Date: 1 October 2002
1) A Meeting with Speaker of the Austrian Parliament Dr. Hanis Fischer
Director of PCHR, Raji Sourani, met with Speaker of the Austrian parliament Dr. Hanis Fischer. Sourani briefed Fischer on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and human rights violations and war crimes perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians. Sourani asserted that the conflict can be resolved only by ending the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories in accordance with the will of the international community, providing protection for Palestinian civilians through the implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and allowing the Palestinian people to practice their life to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state.
Sourani discussed the case of Marwan Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council struggling against the Israeli occupation, and criticized the conspiracy of silence practiced by Europe towards crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people and the legitimate Palestinian political representation.
In addition, Sourani discussed the feasibility of conducting elections under the current conditions imposed by Israeli occupying forces, including the total siege imposed on Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, invasion of Palestinian towns and villages, destruction and shelling of public and private property, curfews, large scale campaigns of arrests against the Palestinian people. He asserted that elections cannot be free, fair and truly democratic unless they include Jerusalem, and objective conditions are available, including lifting the total siege, stopping systematic invasions, releasing Palestinian detainees, ensuring free movement and _expression, stopping the policy of extra-judicial executions, and enacting an electoral law that specifies the philosophy and goals of elections. He also added that the Palestinian people want elections, but with clear goals and conditions of a real democratic process, emphasizing that Sharon and his government seek to destroy the Palestinian legitimacy rather than revive it.
2) A Symposium at the Bruno Kreisky Forum
Sourani delivered a lecture titled “The Struggle for Palestinian Human Rights” at the Bruno Kreisky Forum, where many Austrian and European academics, diplomats and politicians were present. After providing a comprehensive overview of Palestinian human rights, Sourani asserted that no one should expect that the Palestinian people can accept an apartheid system or the policy of economic and social suffocation against them in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He asserted that Sharon and his racist government seek, through the internal and external siege imposed on the Palestinian Territories, the invasions of towns, villages and refugee camps, willful killings, extra-judicial assassinations, daily shelling, and mass arrests, to tighten their control of the Palestinian people and make life so unbearable that Palestinians leave their lands in what would be a kind of voluntary transfer. He warned of the deteriorating humanitarian situation as 81% of the Palestinian people live below the poverty line and more than 68% are unemployed. He emphasized that the aims of the Israeli practices are not security aims but rather are political ones that may lead to the implementation of a transfer policy; a number of Israeli ministers have already issued public calls for the transfer of Palestinian civilians.
Sourani stated that Sharon and his government failed to achieve their security promises and that Israel is the most dangerous place in the world for Jews, indicating that all Israeli measures and practices could not defeat the will of the Palestinian people who will continue their struggle for freedom, independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Sourani also asserted that resisting the occupation is a legitimate right and self determination is the most essential right for the Palestinian people.
He criticized the destructive US role, which provided political and legal coverage for Israel, and the conspiracy of silence practiced by Europe, asserting that this puts Israel above international and humanitarian law despite the war crimes Israel continues to perpetrate against the Palestinian people. He further asserted that the Palestinian people will not forgive the Israeli occupation and all those who provided coverage for its crimes from Rafah to Jenin.
Sourani thanked European civil society which has supported the Palestinian people, asserting that the international solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people will continue in order to break the conspiracy of silence. Then, discussion was opened.
3) A Meeting with the Green Party
Sourani also met with the leader of the Austrian Green Party in parliament and a number of its members; he briefed them on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Sourani is on a visit to Austria to receive the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Oustanding Achievements in the Area of Human Rights, which was granted to PCHR for its important role in professionally defending Palestinian human rights. Sourani received the prize in a special ceremony held in the Austrian National Library on 27 September 2002. Approximately 1000 Austrian figures participated in the ceremony to appreciate PCHR and express solidarity with the Palestinian people and its just cause.