Mediaeval Carnage in Modern Times

Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories


- Debapriya Bhattacharya



With a feeling of great sympathy and solidarity for the Palestinian people, Bangladesh associates itself with the statements made by Pakistan and Cuba on behalf of the OIC and NAM respectively. I appreciate the candid and constructive statement by the High Commissioner of Human Rights on the emerging situation in Gaza. I also take note of the report of the Special Report on Palestine.


The events that we are witnessing in Gaza for the last two weeks are simply appalling. More than 700 civilians have been killed so far by the indiscriminate Israeli attacks. More than 200 of them are children. Schools, hospitals, dwellings, places of worship, funeral houses, ambulances, delivery trucks have not been spared from the onslaught. Majority of the population in Gaza does not have shelter, food, medicine, electricity, running water. As we speak the spectre of death and destruction continue to visit Gaza.


This brutal and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of human rights and international humanitarian laws. The barbaric attacks are violating the basic tenet of international law which directs the military action to distinguish between combatant and civilian targets. The Israeli attacks represent severe and massive violations of the Geneva Conventions. This relates particularly to the obligations of the Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war. There is no legal, political and moral justification for the inhumane actions which Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people. These are crimes against humanity and should be subjected to international criminal law.


The people in the Occupied Territories are already in a dire situation due to Israeli blockades, closers, confiscation of land, demolition of houses and creation of separation walls. The separation wall is still being built, despite the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The past 17-month seize has transformed Gaza into an open-air prison, with the area totally separated from the rest of Palestinian territory, as well as completely isolated from rest of the world. Vatican has aptly likened it to a “concentration camp”. Israel continues to obstruct movement of persons, including those needing medical attention. Media people are not allowed to enter the Occupied Territory. The so-called three-hour corridor granted for emergency relief is a cruel joke. Only yesterday, attack on UN supply convoy has led to death of the driver and cessation of deliveries.


How much proof do we need to acknowledge that we are witnessing a human rights catastrophe of unbelievable proportion? This is a mediaeval carnage in modern times. Eighty per cent of the 1.5 million Palestinians are living below the poverty line; they are being further deprived of basic human rights.


We should feel a sense of collective guilt for being solemnly silent and conveniently irresolute for too long. We welcome adoption of the resolution in the Security Council yesterday by overwhelming majority. We now expect its immediate and effective implementation. Concurrently, our today’s special session should now demonstrate the efficacy of the Human Rights Council in the face of blatant and cynical defiance of international law. We need to move fast for immediate cease-fire and to ensure humanitarian assistance and developmental reconstruction in the Occupied Territories.


The Prime Minister of the newly-elected Government of Bangladesh, Madam Sheikh Hasina in one of her initial statements has strongly condemned the on-going heinous atrocities unleashed by Israel on Palestinian people. Bangladesh maintains that occupation of the Palestinian land is at the heart of the Middle-East conflict and it must end. An atmosphere conducive for negotiations should be created to give scope to a just, comprehensive and sustainable resolution of the conflict. Only a political settlement can guarantee lasting security and peace in the Middle-East. I earnestly hope our today’s deliberation and resolution[i] will be a contribution to that end.          


This is the statement of Bangladesh Ambassador Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya delivered at the Special Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on the situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories, 9 January 2009.