israel in its procedures with item 7. No other State, regardless of how egregious their human rights record, was singled out except the one Jewish state, a liberal democracy. One speaker said that the United Nations anti-Israel bias legitimised and enabled violence against Jews. The Council was urged to abolish the anti-Semitic item 7. Some speakers said peace in the Middle East required the dismantling of hatred. It was time for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to stop hiring teachers who glorified Hitler, promoted anti-Semitism, and incited terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-se-penche-sur-la-situation-des

For use of the information media; not an official record