Israel/OT/PA: Human rights must be a central part of the peace process
'If the peace initiative is to be successful it must not repeat the mistakes of the past. One of the reasons why the Oslo Agreement of 1993 failed was because human rights were not at its centre.'
Amnesty International called on all those involved in the peace process, including all Israelis and Palestinians, to recognise that human rights must be enshrined in any future peace treaty. The human rights of one individual can not be founded on the loss of rights of another individual.
The organisation specifically asked that any peace initiative recommend specific measures to guarantee the human rights of all, including the right to life, physical and mental integrity, freedom from arbitrary detention and freedom of movement.
The intifada and the measures taken by Israel to suppress it have led to a situation where the abuse of human rights has become entrenched and continues to escalate. 'When human rights are routinely and repeatedly denied it can only end in more violence. There can be no security without human rights and the time has come for the international community to ensure that the deterioration in this respect goes no further.'
'In this cycle of mounting violence and disregard for human rights, the international community must commit itself to sending observers to help protect the rights of all. The presence of impartial professional observers to ensure compliance by all sides with international humanitarian and human rights law will help to unlock a situation paralysed by human rights abuses and despair.'
The organisation stressed that the international community must be fully engaged in this process, and give full support to sending international observers to the area. They should have a strong and public human rights mandate. This is one of the confidence building measures which the Security Council could now help put in place. It would pave the way for much needed human rights protection measures for Palestinians and Israelis.
Hundreds of Palestinians unconnected with any armed attack continue to be killed and wounded. The Israeli Defence Forces openly carry out extrajudicial executions. Dozens of Israeli civilians have been killed by armed Palestinian groups.
All Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are suffering collective punishment for the actions of armed groups. More than 100 Israeli army checkpoints barring access to villages and towns throughout the West Bank and Gaza have denied Palestinians in the Occupied Territories freedom of movement, damaging the education of the Children's rights, and impoverishing adults whose unemployment has now reached 50% in many areas.
The demolition of Palestinian homes has made hundreds of families - including thousands of Children's rights - homeless. 'Such demolitions are unjustified by military necessity,' commented Amnesty International. 'Since the beginning of the intifada more than 500 houses have been demolished in the Gaza Strip alone.'
Over the past month more than 250 Israeli army reservists have signed a declaration stating that they will no longer 'expel, starve and humilate' an entire people. Israeli army serving soldiers and reservists have spoken out against killing and harassment of Palestinians and rules of engagement which order soldiers to kill Palestinians when no lives were in danger.
The public debate in the Security Council took place a week after a statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for urgent steps and new ideas, when he expressed fears that the 'hopelessness and despair' among both Palestinians and Israelis could 'lead to more extreme measures with tragic consequences for the region'. He warned the international community that it was 'nearing the edge of the abyss'.