Sunday, February 22, 2009

Squatters’ law (or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992)[1]

By Siesta-friendly

Or the Lina Law for its author Sen. Joey Lina whom land owners have to thank for not only allowing squatters on their land but for requiring them to go to court to get them out. What a country.

The voters, ahem squatters, are sitting pretty and grateful for this gem of a legal provision:

“Sec. 28. Eviction and Demolition. — Eviction or demolition as a practice shall be discouraged. Eviction or demolition, however, may be allowed under the following situations:

(a) When persons or entities occupy danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and other public places such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and playgrounds;

(b) When government infrastructure projects with available funding are about to be implemented; or

(c) When there is a court order for eviction and demolition!

xxx [emphasis evidently supplied]”

Why differentiate between squatting on public property and private property? Appropriating someone else’s property is illegal. Period. In fact, private land owners should have much more protection as they are taxpayers: paying income taxes to the national government and real estate taxes to the local government. What do squatters have to offer? Cheap votes? Ohhhh, that’s right.

Meanwhile, local governments (can conveniently) allege their hands are tied when asked to clear private land of squatters because of the following requirements (also under Sec. 28):

“In the execution of eviction or demolition orders involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, the following shall be mandatory:

(1) Notice upon the effected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition;

(2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;

(3) Presence of local government officials or their representatives during eviction or demolition;

(4) Proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition;

(5) Execution of eviction or demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays and during good weather, unless the affected families consent otherwise;

(6) No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for structures that are permanent and of concrete materials;

(7) Proper uniforms for members of the Philippine National Police who shall occupy the first line of law enforcement and observe proper disturbance control procedures; and

(8) Adequate relocation, whether temporary or permanent: Provided, however, That in cases of eviction and demolition pursuant to a court order involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, relocation shall be undertaken by the local government unit concerned and the National Housing Authority with the assistance of other government agencies within forty-five (45) days from service of notice of final judgment by the court, after which period the said order shall be executed: Provided, further, That should relocation not be possible within the said period, financial assistance in the amount equivalent to the prevailing minimum daily wage multiplied by sixty (60) days shall be extended to the affected families by the local government unit concerned.


Local governments’ common response to pleas for squatter eviction is that there are no funds to resettle the evicted. And so the squatters stay put until FG shares his loot, uh, I mean until the government finds and funds a relocation area.

Just compensation is required for any taking of private property by the government. When it comes to squatters, unjust requirements have to be observed before you get back what’s yours in the first place.

To be clear, we do not advocate the MMDA’s heartless style of demolishing squatters’ homes, say, when they demolish homes during a typhoon. Regardless of their illegal activities, they also have human rights. But, in the absence of any cruelty in the manner of their eviction, they really must go.

Instead of focusing on unjustifiably protecting the urban poor, why can’t the government focus on developing the rural areas and uplifting the lives of rural folk so they don’t have to migrate to the metro? Why do we keep voting for leaders who don’t have the public’s interests at heart?

A lot of people call the Lina law stupid. Well, the citizenry that allows such a law to stand for almost 20 years seem to be no better. Could that be the answer to our questions?

[1] Republic Act No. 7279. An Act To Provide For A Comprehensive And Continuing Urban Development And Housing Program, Establish The Mechanism For Its Implementation, And For Other Purposes. March 24, 1992.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HIGH TIME FOR SHORT TIME (High Court okays Short Time)

By Obiter07

If time is short, then there is no need to rush, so the High Court held in White Light Corporation, et al. vs. City of Manila, et al. (January 20, 2009 G.R. No. 122846). The Court ruled in said case that the ban on short time admissions is unconstitutional as it infringes upon the right to liberty and privacy.

This is actually the second case which involves an effort by the City of Manila to impose moral standards through the control and even closure of certain establishments. In City of Manila v. Laguio, Jr. et al. vs. Lim, et al. [G.R. No. 118127. April 12, 2005], the Supreme Court nullified an ordinance banning Sauna Parlors; Massage Parlors, Karaoke Bars, Beerhouses, Night Clubs, Day Clubs, Super Clubs, Discotheques, Cabarets, Dance Halls; Motels and Inns within the Ermita-Malate area.

This time, the city issued Manila City Ordinance No. 7774 entitled, “An Ordinance Prohibiting Short-Time Admission, Short-Time Admission Rates, and Wash-Up Rate Schemes in Hotels, Motels, Inns, Lodging Houses, Pension Houses, and Similar Establishments in the City of Manila” (the Ordinance) which prohibited “short-time admission and rate [sic], wash-up rate or other similarly concocted terms … in hotels, motels, inns, lodging houses, pension houses and similar establishments in the City of Manila.” Short-time admission was defined as “admittance and charging of room rate for less than twelve (12) hours at any given time or the renting out of rooms more than twice a day or any other term that may be concocted by owners or managers of said establishments but would mean the same or would bear the same meaning.” The penalty for violation ranges from a fine of P5,000.00 or imprisonment for a period of not exceeding 1 year or both such fine and imprisonment at the court’s discretion.

Certain hotel operators filed suit and the Regional Trial Court declared the Ordinance to be null and void. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the RTC and affirmed the constitutionality of the Ordinance.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. It stated that for an “ordinance to be valid, it must not only be within the corporate powers of the local government unit to enact and pass according to the procedure prescribed by law, it must also conform to the following substantive requirements: (1) must not contravene the Constitution or any statute; (2) must not be unfair or oppressive; (3) must not be partial or discriminatory; (4) must not prohibit but may regulate trade; (5) must be general and consistent with public policy; and (6) must not be unreasonable.”

Although the city sought to justify the Ordinance as a valid exercise of police power, the Court held that, while the goals of eliminating the use of certain establishments for “illicit sex, prostitution, drug use and alike” are within the police power, the “desirability of these ends do not sanctify any and all means for their achievement.”

The Court adverted to the validity of an ordinance being tested against the requirements of substantive due process, recognizing the “capacity of the petitioners to invoke as well the constitutional rights of their patrons – those persons who would be deprived of availing short time access or wash-up rates to the lodging establishments in question.” While the rights of these customers in this case may seem trivial, and “shorn of political consequence”, the “Bill of Rights does not shelter gravitas alone. Indeed, it is those “trivial” yet fundamental freedoms – which the people reflexively exercise any day without the impairing awareness of their constitutional consequence – that accurately reflect the degree of liberty enjoyed by the people. Liberty, as integrally incorporated as a fundamental right in the Constitution, is not a Ten Commandments-style enumeration of what may or what may not be done; but rather an atmosphere of freedom where the people do not feel labored under a Big Brother presence as they interact with each other, their society and nature, in a manner innately understood by them as inherent, without doing harm or injury to others.”

Adverting to a previous decision, the Court stated that liberty “as guaranteed by the Constitution was defined by Justice Malcolm to include "the right to exist and the right to be free from arbitrary restraint or servitude. The term cannot be dwarfed into mere freedom from physical restraint of the person of the citizen, but is deemed to embrace the right of man to enjoy the facilities with which he has been endowed by his Creator, subject only to such restraint as are necessary for the common welfare."[] In accordance with this case, the rights of the citizen to be free to use his faculties in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; and to pursue any avocation are all deemed embraced in the concept of liberty.[] xxx”

The court recognized that the Ordinance seeks to curtail sexual behavior, with the City arguing that the subject establishments “have gained notoriety as venue of ‘prostitution, adultery and fornications’ in Manila since they ‘provide the necessary atmosphere for clandestine entry, presence and exit and thus became the ‘ideal haven for prostitutes and thrill-seekers.’” However, it also found that “legitimate sexual behavior among willing married or consenting single adults which is constitutionally protected will be curtailed as well xxx.” Liberty also includes “respect for the individual whose claim to privacy and interference demands respect.” In fact, the right to privacy is independent of the right to liberty.

In short, government can’t stop sex if it is done in private between consenting adults. Obviously, short time doesn’t apply to long-winded court decisions.

Other legitimate activities would be affected by the ordinance as when entire families “choose to pass the time in a motel or hotel whilst the power is momentarily out in their homes.” Passengers-in-transit may wish to wash and rest between trips. Anyone in need of “comfortable private spaces for a span of a few hours with purposes other than having sex or using illegal drugs can legitimately look to staying in a motel or hotel as a convenient alternative.”

In any event, the Ordinance likewise fails as a police power measure. Such measures must show “that the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, require an interference with private rights and the means must be reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive of private rights. It must also be evident that no other alternative for the accomplishment of the purpose less intrusive of private rights can work. More importantly, a reasonable relation must exist between the purposes of the measure and the means employed for its accomplishment, for even under the guise of protecting the public interest, personal rights and those pertaining to private property will not be permitted to be arbitrarily invaded.”

The Ordinance is “a blunt and heavy instrument.” It does not distinguish “between places frequented by patrons engaged in illicit activities and patrons engaged in legitimate actions.” It “prevents legitimate use of places where illicit activities are rare or even unheard of.” It “makes no classification of places of lodging, thus deems them all susceptible to illicit patronage and subject them without exception to the unjustified prohibition.”

The court noted that behavior which the Ordinance seeks to curtail is in fact already prohibited and could in fact be diminished simply by applying existing laws. Further, it is apparent that the Ordinance can easily be circumvented by merely paying the whole day rate without any hindrance to those engaged in illicit activities. Moreover, drug dealers and prostitutes can in fact collect “wash rates” from their clientele by charging their customers a portion of the rent for motel rooms and even apartments.

Individual rights may be adversely affected only to the extent that may fairly be required by the legitimate demands of public interest or public welfare. While well-intentioned, the Ordinance is “an arbitrary and whimsical intrusion into the rights of the establishments as well as their patrons,” “needlessly restrains the operation of the businesses of the petitioners as well as restricting the rights of their patrons without sufficient justification” and “equates wash rates and renting out a room more than twice a day with immorality without accommodating innocuous intentions. “

In closing, the Court stated that “it is possible for the government to avoid the constitutional conflict by employing more judicious, less drastic means to promote morality.” Although the Court failed to say how.

Short time had its full day, and not merely a short stay, in court this time. And lady justice has remained true to her nature by being blind (read neutral) to short time patrons, weary travelers or not.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Exhaling Smokers (The"Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003")

By Siesta-friendly

Combatting smokes and smoking is tough: tobacco companies are rich and tobacco users are addicted. But the real opponent is big money. Hence, in RA 9211 (date June 23, 2003) or “An Act Regulating The Packaging, Use, Sale, Distribution And Advertisements Of Tobacco Products And For Other Purposes”, the government, despite the health hazards associated with smoking, continued to fence-sit as follows:

“It is the policy of the State to protect the populace from hazardous products and promote the right to health and instill health consciousness among them. It is also the policy of the State, consistent with the Constitutional ideal to promote the general welfare, to safeguard the Interests of the workers and other stakeholders in the tobacco industry. For these purposes, the government shall institute a balanced policy whereby the use, sale, and advertisements of tobacco products shall be regulated in order to promote a healthful environment and protect the citizens from the hazards of tobacco smoke, and at the same time ensure that the interest of tobacco farmers, growers, workers and stakeholders are not adversely compromised.”

Everybody’s happy. Until emphysema sets in. Remember, emphysema and lung cancer can be caused by exposure to tobacco smoke, not necessarily by smoking tobacco.

Now let’s see how the law protects us from this poison.

Areas Prohibited

RA 9211 absolutely prohibits smoking in the following public places (Sec. 5):

  1. Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for persons under 18 years;
  2. Elevators and stairwells;
  3. Locations in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials;
  4. Within the buildings and premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental, and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories;
  5. Public conveyances and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas; and
  6. Food preparation areas.

In all enclosed places that are open to the general public, private workplaces, and other places not covered by the above list, where smoking may expose a person other than the smoker to tobacco smoke, the owner, proprietor, possessor, manager or administrator of such places shall establish smoking areas. Such areas may include a designated smoking area within the building, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation, but shall not be located within the same room that has been designated as a non-smoking area. (Sec. 6)

For violations under these Sections 5 and 6 of RA 9211 (under Sec. 32 on Penalties):

  • On the first offense, there’s a fine of not less than P500.00 but not more P1,000.00).
  • On the second offense, the fine is between Php1,000.00 and P5,000.00.
  • On the third offense, in addition to a fine between P5,000.00 and P10,000.00, the business permits and licenses to operate shall be cancelled or revoked.

No to Minors

If you don’t know yet, the law prohibits minors from smoking. Who knew? For the sake of being informed, under Sec. of RA 9211, it is unlawful:

  1. to sell or distribute tobacco products to any minor;
  2. to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products from a minor;
  3. for a minor to sell or buy cigarettes or any tobacco products; and
  4. for a minor to smoke cigarettes or any other tobacco products.
  5. to give samples of tobacco products to persons below 18 (Sec. 27).

And it is not a defense for the person selling or distributing that he/she did not know or was aware of the real age of the minor. Neither is it a defense that he/she did not know nor had any reason to believe that the cigarette or any other tobacco product was for the consumption of the minor to whom it was sold. If in doubt, the seller is tasked to verify the buyer’s age. (Sec. 12)

In fact, establishments offering, distributing or selling tobacco products to consumers, are required to post the following statement in a clear and conspicuous manner: "SALE/DISTRIBUTION TO OUR PURCHASE BY MINORS OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS IS UNLAWFUL" or " IT IS LAWFUL FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO BE SOLD/DISTRIBUTED TO OR PURCHASED BY PERSONS UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE". (Sec. 11)

Even the sale or distribution of tobacco products is prohibited within 100 meters from any school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by minors. (Sec. 10)

For violations of the above Sections 7,8,9, 10 and 11 (also under Sec. 32 on Penalties):

  • On the first offense, any person or any business entity or establishment selling to, distributing or purchasing a cigarette or any other tobacco products for a minor shall be fined not less than P5,000.00 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days, upon the court’s discretion.
  • For succeeding offenses, both penalties shall apply in addition to the revocation of business licenses or permits in the case of a business entity or establishment.

If a minor is caught selling, buying or smoking cigarettes or any other tobacco products, the provisions of Article 189 of Presidential Decree No. 603 (or The Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended) shall apply (meaning, criminal liability and punishment will depend on the child’s age). If the violation is by a business entity, the owner, president, manager, or the most senior officers thereof shall be liable for the offense.

Sponsor Restrictions

And in case you’re putting up a concert or some show and are soliciting sponsors remember (that under Sec. 25):

a) no tobacco sponsorship is allowed for:

1) an event or activity unless there is reasonable basis to believe that all persons who will take an active part in said event or activity, are at least 18 or older;

2) a team or individual unless all of them persons are at least 18 or older;

3) an event or activity reasonably believed to be of particular appeal to persons under 18.

b) tobacco brand sponsorship shall be prohibited except where there is a reasonable basis to believe that:

1) attendance at the event or activity will comprise at least 75% of whom are 18 or older;

2) the event or activity will not be of particular appeal to persons under 18;

3) the event or activity will not receive exposure, other than as a news item, on television or radio or the Internet, and such exposure complies with the provisions of RA 9211 governing tobacco marketing through said media; and

4) the principal activity associated with the sponsorship does not require above-average physical fitness for someone of the age group of those taking part.

c) All persons authorized to bear tobacco product advertisement, logos and brand names at sponsored events shall be at least 18.

d) All forms of advertising associated with or ancillary to sponsorship shall comply with the marketing provisions of RA 9211. (Sec. 25)

Cigarette and tobacco companies are prohibited from sponsoring any sport, concert, cultural art or event, as well as individual and team athletes, artists, or performers where such sponsorship shall require or involve the advertisement or promotion of any cigarette or tobacco company, tobacco product or tobacco use, name, logo or trademarks and other words, symbols, designs, colors or other depictions commonly associated with or likely to identify a tobacco product. And, get this, no manufacturer may register a tobacco brand name as a company name after the passage of RA 9211. (Sec. 26)

For violations of Sections 25 and 26:

  • On the first offense, a fine of not more than P100,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, at the court’s discretion.
  • On the second offense, a fine of P200,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than 2 years, or both, at the court’s discretion.
  • On the third offense, in addition to a fine of not more than P400,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than 3 years, or both at the court’s discretion, the business permits and licenses, in the case of a business entity or establishment shall be revoked or cancelled.

Again, in the case of a business entity or establishment, the owner, president, manager or officials thereof shall be liable. If the guilty officer is an alien, he shall summarily be deported after serving his sentence and shall be forever barred from re-entering the Philippines.

It’s been more than 5 years since RA 9211 was enacted. Think we’re getting any closer to getting rid of the smokes and the smokers before cancer gets to them or us? Hope so.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Jew on this (Some basic facts on the Issue of Palestine and the Israel-Arab Conflict as embodied in key UN Documents)

By Siesta-friendly

The recent Gaza conflict reminds us once again of the saga that is Israel vs. the Arabs. If the root of the problem seems to have been buried like a brick underneath the Gaza rubble, let’s tackle a few UN Resolutions to help us remember how it all began … sort of.

You see, all the mayhem may have started with the plan to create a Jewish state leading to the abrupt and unnatural division of Palestine – one side Jewish, the other Arab. One group permitted a homeland while another is displaced. One group allowed to create a state in a portion of land the other is forced to leave.

Or perhaps it started long before that, when anti-semitism in Europe forced the Jewish diaspora to dream of a homeland where they can be safe and secure in their ways and beliefs. The same anti-semitism may be cited as affording the anti-semites the vigor to create a Jewish homeland so the Jews may leave Europe asap.

Both these perspectives are real and well-founded but would entail a very long discussion … on history and religion (not to mention geopolitics) which we are not prepared to undertake.

Focusing on the law, a good backgrounder on the conflict would be the UN resolutions. There are a good number of them (the conflict has been going on forever it seems) but we shall touch on those that reveal significant reality involving the occupied territories (rarely discussed in mainstream media by the way).

Occupied Territories

First, a quick history: towards the end of World War I, the Turkish Ottoman rule over Palestine (including Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) ended and Palestine was placed under British rule (called the British Mandate). During the British Mandate (1922-1947), a large number of Jews slowly migrated to Palestine (mostly fleeing from persecution in Europe). Resentment towards the immigrants led to clashes between them and the existing Arab population.

The British could not solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and turned the Palestine issue to the UN. To end the British Mandate, the UN in 1947 came up with a Partition Plan for Palestine to divide it into a Jewish State, an Arab State and creating a “Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem”.[1] The plan gave 53% of Palestine to the Jews who numbered less than half of the Arab population who in turn were to get only 46% of Palestine.[2] That the Arabs were livid is the understatement of a lifetime. And so a civil war between Jews and Arabs ensued (from 1947-1948).

On the day the British Mandate expired in 1948, the Jews established the State of Israel prompting her Arab neighbors to attack the new state. This war (from 1948-1949) resulted in Israel enlarging her territory by capturing 77% of Palestine.[3] And so the already thickened plot coagulated some more.

Next came the Six Day War (in June 1967) which was fought by Israel (and, some say, with US and British military support) on one side and Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the other. The end of the war resulted in Israel taking some more land: East Jerusalem and the West Bank (from Jordan), the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt), and the Golan Heights (from Syria).

Israel may have captured only 77% of Palestine after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War but the 1967 Six Day War ended with Israel seizing 100% of Palestine. You’d think we were still back in the Old Testament. Warring tribes. Land Conquests. Then again, this is Israel. Still waiting for the Messiah. But, that’s another story.

Anyway, the Sinai Peninsula was completely turned over by Israel to Egypt in 1992. The rest are still under Israeli control. We’ll let the UN resolutions hereon declare the status of things under international law. Don’t be discouraged to read them. They are in simple, concise terms and are quite enlightening.

Re East Jerusalem

Remember, the “Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem” under the UN Partition Plan never happened. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War divided Jerusalem into 2: the large part captured by Israel, the small one by Jordan. At the end of the Six Day War in 1967, Israel seized East Jerusalem from Jordan and gained control of the entire city of Jerusalem.

In 1980, Israel completed its annexation of Jerusalem by officially declaring it as their capital in their Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.[4]

Now we go to what the rest of the world had to say about this. The Security Council, in Resolution 478 (1980)[5] -


1. Censures in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the "basic law" on Jerusalem and the refusal to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions;

2. Affirms that the enactment of the "basic law" by Israel constitutes a violation of international law and does not affect the continued application of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem;

3. Determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and, in particular, the recent "basic law" on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith;

4. Affirms also that this action constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;

5. Decides not to recognise the "basic law" and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem and calls upon all Members of the United Nations: (a) to accept this decision; (b) and upon those States that have established diplomatic Missions in Jerusalem to withdraw such Missions from the Holy City;

xxx” [underline supplied]

Accordingly, there are no embassies in Israel’s ‘capital’ in compliance with Resolution 478. But neither has Israel repealed said Basic Law.

Resolution 478 remains valid to this day.

Re the Golan Heights

As with Jerusalem, Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 by passing the Golan Heights Law[6] which imposed Israeli law over the Golan Heights. The UN Security Council then passed Resolution 497 (1981)[7] condemning Israel’s action. Resolution 497 is quoted in the fairly recent UN General Assembly Resolution below.

As recent as January 15, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/Res/61/120[8] where the General Assembly,


1. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council, inter alia, decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect and demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, rescind forthwith its decision;

2. Also calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and in particular to desist from the establishment of settlements;

3. Determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel, the occupying Power, that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan are null and void, constitute a flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and have no legal effect;

4. Calls upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan;

5. Deplores the violations by Israel of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949;

xxx” [underline supplied]

As is natural in any illegal occupation, locals have either fled or been expelled from the new regime. The residents of the Golan Heights are no exception.

Re the West Bank -

Although under Israeli control since 1967, the West Bank has not been annexed by Israel (some say because doing so could increase Israeli citizenship of a huge number of Arabs which might lead to Arabs outnumbering the Jews in political decision-making). What a coup that would be!

In any case, the lack of official annexation has not stopped Israel from building settlements on occupied territory. The UN naturally has denounced Israel’s actions in several Security Council resolutions some of which are cited in Resolution 471 (1980)[9] where the Security Council,

Recalling once again the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), and in particular article 27 which, inter alia reads:

"Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons ... They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof,",

Reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949) to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,

Recalling also its resolutions 468 (1980) and 469 (1980) of 8 and 20 May 1980,

Reaffirming its resolution 465 (1980), by which the Council determined "that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or in any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive just and lasting peace in the Middle East" and strongly deplored the "continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices",

Shocked by the assassination attempts on the lives of the mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and Al Bireh,

Deeply concerned that the Jewish settlers in the occupied Arab territories are allowed to carry arms thus enabling them to perpetrate crimes against the civilian Arab population,

1. Condemns the assassination attempts on the lives of the mayors of Nablus, Ranallah and Al Bireh and calls for the immediate apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes;

2. Expresses deep concern that Israel, as occupying Power, has failed to provide adequate protection to the civilian population in the occupied territories in conformity with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949);

3. Calls upon the Government of Israel to provide the victims with adequate compensation for the damages suffered as a result of these crimes;

4. Calls again upon the Government of Israel to respect and to comply with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, as well as with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council;

5. Calls once again upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories;

6. Reaffirms the overriding necessity to end the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem;

xxx [underline supplied]

On top of the illegal settlements, Israel has built a barrier/wall/security fence/apartheid wall (depending on whom you ask) snaking its way though the West Bank in and amongst residential and business areas.

The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/Res/58/98[10] following the U.S. veto of the Security Council resolution that would have similarly condemned Israel for putting up the wall. In their resolution, the General Assembly,


1. Reaffirms that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development;

2. Calls upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to the occupied Syrian Golan and to abide scrupulously by the provisions of the Convention, in particular article 49;

3. Reiterates its demand for the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan;

4. Demands that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure from the Armistice Line of 1949 and is in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law;

5. Stresses the need for full implementation of Security Council resolution 904(1994), in which, among other things, the Council called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to continue to take and implement measures, including confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and called for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory;

6. Reiterates its calls for the prevention of all acts of violence by Israeli settlers, particularly in the light of recent developments;

xxx [underline supplied]

The wall is effective at hindering the free movement of Palestinians as well as vital goods and services.

Re Gaza -

In 2005, Israel officially relinquished control of Gaza, but (and it’s a big one), Israel controls Gaza’s borders. So the West Bank walls are not the only hindrance to the free movement of Palestinians (and basic goods and services). The Gaza checkpoints might be doing a much more effective job at it.

Because a chapter of the conflict is ongoing in Gaza, it’s only proper to quote the UN Security Council’s latest resolution (dated January 2009). In it[11], the Security Council,

Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state,


Reaffirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,

1. Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;

2. Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment;

3. Welcomes the initiatives aimed at creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid;

4. Calls on Member States to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, including through urgently needed additional contributions to UNRWA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;

5. Condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism;

xxx” [underline supplied]

The issues tackled above are by no means exhaustive. To be clear, the UN does not ignore acts of terrorism and accordingly condemns terrorism and violence against civilians (be they committed by Israel, suicide bombers, HAMAS, etc).

One significant point of this review is to reflect on why some acts of terrorism take place in the first place. The idea that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” could have been conceived specifically from this conflict.

Whatever previous notions you have of this conflict, the facts on the ground are enshrined in UN documents. That they are rarely exposed outside the world wide web might be another point to ponder. It is important to know they are there and can certainly help us maintain focus on the root cause of the conflict and realize what it would take to resolve it.

[1] UN General Assembly, Future government of Palestine, 29 November 1947. A/RES/181. Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 28 Janury 2009]

[2] UN Partition Plan. Retrieved January 30, 2009, from BBC News Web site:

[3] Question of Palestine. Retrieved January 28, 2009, from United Nations Web site:

[4] Basic Law- Jerusalem- Capital of Israel. Retrieved January 28, 2009, from Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site:

[5] UN Security Council, Resolution 478 (1980) Adopted by the Security Council at its 2245th meeting, on 20 August 1980, 20 August 1980. S/RES/478 (1980). Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 29 January 2009]

[6] Golan Heights Law. Retrieved January 29, 2009, from Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site:

[7] UN Security Council, Security Council Resolution S/RES/497 (1981) Resolution 497 (1981) Adopted by the Security Council at its 2319th meeting, on 17 December 1981, 17 December 1981. S/RES/497 (1981). Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 29 January 2009]

[8] UN General Assembly, The occupied Syrian Golan : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 15 January 2007. A/RES/61/120. Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 27 January 2009]

[9] UN Security Council, Resolution 471 (1980) Adopted by the Security Council at its 2226th meeting, on 5 June 1980, 5 June 1980. S/RES/471 (1980). Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 29 January 2009]

[10] UN General Assembly, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 22 December 2003. A/RES/58/98. Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 29 January 2009]

[11] UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) [on a durable and fully repected ceasefire and the .full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip], 8 January 2009. S/RES/1860 (2009). Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: [accessed 28 January 2009]