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Briefing notes on Iraq / Camp Ashraf, Libya and Israel / oPt

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 24 September 2013

1) IRAQ / CAMP ASHRAF

On 3 September, we condemned the attack on Camp Ashraf in which at least 52 camp residents were killed, and called on the Iraqi government to quickly launch a full investigation to establish the facts and disclose the circumstances surrounding this attack. As three weeks have now passed, we reiterate our call on the Government to do its utmost to shed light on exactly what happened and to identify the perpetrators of these killings.

We welcome the fact that the remaining 42 residents of Camp Ashraf have in the meantime been safely transferred to Camp Hurriya, which is located near the Iraqi capital. However we are gravely concerned about allegations that seven former residents of Camp Ashraf, six of whom are reported to be women, were kidnapped during the events of 1 September. Unconfirmed reports suggest they are being held at an unidentified location in Iraq and are at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran.

We join the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and others in calling on the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ascertain the whereabouts of these seven people, to ensure their safety and prevent their involuntary return to Iran. If they have indeed been kidnapped, all efforts should be made to secure their release unharmed.

2) LIBYA

We very much welcome the new law on transitional justice adopted by Libya's General National Council on 22 September. It is the most important and positive initiative so far with regard to transitional justice.

The law establishes a Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission (to replace the existing and largely inactive one) which is charged with providing a comprehensive picture of human rights violations under the Gaddafi regime, as well as after it fell from power. It also sets up a victims' reparations mechanism.

We also welcome the fact that a controversial provision setting up a specialised prosecution department for the crimes of the former regime has been eliminated.

The law is the fruit of several months of debate, during which the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) provided extensive comments, many of which are reflected in the text, specifically in the areas of truth-seeking and reparations.

We now look forward to working with the Libyan counterparts on the challenging path of implementing the law.

3) ISRAEL / OPT

Within the space of one month, the structures – both residential and those related to livelihood – in three Bedouin and herder communities have been entirely, or almost entirely, demolished by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank. Most recently, on 16 September, 58 structures were demolished, including all residential structures and livestock shelters, in the herding community of Mak-hul in the northern Jordan Valley. All 10 families (48 people, including 16 children) were rendered homeless. No alternative housing options were offered.

Israeli authorities denied the provision of emergency shelter assistance to the community by humanitarian organisations. The absence of any form of shelter has obliged the women and children of the community to leave Mak-hul to seek temporary shelter in a neighbouring community, whilst the men have remained to tend to the livestock. The community remains vulnerable to further demolitions and repeated displacement due to lack of legal security of tenure and the consequent inability to obtain building permits.

Noting both the serious character of these recent events, and the sharp increase in the number of such demolitions this year, we reiterate the concerns we expressed on 27 August about the forced eviction and potential forcible transfer of the Bedouin community of Tel al Adassa following the demolition of all structures there on 19 August. Subsequently, on 11 September, Israeli authorities demolished all but two residential structures in the Bedouin community of Az Za’ayyem on the edge of Jerusalem. The two surviving structures there remain at imminent risk of demolition.

These mass demolitions raise serious concerns about the prohibition on forced eviction under international human rights law, and Israel’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Palestinians to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home. The obligations of Israel with respect to the right to adequate housing of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory include ensuring access to basic shelter and housing, and refraining from interfering with the enjoyment of these rights. The permanent removal of families from these communities may amount to a violation of the prohibition of forcible transfer under article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. There are also serious concerns that the recent wave of demolitions violates the prohibition on destruction of property under international humanitarian law. We urge the Israeli authorities to halt all such demolitions.

ENDS

For further information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or + 41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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