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Sourani Meets with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process


Ref: 04/2006

Date:  16 January 2006

Sourani Meets with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process

Gaza – Mr. Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, met with Mr. Al Varo De Soto, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary General to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and his staff. 

Mr. Sourani discussed with Mr. De Soto the impacts of the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation has remained effective in its physical and legal forms, which means that the Fourth Geneva Convention remain applicable to the Gaza Strip.  He asserted that Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) control the lives of the Palestinian civilian population, highlighting daily human rights violations perpetrated by IOF against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip. 

Mr. Sourani further pointed out that at least 50,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have not been able to travel through Rafah International Crossing Point, as IOF have maintained their control over the crossing.  These Palestinians do not have Palestinian identity cards, which means that Israel decides who is Gazan and who is not. 

Mr. Sourani also spoke about the kidnappings of internationals, condemning these kidnappings and asserting that this phenomenon is not part of Palestinian political history.  Rather these kidnappings are perpetrated by people who wish to threaten the security of the country and undermine the upcoming elections, which will be held on 25 January 2006.  Mr. Sourani also condemned the PNA’s tolerant position towards these crimes.  In some cases, the PNA has negotiated with the kidnappers and has reached unacceptable compromises with them.  Mr. Sourani asserted that the Palestinian people have paid a high price for these crimes, as most UNRWA international workers have now left the Gaza Strip; the movement of ICRC staff has been restricted; international journalists have abstained from coming to the Gaza Strip; and international staff members of humanitarian and non-governmental organizations have left the Gaza Strip. 

Mr. Sourani asserted that the future for the Palestinian people lies in the rule of law and that the peaceful transition of authority, following the death of President Yasser Arafat and the presidential and local lections that followed, were a source of pride for the Palestinian people, who succeeded in practicing democracy under occupation.  He further emphasized that the Palestinian people insist on holding the next elections on 25 January.  Holding these elections has received the consensus of civil society, political parties and the Palestinian people as a whole. 

Mr. Sourani condemned the Israeli position towards East Jerusalem and the restrictions imposed on the election campaign in the city.  He also briefed the visitors on the restrictions imposed on the movement of candidates between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and inside the West Bank, emphasizing that the freedom of movement and expression is a precondition for transparent and fair elections.

Mr. Sourani highly appreciated the efforts made by the Central Election Commission, which he described as professional and independent. 

Moreover, Mr. Sourani condemned the Israeli practices in the West Bank and Israel’s disregard for international resolutions, referring to unprecedented levels of settlement expansion, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.  He indicated that Israel has continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank, neglecting the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice, and the international community has failed to act.  Mr. Sourani asked Mr. De Soto to present these facts to the UN Secretary General.