Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Demand Convening of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention at Its Specified Time of July 15, 1999
15th June, 1999
Yesterday, June 14, 1999, a preparatory meeting for the conference of the High Contracting Parties (HCPs) to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons In Time of War met in Cairo. The conference of the HCPs will convene in Geneva on July 15, 1999 to investigate measures for enforcing the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The preparatory meeting is sponsored by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The UN General Assembly in a series of five resolutions relative to the Occupied Palestinian Territories – the last of which is A/RES /ES-10/6 of February 9, 1999 – reaffirmed that the Palestinian territories that came under the control of Israeli troops in 1967 are occupied territories and that the Fourth Geneva Convention is de jure applicable. The resolutions further declare that Israel’s occupation is a belligerent one. Consequently, Israel is obliged to fulfill the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention along with its legal duties toward civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The systematic violation of Palestinian rights and properties, including the legalization of willful killing, torture, confiscation of Palestinian land and building of settlements on it, administrative detention, restrictions on freedom of movement and construction, and separation of Palestinian families, has led the United Nations to invite the HCPs to fulfill their legal obligations under Article I – which provides that the parties undertake to respect the Convention and to ensure its respect in all circumstances – through the convening of the July 15 conference. This conference is to investigate measures for enforcement of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Swiss government as the depository of the Convention is authorized to prepare for the conference and to take the necessary preparatory measures.
In light of the measures that have been taken so far, which are not in complete harmony with the invitation for the convening of the conference and the intended goals, and due to the fact that only one month is left before the conference to achieve the intended goals of the UN resolutions to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by putting an end to the daily suffering of the Palestinian people, providing protection for them and their properties, and ensuring the rule of international law as a foundation that cannot be ignored for any of the arrangements related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Palestinian human rights organizations are asking for the following:
- The convening of the conference at its specified time based on the goals defined by the United Nations. Any failure to hold this conference poses a grave danger to the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and represents a severe lack of concern for international humanitarian law. Any other alternative would in fact make a mockery of international law and only contribute to the Israeli government continuing practices and measures that violate the provisions of the Convention and other rules of international law. This would definitely result in the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and pose a significant threat to international security and peace.
- Not to allow the peace process to take priority over the conference as this could result in the conference not being convened. The convening of the conference does not contradict the crisis-ridden peace process. Indeed, the convening of the conference at its specified time would constitute a strong push for peace in the region. Real peace cannot be achieved without being based on the parties’ respect for the rule of international law. Moreover, real peace demands the recognition of the Palestinian territories as occupied territories, demands Israeli respect for its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and demands putting an end to Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian rights.
- To condemn the Israeli and American position that is against the convening of the conference. This Israeli and American position is an intentional attempt to undermine the international will and a significant step toward the violation of international humanitarian law. The international community recognizes that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is both very dangerous and intolerable. While the international community is asking the HCPs to put an end to this situation, Palestinian human rights organizations see the United States taking a stand opposing the international position. The American position will only contribute to the continuation of Israeli violations of the Convention, the ongoing committing of war crimes, and the danger of undermining international peace and security.
- Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
- Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights
- Center for Democracy and Workers’ Rights
- Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights – Gaza
- Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid
- Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling
- Addameer Prisoners’ Support Association – Jerusalem
- Palestinian Centre for Nonviolence