From May 20 – May 22, a delegation representing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People participated in a roundtable meeting on the Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine. The theme of the Roundtable was “Available mechanisms to ensure accountability for violations of international law”.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by the General Assembly 1975 with the request that it recommend a programme of implementation to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination without external interference, national independence and sovereignty, and to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced.
H.E. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations and Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, headed the delegation and Chaired the Roundtable. Other participants included Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, Ambassador Abdelaziz Seifelnasr and Ambassador Samir Diab, representatives of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, Ambassador Haifa Saygeh, representative of the League of Arab States, and other distinguished diplomats and experts. The meeting also served as an opportunity to provide training to young diplomats representing the state of Palestine.
During the three-day long roundtable, participants listened to the presentations of academic experts, practitioners, and high level politicians on themes such as “strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law” and “Israeli settlements as a war crime”. Ambassador Tanin set the stage for the meeting at its opening. “Today, we have come together to dedicate the next three days to presentations and discussions on implications and opportunities for the Palestinian people and their State vis-à-vis the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice,” he explained.
The meeting comes at a critical moment in Palestine’s history. After the breakdown of bilateral negotiations last spring and the devastating war in Gaza over the summer, the outlook for a solution to the conflict appears bleaker than ever before. In this context, Ambassador Tanin noted, “The Palestinian people… have every right to use legal and legitimate institutions and their instruments and mechanisms to advance their just cause.”
Members of the delegation representing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held several meetings on the margins of the three-day roundtable. On 22 May, the delegation met with representative of the Dutch Foreign Office, including the Director General of Political Affairs Wim J.P. Geerts, the Director of the MENA Department, Birgitta M. Tazelaar, and Deputy Envoy for UN Affairs Bahia G. Tahzib, where it discussed the Committee’s work and possibilities for future collaboration. “The Committee is very interested to hear how the Netherlands envisions the opportunities for EU actions to induce Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, freeze the settlements, and come back to negotiation table,” Ambassador Tanin noted.
On 19 May 2015, Ambassador Tanin addressed the Leiden Law School in Leiden, Netherlands. There, he introduced the work of the Palestine Committee and its history. He also noted recent key achievements in efforts to further the rights of the Palestinian people. In the past two years, he noted, the State of Palestine has become a State Party to the International Criminal Court and acceded to the Geneva Conventions and a number of other international treaties. “These actions are part of the legal aspect of the Palestinian people’s struggle to achieve and exercise their inalienable rights, and markers on their road of the Palestinian State to become a full-fledged member of the international community, enjoying the rights like every other sovereign state as well as assuming its responsibilities,” he remarked.
On 18 May 2015, the delegation participated in a meeting with Christian Berger, Director of North Africa, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq Division of the European Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels. There, Ambassador Tanin briefed European Union officials on the activities of the Palestine Committee, noting recent and upcoming meetings of the Committee in Vienna, Moscow and Brussels. He expressed appreciation of the EU’s support to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and welcomed the appointment of the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process.
“The Committee is looking forward to continuing and strengthening interaction with the EU,” he said. After the war in Gaza in 2015 and the divisive political atmosphere following recent Israeli elections, the Committee believes that it is necessary for the international community to speak with a strong and cohesive voice for the rights of the Palestinian people.
Members of the delegation also visited the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where they held meetings on State Parties at the ICC, and the International Court of Justice, where they held meetings on the State of Palestine and the International Court of Justice.