Seventy-eighth Session,
28th Meeting (AM)

Amid Conflict in Gaza, General Assembly’s Discussion of World Court, Human Rights Council Never More Important, Speakers Say, Noting Requests for Advisory Opinion

At a time of worsening conflict and alleged human rights and international law violations, the work of the International Court of Justice and the Human Rights Council has never been more important, Member States said today in the General Assembly as debates concluded for the session on the reports of the two bodies, with several speakers expressing distress over the situation in Gaza. 

The Assembly had before it the reports of the Secretary-General on the International Court of Justice (documents A/78/4 and A/78/194) and the Human Rights Council (documents A/78/53 and A/78/53/Add.1). 

It began its annual discussion on the Court on 26 October, when its President, Joan Donoghue, briefed Member States on its work this past year.  This morning, the Assembly continued its consideration of that report, along with the Secretary-General’s note on the matter (Press Releases GA/12556 and GA/12547).  Many Member States commended the World Court for its integrity and impartiality and expressed hope that it would look at Israel’s possible violations of international law. 

The Egyptian delegate, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, noted the importance of the Court’s advisory opinions and said that he eagerly awaits its opinion on the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.  The continued bombings of civilians in Gaza and the Israeli rhetoric against the helpless Palestinian people run counter to all international treatises. 

“The legal dimension of the Palestinian question is very important,” he said, adding that Egypt has submitted a request for an advisory opinion on Israeli practices. 

Echoing that point, the Indonesian representative, associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said the world is heading towards an “international law abyss” with more rampant violation.  It is disheartening to see some of the founders of the United Nations — and the Court — not upholding international law, he said.  The barbaric killing of civilians in Gaza is a case in point.  “What we are witnessing today in Gaza amounts to a war crime,” he said, stressing the need for accountability. 

He hoped that the Court, as the principal judicial organ of the UN, will stand as a beacon of justice.  Indonesia will closely watch whether Israel’s policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories have legal consequences.  The rule of force must not triumph over the rule of law, he added. 

The observer for the State of Palestine said the international law-based order is failing the Palestinian people, notably in Gaza, where an entire nation is fighting for its survival.  The Court was created to avoid such atrocities, he said, urging the international community to reject double standards in the application of the law. “This is a decisive moment,” he said, adding that more than 58 States and international organizations have made submissions to the Court.  “This is a time to uphold the rights of all peoples equally, without exception.” 

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel regretted that the Palestinian delegate chose to exploit the Assembly platform.  Israel upholds the truth regarding the conflict with Hamas, he said, adding that his country is at war with a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, not with the Palestinian population.  He called for the release of all Israeli hostages and said that Hamas will be held accountable for its attack.  He added that Hamas must lay down its arms and surrender, and if it does so, the war ends tomorrow.

On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, the representative of Armenia said that Azerbaijan is a serial violator of justice and the rule of law, as demonstrated by the armed attack against the besieged population of Nagorno-Karabakh on 19 September resulting in the death of innocent civilians and the mass displacement of the entire Armenian population there.  In response to this violent aggression, Armenia submitted another appeal to the International Court of Justice on 29 September requesting measures be taken to prevent displacement of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, he said.

Exercising his right of reply, the delegate of Azerbaijan said that it was ironic to hear accusations of hatred and discrimination on ethnic grounds from monoethnic Armenia, which dehumanizes and denies the identity of Azerbaijanis.  Armenia’s allegations about civilian casualties, ethnic cleansing and destruction of Armenian cultural and religious sites are false and have been refuted by United Nations officials, he said, adding that the Armenian delegate omitted that Azerbaijan also initiated proceedings against Armenia and that the Court rejected most of Armenia’s requests.

The Assembly began the morning by resuming the debate about the work of the Human Rights Council, a discussion that began on 31 October when Václav Bálek, the Council’s President, presented its annual report (documents A/77/53 and A/77/53/Add.1) detailing some of the work done by the body this past year (Press Release GA/12550).

During the discussion, several delegations condemned Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, stressing the need for multilateral institutions to uphold their integrity in maintaining global peace and human dignity.  The Cuban delegate, associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter, decried the application of the Council’s double standards, particularly against the global South.  It is unacceptable and discriminatory that the international community selectively subjects certain developing countries to coercive measures, he said. 

“The Human Rights Council is the only body that can give us an overview of human rights in all countries on an equal footing,” he said, adding that it could do more to denounce universal coercive measures that negatively impact human rights.

The representative of India called for a balanced and moderate perspective to help build bridges across multiple divides in human rights discourse and practice.  She recalled the previous Assembly meeting on human rights when one delegation propagated false and malicious propaganda.  “The union territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were, are and will always remain an integral part of India,” she said.  “No amount of rhetoric and propaganda from that delegation can deny this fact.” 

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the delegate of Pakistan said that deflection and disinformation define India’s diplomacy but that lies and obfuscation cannot change history and realities on the ground.  Jammu and Kashmir is disputed territory, she said, adding that it is not an integral part of India and shall never be, and that multiple Security Council resolutions attest to that fact.  India must be held accountable for flouting international law, she said. 

Also speaking in right of reply, the representative of Iran categorically rejected the “groundless and unsubstantiated” allegation made by the Ukrainian delegate on 26 October regarding Flight PS752. Ukraine has failed to provide even a piece of evidence to corroborate it.  Following the accident, Iran publicly announced the main cause as an unintentional chain of errors.  Since then, Iran has taken all visible measures to fulfil its national and international obligations in good faith and has endeavoured to act swiftly, accurately, transparently, and constructively.  He drew attention to the latest statement on 10 October of Iran’s Foreign Ministry regarding Flight PS752.

Regarding the question of racism and human rights, the South African representative said his country will continue to work towards the elimination of intolerance.  “A world that continues to ignore the fundamental importance of the fight against the abomination of racism and racial discrimination is a society that has chosen to ignore the full value of all humanity and is unwilling to accept its responsibility for past crimes and atrocities,” he said. 

Aligning himself with the European Union, the Croatian delegate said the Council’s agenda is becoming heavily overburdened, with a view of even longer sessions in 2024.  This amount of work risks becoming counterproductive, he said, encouraging all to increase efforts to improve the Council’s efficiency. 

For information media. Not an official record.