Monday, January 19, 2009

Statement by General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto

by Miguel d'Escoto,
General Assembly President

New York, 15 January 2009

We here in United Nations headquarters have remained too passive for too long as the carnage continues. I am responding to the growing number of Member States, particularly those of the Non-Aligned Movement, who have demanded a resumption of the 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly as soon as possible. Every day, we receive messages from Gaza and from around the world asking, indeed pleading, for the UN to stop the violence, protect civilians and attend to the humanitarian needs. Our business here today is urgent.

During this assault, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, one-third of them children. More bodies remain buried under the rubble, out of reach of humanitarian workers because the shelling is too intense – the living would be killed trying to reach the dead. If this onslaught in Gaza is indeed a war, it is a war against a helpless, defenseless, imprisoned population.

The fact that Gaza’s population is imprisoned – they cannot leave, they cannot run, they have nowhere to hide from air strikes, artillery, or naval attacks – is particularly important to us in the United Nations, keeping in mind our obligations under Article 1 of our Charter to defend international law....

The violations of international law inherent in the Gaza assault have been well documented: Collective punishment. Disproportionate military force. Attacks on civilian targets, including homes, mosques, universities, schools.

I remind you, Excellencies, that last week an Israeli air strike against one of our schools, a United Nations school, killed at least 43 people. Many of them were children. And all of them were beleaguered and frightened families seeking shelter from bombs and air strikes. They sought shelter from the United Nations when their homes were bombed, when they were warned to flee an approaching bombing raid but had nowhere else to go, when they faced the most desperate decision any parents are ever forced to make – how to keep their children safe.

Those families turned to us, to the United Nations, and we failed in our obligation to keep them safe....

I know that you share my sense of urgency and our collective commitment to make good on our so-far unmet obligations to the occupied people of Gaza. We need serious and expeditious diplomacy, not false promises.

For the people of Gaza, the human catastrophe continues. Twenty days later, people continue to die. Our obligation is clear. We, the United Nations, must call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and immediate unimpeded humanitarian access. We, the United Nations, must stand with the people around the world who are calling, and acting, to bring an end to this death and destruction. We must stand with the brave Israelis who came out to protest this war, and we must stand with those in the frightened city of Sderot who called for “Another Voice” to answer the fear of rocket-fire with reconciliation and not war.

We must stand with the hundreds of thousands of people who have stopped the trains, petitioned their governments, poured into the streets around the world, all calling for an end to war. That is our obligation, our responsibility, our duty, as we work, mourning so many deaths, for an immediate ceasefire.

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