24 April 2001
Middle East conflict
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Eduard Lintner, Germany, Group of the European People’s Party
I. Conclusions of the committee
1. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights supports the draft resolution and the draft recommendation tabled by the Political Affairs Committee, but believes that the texts can be further strengthened to reflect the Assembly’s preoccupations in the area of human rights.
2. The committee concludes that the key problem from a human rights perspective is the apparent non-respect by both parties to the conflict of international humanitarian law. In particular, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Protocols unconditionally prohibit murder and cruel treatment, including in the course of internal armed conflicts or in occupied territories. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attacks (Article 13 of the Second Protocol), nor shall starvation of civilians be used as a method of combat. The basic principles for the protection of civilian populations in armed conflict have also been affirmed by Resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly2.
3. On the Israeli side, the use of excessive force violates these binding treaties. Particularly worrisome is Israel’s scant regard for civilian immunity, leading to the targeting of civilian persons and their property by Israeli forces. Collective punishments are clearly unacceptable, and the closure of territories entails great hardship on the local population. Bombings of civilian targets, extra-judicial killings of Palestinian political figures, and the violation of medical immunity have all been reported. The ICRC complains of lacking Israeli co-operation, in the form of hampered access to the Palestinian territories, restricted movements within them, and obstacles put in the way of the distribution of humanitarian aid. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights considers that the Israelis must be called upon to fully apply international humanitarian law, and thus to respect the immunity of non-combatants and their property, and cease hampering the efforts of aid-workers.
4. On the Palestinian side, respect for human rights can also be legitimately questioned. The lacking clear condemnation of terrorism, and the passive attitude of the Palestinian leadership in the face of illegal and deplorable attacks on Jewish civilian targets, also constitute violations of international humanitarian law. Allegations that forces under the authority of the Palestinian Authority are engaging in terrorist acts and inciting to violence have to be impartially investigated without delay. Should these allegations be substantiated, the guilty must be held accountable (via the judicial system). Reports of arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and deaths while in custody, and summary trials are extremely worrisome. The continuation of executions, especially in the current volatile security atmosphere, deserves contempt. A moratorium on executions should be instituted immediately. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights considers that the Palestinians must be called upon to fully apply international humanitarian law, and thus to respect the immunity of non-combatants, in particular of aid-workers and medical personnel, and investigate and hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
5. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is convinced that, for there to be hope in the peace process, violence must stop on both sides. The vicious circle of terrorist attacks leading to collective punishments and the targeting of civilians, which again incites more terrorist attacks, etc., must be broken before any measure of peace can be achieved. There is a danger that, otherwise, the violence will spiral out of the control of both sides.
II. Proposed amendments
6. The Committee thus proposes the following amendments:
To the draft resolution:
Replace sub-paragraph 14 A (i), with the following sub-paragraph:
“to strictly respect the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols, and thus to refrain from closures and similar measures which have a devastating impact on the economic life in the Palestinian territories, and to immediately stop collective punishments which serve no useful purpose and are not worthy of a democratic state;”
Add, after sub-paragraph 14 A (iii), the following new sub-paragraph:
“to fully apply international humanitarian law, and thus to respect the immunity of non-combatants and their property, and grant aid-workers (in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross) full and unhampered access to and free movement within the Palestinian territories;”
In sub-paragraph B (i), add between “condemn” and “terrorism”:
“and actively fight;”Am
In sub-paragraph B (i), add at the end of the paragraph:
“and to hold them accountable, should the allegations be substantiated;”Am
Add, after sub-paragraph 14 B (i), the following new sub-paragraph:
“to fully apply international humanitarian law, and thus to respect the immunity of non-combatants, in particular of aid-workers and medical personnel;”
Add, after sub-paragraph 14 B (iii), the following new sub-paragraph:
“to institute an immediate moratorium on executions, and to pardon all those sentenced to death pending the full abolition of capital punishment;”.
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee
Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reference to committee: Bureau decision of 23 April 2001
Opinion approved by the committee on 24 April 2001
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin, Ms Kleinsorge and Mr Cupina
1 See Doc 9032 tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.
2 In view of its relative conciseness, I would like to cite extracts of the highly topical UN Assembly resolution 2675 (XXV) of 9 December 1970:
“2. In the conduct of military operations during armed conflicts, a distinction must be made at all times between persons actively taking part in the hostilities and civilian populations.
3. Civilian populations as such should not be the object of military operations.
4. Dwellings and other installations that are used only by civilian populations should not be the object of military operations.
5. Places or areas designated for the sole protection of civilians, such as hospital zones or similar refuges, should not be the object of military operations.”