26 June 2008
CAIRO -- The three-member Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories completed today its field visit to Egypt after talking to Palestinian residents from Gaza and the West Bank as well as Israeli citizens. The Committee Members expressed serious concern about the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the grave situation in the Gaza strip, the impact of the separation wall on the human rights of Palestinian people, and the continuing settlements policy.
The field mission included interviews with witnesses to human rights situations in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In reaching its preliminary conclusions, the Special Committee relied on communications it had received and consultations during the visit, some by phone as some witnesses from Gaza were prevented from traveling to Cairo.
During the visit that began on 24 June, the Committee received testimonies on the siege on Gaza, and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights of the Palestinian people, as a form of collective punishment. The siege has resulted in a drastic deterioration of the economic and social situation with rising unemployment and poverty levels affecting the enjoyment of virtually every human right. In particular, the three member panel received testimonies on the immediate and long-term consequences on the rights to health, education, an adequate standard of living, food and water, arising out of such measures as fuel and electricity cuts, restrictions on the import of essential goods and restrictions on freedom of movement to and from Gaza. The human rights and welfare of children, a very vulnerable group, which make up half of the population of Gaza are of utmost concern to the Special Committee.
Several witnesses focused on the impact of the separation wall and the seemingly arbitrary rules and policies of closures restricting the right to freedom of movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and their impact on a wide range of other rights, including the right to health, food, and an adequate standard of living, as well as the right to work, education and family life. The Committee also heard testimonies on Israeli settlements policy, confiscation of land, and house demolitions in East Jerusalem.
Witnesses expressed their hope that the international community would break its silence and act more resolutely to urge Israel to respect international law and comply with its international legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The group focused on developments pertaining to human rights since the adoption by the General Assembly of its 39th report in December 2007.
The Special Committee met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, H.E. Ahmed Abul Gheit and Foreign Ministry officials, representatives of the League of Arab States, and of the National Council for Human Rights.
The Special Committee will continue its visit to the region in Jordan and Syria from 27 June to 5 July. The report of the Special Committee’s field mission will be submitted to the General Assembly at its 63rd session this year.
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