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Human rights conference attended by approximately 130 NGOs, and representatives of 38 governments.

Gaza City / PCHR - The director of the Palestine Centre for Human Rights spoke this week at a regional human rights, democracy and good governance conference where he attended a meeting of experts on accountability for international crimes. On 5 and 6 October, Raji Sourani, Director, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, attended a conference organized by the Moroccan Organisation of Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice (Italy), and the Moroccan and Italian governments. The conference was a regional workshop on 'Democracy, Human Rights and Local Governance', and formed part of the process of dialogue and cooperation between civil society and the governments. The conference was attended by approximately 130 NGOs, and representatives of 38 governments. Sourani chaired the major session, speaking of civil society's efforts to engage in positive constructive dialogue and engagement, and how these efforts have been met. He spoke of the Palestinian experience, citing three examples of how governments have reacted in the past. First, he spoke of the 2005/2006 Palestinian elections, and the consequent reaction of the Quartet, the EU, the US, and other members of the international community. This reaction had a significant negative impact, not only in Palestine but also regionally. The elections were monitored and supported by the international community, and confirmed to have been free and fair. However, the results of the elections were rejected by the international community, with severe consequences for democracy and human rights in the region. Second, the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on The Wall. The lack of an international reaction to this legally authoritative decision encouraged Israel to continue violating international law, including all those issues discussed in the Advisory Opinion. The third was the reaction to the most recent offensive on the Gaza Strip (27 December -- 18 January). The offensive was broadcast live on air, and the conflict was the subject of numerous investigations and reports, including those of the United Nations, the Arab League, and numerous independent Palestinian, Israeli and international organizations. The results of these investigations were consistent and conclusive, the crimes committed in the Gaza Strip are known to the world, yet no action has been taken. The most recent of these reports, was the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission, headed by Justice Goldstone. The report confirmed existing findings, however, its most significant contribution was its emphasis on individual criminal responsibility and accountability. The report set out concrete and specific implementation mechanisms. The reaction from the United States and certain European States has been disappointing, and hypocritical. These countries speak publicly of the rule of law, and human rights, and are bound by international legal obligations to respect these rights. However, these fundamental principles are cast aside when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Such actions are in conflict with the universal nature of human rights, and equal access to the law; they undermine the respect for human rights, and leave countless individuals beyond the law's protection. \ Sourani finished by noting that, as Palestinians, our demands are simple, we ask for the rule of law to be applied and respected. It is evident that if accountability is not sough, further crises cannot be prevented. While in Morocco, Sourani also contributed to a meeting of experts convened by ISESCO. The meeting was called in order to discuss accountability for international crimes, focusing on implementation mechanisms such as the use of universal jurisdiction. ISESCO's support and cooperation in this regard is welcome, and appreciated. In light of the reaction to the Goldstone report, universal jurisdiction currently presents one of the best opportunities available to ensure accountability, and to protect victims' rights.

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Publication:Palestine News Network (West Bank, Palestine)
Date:Oct 8, 2009
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Human rights conference attended by approximately 130 NGOs and representatives of 38 governments.
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