GENEVA / AMMAN (17 July 2017) – A United Nations committee* has heard serious concerns about Israel’s human rights record, including the deteriorating situation in Gaza, inadequate protection for detained children and increasing obstacles being faced by human rights defenders and journalists.
Members of the Committee also heard testimony on the expansion of settlements, the ongoing use of administrative detention, excessive use of force and possible extrajudicial killings, and lack of accountability.
During its annual mission to Amman, Jordan, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, established by General Assembly Resolution 2443 in 1968, heard from civil society organizations, UN representatives and Palestinian officials.
Based on this testimony, the Committee clearly observed that the Israeli authorities continue with policies and practices that negatively impact the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, compounded by the ongoing electricity crisis, was repeatedly raised as one of the most pressing issues.
The Committee heard with concern about the atmosphere of increasing hopelessness and desperation among the population of Gaza as Israel’s blockade and closure continues for its tenth year, with ongoing restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza impacting every aspect of life for residents.
Other testimony described with grave concern the situation of Palestinian detainees reportedly living in difficult conditions in Israeli prisons. The continued use of administrative detention was also raised as an area of ongoing concern.
The Committee heard troubling testimony regarding the arrest and detention of children, including cases of reported ill-treatment and lack of adequate protection.
Organizations told the Committee that Israeli settlement expansion had continued in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan, with a notably high level of new construction announced this year, in violation of international humanitarian law.
Settlements were having a negative impact on the human rights of Palestinians, including by restricting freedom of movement and further fragmenting life in the West Bank, the Committee heard.
Other issues raised included the effects of the separation wall on Palestinians’ rights, and the demolition of homes and other structures in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, as well as in the Syrian Golan. The use of punitive demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem was described as a form of collective punishment.
Organizations described the practice of demolishing homes as one that increases pressure on vulnerable communities such as the Bedouin communities in Area C to leave their homes, which they noted could amount to unlawful forcible transfer.
Many organizations highlighted with concern the continued lack of accountability for allegations of excessive use of force and violations of international law by the Israeli forces, including during the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. A number of organizations emphasized that the lack of accountability further exacerbated the cycle of violence.
Human rights defenders and journalists seeking to highlight violations of human rights and humanitarian law told the Committee that the space in which they were free to operate was shrinking at an alarming rate. They reported cases of the detention of peaceful demonstrators and the targeting of journalists covering protests.
The Government of Israel does not recognize the Committee, which was therefore unable to speak to the relevant Israeli authorities or access the occupied territories.
The Committee will submit a full report on its mission and other activities to the UN General Assembly in November 2017.
(*) The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories was established by the UN General Assembly in December 1968 to examine the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The Special Committee is composed of three Member States: Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Senegal. This year the Member States are represented by H.E. Mr. Shahrul Ikram Yaakob (acting chair of the Special Committee), Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York, H.E. Mr. Sabarullah Khan, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, and H.E. Mr. Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations in Geneva, who was represented by Mr. M. Serigne Dieye, Chargé d’Affaires, Permanent Mission of Senegal to the UN in Geneva on this mission.
Read: “End of mission statement of the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices” (2016)
UN Human Rights, country pages: Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel
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