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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 

19 March 2018

The Human Rights Council this evening held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk.

Introducing his second report, Mr. Lynk said it focused on the right to health.  He regretted that the Government of Israel continued to refuse cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.  His report addressed two themes, of which the first was the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  He was deeply disturbed by the plight of the Palestinian children.  Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the deprivation of the liberty of a child had to be used as the last resort.  Yet the deprivation of liberty of Palestinian children by Israel was institutionalized, systematic and widely spread.  His second concern was Gaza, which was moving to a situation of calamity as a result of the comprehensive blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 on land, sea and air, which amounted to collective punishment.  Turning to the right to health, Mr. Lynk said Israel made many of the critical decisions affecting the disfiguring state of health in Gaza, which was on the verge of collapse.  An occupying power had the duty under international law to ensure that the right to health was fulfilled during the period of occupation, making Israel in profound breach of the right to health.

Israel was not present to take the floor as the concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, condemned Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and relevant United Nations mechanisms.  Israel was in contempt of its international obligations and continued its illegal settlement policy.  Since United States President Donald Trump’s illegal declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, Israel had become emboldened in its settlement policy.  Israel continued to maintain an illegal, inhumane blockade against Gaza, flouting the human dignity of Palestinians.  Israel was seriously violating the right to health of Palestinians, including the mental health of Palestinian children.  Barbaric detention of children continued and children were daily targets of beatings and threats.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine spoke in a video statement.

In the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, speakers condemned the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  In particular, they were deeply concerned about the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Israel on the Palestinian children, including their enjoyment of the right to physical and mental health, education and an adequate standard of living and the right to life.  They condemned the continued incarceration of hundreds of children, and called upon Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, to allow the free movement of goods, and to stop the demolition of houses and the building of settlements.  They called on the international community not to implement the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  They also condemned Israel for using deprivation of health and starvation as a means to an end, in flagrant violation of international law.  While some condemned the act of imperial arrogance on the part of Israel and its refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, others questioned the credibility of the Special Rapporteur, stating that he had links to terrorist organizations and was biased against Israel.  

Speaking were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Kuwait, Brazil, Tunisia, South Africa, Cuba, Bahrain, Syria, Qatar, Morocco, Venezuela, Iraq, Maldives, Iran, Jordan, Bolivia, Algeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Djibouti, Lebanon, and Egypt.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Medical Aid for Palestinians, Touro Law Centre-The Institute on Human Rights and The Holocaust, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, (in a joint statement with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights), Amuta for NGO Responsibility, World Jewish Congress, The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, and Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling.

The Council will reconvene on Tuesday, 20 March 20 at 9 a.m. when it will hear the presentation of reports by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.  This will be followed by a general debate on the agenda item.  At noon, the Council will hold a general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, followed by a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (A/HRC/37/75).

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, presented his second report to the Council, with a particular focus on the right of health.  The Government of Israel had continued to refuse cooperation with the Special Rapporteur: the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations did not want to meet with him and access to the country had been denied.  The Council was reminded that full cooperation with all organs and bodies of the United Nations was a fundamental responsibility of the membership in the Council.  He raised two important themes.  The first was the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The plight of Palestinian children was disturbing.  In November, 313 Palestinian minors had been imprisoned and in the entire 2017, 729 children had been detained in East Jerusalem alone.  Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the deprivation of the liberty of a child had to be used as the last resort.  Yet the deprivation of liberty of Palestinian children by Israel was institutionalized, systematic and widely spread.  In a country adhering to the rule of law, lengthy incarnation would be regarded as absence of justice.

The second theme was the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Gaza had been moving steadily backwards in the past two decades from modest poverty to a human calamity.  Over 2 million Palestinians were completely cut off from the rest of the world.  Access to electricity was limited from 3 to 6 hours a day and real per capita income had decreased by one third since 1994, according to the World Bank.  Unemployment was 44 per cent, the highest in the world, and youth unemployment was 61 per cent.  The situation of drinking water was at a desperate level with 96 per cent of the groundwater unsuitable for human consumption.  Half the population had access to water only eight hours every four days.

Gaza was facing a rapid collapse in humanitarian conditions, entirely human made, with the primary responsibility resting with the occupying power.  Still, the Israeli occupation was deepening and thickening.  In 2018, the Israeli settlement enterprise had witnessed the greatest number of construction starts since 2000.  Presence in Area C of the West Bank as a hinterland for permanent Jewish settlements was consolidated.  The Knesset had been considering legislation that would formally annex parts of several major West Bank settlements to Jerusalem.   Yet, while the occupying power had been playing chess, the international community had been playing checkers.

Concerning the right to health, Israel made many of the critical decisions affecting the disfiguring state of health in Gaza, which was on the verge of collapse.  Crippling electricity shortages had forced hospitals to shut wards, three hospitals had temporarily closed along with 13 primary healthcare clinics affecting health care for over 300,000 people.   According to the World Health Organization, 54 patients in Gaza had died in 2017 because they could not be adequately treated in Gaza and had applied for permission to travel for treatment in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Israel or abroad.   An occupying power had the duty under international law to ensure that the right to health was fulfilled during the period of occupation, making Israel in profound breach of the right to health.

Statement by the Concerned Country

The President of the Council noted that the delegation of Israel was not present in the room to take the floor.

State of Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, condemned Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and relevant United Nations mechanisms.  Israel was in contempt of its international obligations and continued its illegal settlement policy.  Since United States President Donald Trump’s illegal declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, Israel had become emboldened in its settlement policy.  Israel continued to maintain an illegal, inhumane blockade against Gaza, flouting the human dignity of Palestinians.  Citing United Nations reports, the State of Palestine said Gaza would become uninhabitable in the coming years.  Recent violations included the use of aircraft to spray Palestinian lands with toxic chemicals.  Israel was seriously violating the right to health of Palestinians, including the mental health of Palestinian children.  Barbaric detention of children continued and children were daily targets of beatings and threats.  There was not enough space in the Special Rapporteur’s report to properly assess all of Israel’s abuses, including those following the United States’ declaration on the status of Jerusalem.  The State of Palestine closed by asking the Special Rapporteur what the legal implications of President Trump’s statements were.

Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine, in a video statement, noted that the military occupation was the primary violator of the rights of the Palestinian people.  Some 60 per cent of the population of the West Bank was negatively affected in terms of socio-economic development.  The construction of Israeli settlements had led to the displacement of more than 6,000 Palestinians in the West Bank.  Abuses included denial of the freedom of movement, imprisonment of Palestinian civilians, administrative detention orders, and ill-treatment of detainees.  Half of the Gaza population was food insecure and unemployed.  The occupation power deprived the Palestinians of sufficient water quantities, while the Israeli population consumed four times more water.  

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, noting that children in the occupied Palestinian territories faced innumerable challenges and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, health, education and an adequate standard of living. European Union noted that respect for justice, the rule of law and international human rights law by all parties were cornerstones of peace and security.  It was deeply concerned about the serious loss of life in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, and regretted Israel’s refusal to grant access to the Special Rapporteur.

Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the health care system in Gaza was on the brink of collapse.  People were deprived of medicine and power cuts made it impossible to operate on tumours, while patients were denied the permission to leave in order to receive treatment, and as a result, died.  The population endured intolerable levels of stress and anguish due to all of this.   Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, condemned the serious violations of human rights and the use of force by Israel which violated human rights and international humanitarian law.  The lack of action on the forced displacement of Palestinians posed a threat to the credibility of the United Nations human rights system, and of international law as a whole. Kuwait said the suffering of the Palestinian people still took place, years after the Israeli occupation.  Kuwait had organized a conference on the rights of Palestinian children, collecting $ 55 million in contributions, and would continue to do this until the occupation ended.

Brazil said that seven decades after resolution 181 of the General Assembly, the full realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination remained elusive.  Through bilateral cooperation and continued contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Brazil had matched its political support with concrete deeds. Tunisia said that the practices of the Israeli occupying power, such as the blockade and the restriction of freedom of movement, had led to a catastrophe.  The Palestinian citizens were deprived of their health rights and basic necessities, yet it was all met with silence from the international community. South Africa said that abuses of the health rights of Palestinians had been reaching levels of depravity and sheer inhumanity.  The system of exit permit applications meant in effect that Israeli officials were passing the death sentence on people requiring urgent medical care.

Cuba regretted that the Government of Israel continued to deny cooperation concerning the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which continued to deteriorate and impacted all aspects of life.  The situation in Gaza was critical, as reported by the World Health Organization, registering that 54 per cent of basic medication had not arrived in Gaza. Bahrain reiterated the need to implement recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur.  Israel’s policy disregarded the Geneva conventions, the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Rome Statute, carrying out atrocities against Palestinian children. Syria noted that both the mandate and the report were very important as they exposed the consequences of Israel’s occupation, highlighting the flagrant abuses of human rights.  Arbitrary arrests, the financial embargo, and restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians were continuing.

Qatar condemned the tenacity with which Israel had denied access to the Special Rapporteur.  Israel’s policies were a continuation of colonization to the detriment of the Palestinian people, who were victims of repeated blockades. Morocco noted with deep concern that the latest report showed the deteriorating situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories due to continued abuses perpetrated by Israel.  Israel’s settlement activity was at the heart of human rights violations, and it undermined peace on the basis of the two-State solution. Venezuela shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the grave human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially with respect to the right to health.  Israel prohibited access to specialized medical attention to Palestinian patients, with grave consequences for children.  

Iraq condemned the violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, namely the use of excessive force against civilians, including children, demolition of houses, and refusal of access to land.  It called on the Council to pay due attention to the rights of the Palestinian people who had suffered for so long. Maldives called on Israel to uphold and respect the basic rights of the Palestinian population living under occupation.  It drew attention to Israel’s methodical detention and prosecution of children by military courts. Iran highlighted the destruction of civilian property, punitive home demolitions, systematic expansion of Israeli illegal settlements, blockade of the Gaza Strip, forced displacement, arrest and detention of Palestinian children, targeted assassinations, terror and provocations.  It was astonishing that in spite of those heinous human rights violations, Israel continued to proclaim itself the only democracy in the Middle East.

Jordan regretted that the Special Rapporteur had been denied access to the occupied Palestinian territories by Israel, and that Israel had not implemented any of his past recommendations.  It called on Israel to cease unilateral measures and to abide by the Arab Peace Plan and international resolutions. Bolivia welcomed the progress made in putting together a database of all businesses participating in the illegal activities by Israel.  It called for the immediate publication of this database, and urged the international community to ensure the self-determination of the Palestinian people and Palestine as an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the 1967 borders. Algeria was appalled that Israel had refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.  Palestinians were suffering and had no access to health care at all due to the blockade imposed upon them.  Algeria called for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, free movement of goods, and an end to the demolition of houses and building of settlements.

Sudan said item 7 must remain a standing item.  Any attempt to withdraw it would undermine the work and reputation of the Council.  Palestinians had to secure their right to self-determination.  Israel continued to violate human rights and international humanitarian law. Saudi Arabia said the Special Rapporteur’s report exposed the suffering of the Palestinian children who had reduced access to basic services such as education.  Saudi Arabia called on Israel to abide by United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 on the settlements, and to guarantee education, freedom of movement, and an end of the blockade. Turkey said the Special Rapporteur’s report clearly outlined violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by Israel.  Palestinians living under occupation struggled to reach even the most basic health services.  Despite all calls of the international community, the settlements and deterioration of the human rights situation continued unimpeded.

Djibouti recognized the right of Palestinians to self-determination and an independent State within borders from 1967 and with East Jerusalem as their capital.  Recognition by the United States of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had contributed to this dangerous escalation, threatened stability of the region and undermined all efforts to create conditions conducive to peace. Lebanon firmly condemned the Israeli occupation as well as the refusal of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur as it was a clear sign of lack of respect and contempt for the United Nations and international law.  Israel was violating the most fundamental right to life of Palestinians on a daily level, carrying out arbitrary arrests and killings. Egypt examined closely the report and reaffirmed its full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, calling on the Council to address the flagrant violation of United Nations rules and international law by Israel.  The report documented the deterioration of all human conditions of Palestinians, the level of medical care, infrastructure, arbitrary arrests and killings.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) said that between 2008 and 2014, 147 hospitals and clinics and 80 ambulances had been damaged or destroyed and no independent investigations had been permitted by Israel.  The Council was urged to demand from Israel to remove the obstacles to free movement which undermined access to development and healthcare. Touro Law Centre, the institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust said that Palestinian authorities had systematically paid over 300,000 million a year to reward murders.  The report failed to mention that Palestinians used funds of the United Nations and European Union for blood. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, in a joint statement with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, said that following the United States’ declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Knesset had adopted a bill expanding the arbitrary discretions given to Israel’s Minister of Interior to punitively revoke the permanent residency status of Palestinian Jerusalemites for breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.

Amuta for NGO Responsibility reminded of Canada’s concerns about the Special Rapporteur’s suitability for the mandate, due to his links with Palestinian terrorist groups, some of which promoted Nazi style terrorism.  He was silent about millions of dollars stolen by Hamas, and he used anti-Semitic tint in his reports. World Jewish Congress stated that the Special Rapporteur could not be considered an honest broker because he had not shed any light on the crimes committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians and their own people.  The Special Rapporteur could not continue to hide behind his biased mandate against Israel.

Palestinian Return Centre Ltd noted that by attacking the Special Rapporteur, Israel tried to divert attention from its human rights violations.  The present mandate overlooked the violations against Israeli Palestinian citizens and those living abroad. Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights drew attention to longstanding and life-threatening barriers in Palestinians’ access to health, noting that 2017 had marked a low point for Gaza’s patients.  It called on the Council to urge Israel to end the general travel ban on patients, to uphold the right to personal dignity and personal liberty on persons exiting Gaza. Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling highlighted the impact of Israeli occupation discriminatory policies on Palestinian women, namely their exposure to night raids, property destruction, violence at checkpoints and ill-treatment in prisons.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said concerning the capital, it had been a longstanding policy not to take unilateral, one-sided actions concerning the Israeli Palestine conflict, however this had happened with the United States’ declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Had there been a genuine balance in such an announcement, the backlash would not have been so large.  But the announcement did not recognize the unlawful occupation, or the situation in East Jerusalem, or followed the direction of the General Assembly.  The recent reports by the World Bank showed that significant improvement in the economic recovery of Gaza and development of social life would be achieved by a single act, to end the blockade which had been in place since 2007.  The blockade had been called collective punishment by the Secretary-General, which was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Concerning the right to health, it had to be ensured for all Palestinians.  Respect for medical personnel was required, as guaranteed under international humanitarian law.  In 2004, in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, one judge said that the only prescription to end the violation of international law would be to end the occupation.

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