December 18th, 2006 03:46 EST
UN forum on Palestinian rights adopts declaration urging new system to protect civilians
A United Nations forum on Palestinian rights meeting in Malaysia has adopted a Declaration decrying recent deaths in the Middle East and calling for a new system to protect civilians there.
Convened under the auspices of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the meeting adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, which urged the UN to establish in cooperation with the parties a general mechanism for the protection of civilians on the ground.
It also called upon the international community, including the members of the Quartet – made up of the UN, United States, Russia and the European Union – to establish a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism.
Welcoming the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the Declaration said it should be extended to the West Bank and supported by tangible political steps that would allow the parties to engage in a meaningful political dialogue.
The participants emphasized that the root cause of the conflict is the continuing occupation of the Palestinian territory and said this long-standing conflict would have no final settlement without the achievement by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, including the right to return.
The Declaration voiced concern at the escalation in recent months of Israeli military attacks in the Gaza Strip, “particularly the tragic events that had taken place in the town of Beit Hanoun” where 19 people were killed. The participants denounced the use of excessive and indiscriminate force, extrajudicial killings, and the vast destruction of homes, civilian infrastructure and agricultural lands.
“They reminded Israel, the occupying Power, that it has to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law. They also called for the cessation of rocket attacks on Israel carried out by Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip. These actions put civilians in serious danger and only aggravate an already grave security situation,” the Declaration stated.
Condemning “the continuing construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, in contravention of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice” (ICJ), they welcomed the General Assembly's recent establishment of a Register of Damage on the issue. Israel claims the barrier is necessary to keep out terrorists.
The participants expressed frustration at the deepening economic, social and humanitarian crisis and isolation of the Gaza Strip and criticized Israel for withholding of tax revenues due to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel stopped handing over tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, and international donors suspended direct aid, calling on Hamas to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The Declaration urged Israel to lift restrictions on “the freedom of movement and other measures stifling the economic and social life of the Palestinians, and to resume the transfer of collected Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in keeping with signed agreements.”
The Declaration urged donors to give generously to the recently launched emergency appeal by 12 UN agencies and 14 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) aimed at addressing a rapidly worsening humanitarian situation. They expressed appreciation to countries which had been generous providers of assistance to the Palestinian people.
The participants strongly supported continuing efforts of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas aimed at forming a Government of National Unity “that is capable of achieving maximum support of the Palestinian people and capable of fulfilling its responsibilities vis-à-vis the international community.”
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration was adopted Saturday by representatives of governments, Palestine, intergovernmental organizations, UN entities, parliaments, civil society and the media as well as international experts.
On Sunday, the Committee convened the UN Forum of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People to examine initiatives by civil society in Asia and the Pacific in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Participants discussed legislative and political advocacy; efforts by NGOs, religious groups and the media aimed at mobilizing public opinion in support of the Palestinian people, and the role of academic institutions and think tanks in this effort.