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Introduction of four reports under Human Rights Council agenda item 7

Human Rights Council 40th Session
Agenda Item 7

Introductory remarks by
Mr. Andrew Gilmour
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

Geneva, 18 March 2018

On behalf of the High Commissioner, I will introduce 4 reports under the Council’s agenda item 7, concerning the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other occupied Arab territories.

The reports draw largely on the human rights monitoring work undertaken by OHCHR’s office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The first report before you is the High Commissioner’s eleventh periodic report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/HRC/40/39), pursuant to resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1. This report provides an overview of recurring violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as perpetrated by Israel, the State of Palestine and the authorities in Gaza. It highlights serious concerns regarding excessive use of force by the Israeli Security Forces. During the reporting period, 274 Palestinians, including 50 children, were killed by Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank and Gaza, a large majority of whom in the context of demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel fence. In addition, over 24,000 Palestinians were injured. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, as many as 1,200 of those injured will require long-term limb reconstruction and extensive rehabilitation, which may not be available in Gaza. You have just heard so I won’t repeat the horrifying accounts of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The report also addresses concerns regarding arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture, increasing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and tightening of movement restrictions, and continued and across the board lack of accountability. During the reporting period, eleven Israelis (seven civilians and four members of Israeli Security Forces) were killed by Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The report confirms the persistence of patterns of violations previously reported by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, and a most worrisome deterioration of the situation in Gaza. It concludes with recommendations to the State of Israel, the State of Palestine, and the authorities in Gaza.

The second report before you (A/HRC/40/42) describes the impact of continued settlement expansion on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as requested by resolution 37/36. It notes a significant rise in settler violence, while settlement planning has continued at a high rate. Demolitions of houses and schools, leading to forced evictions of families and communities, are carried out on the basis of what are highly discriminatory planning practices, which contravene international law and are of serious concern.

The Government of Israel is yet again reminded of its obligation – as the Occupying Power – to take all steps necessary to protect the Palestinian population in their occupied territory, including preventing attacks by settlers, and to ensure accountability in cases of settler violence against Palestinians and their property.

The third report (A/HRC/40/43) is presented pursuant to resolution 37/37. It provides an update on matters related to accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties, in connection with the 2014 escalation of hostilities in Gaza and alleged violations related to law enforcement operations. Noting the connection between impunity and continued cycles of violence, the report echoes previous calls for accountability, while raising continued concerns that these have thus far gone unheeded. In the past seven years, during which reportedly 114 criminal investigations were opened across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and almost 700 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli Security Forces, only three indictments were issued against soldiers for the killing of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. On the Palestinian side, no progress has been recorded regarding accountability.

The report also addresses recent developments to ensure accountability in the context of harassment, threats and attempts to de-legitimize human rights defenders and civil society actors working to document violations and advocate for accountability. Restrictions on the work of civil society actors continued to be of serious concern. Once again, the report examines accountability from the perspective of all relevant authorities, as well as the responsibility of third States to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

The fourth report before you is on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/40/41), as requested by your resolution 37/33. It is based on information received from member states on human rights violations in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Excellencies,

On a positive note, we welcome the consideration in July 2018 of the report by the State of Palestine to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women - the first report to a treaty body by the State of Palestine. This report, which benefitted from the technical assistance of OHCHR’s office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, along with the Committee’s recommendations, form a solid basis for addressing discrimination against women in Palestine. OHCHR calls on the Government to submit its outstanding reports to the treaty bodies.

As reflected in the reports I just introduced, this was another very difficult year in terms of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The most shocking development has been the huge loss of life and even greater level of life-changing injuries, first and foremost in Gaza, of people shot by snipers through the fence. The burden of the injury toll on the already crippled Gaza health care system risks to paralyzing it altogether. Elective surgeries have been cancelled, patients with gunshot injuries have been sent home after minimal time due to overcrowding, there continues to be a lack of medicines, capacity for complex vascular surgery, and even proper x-ray machines. Post-operative care and rehabilitation, especially for those who have had limbs amputated, is entirely inadequate. Even when they recover, Gazans continue to face manifold challenges as a result of the worsening situation: record high unemployment, especially among youth and women, severe movement restrictions imposed by Israel, an ongoing lack of electricity, and more.

The last year has been particularly devastating across the OPT. A total of 299 Palestinians were killed (including 57 children) and 29,878 were injured (including 7,242 with live ammunition) by the ISF in 2018. These are the highest figures since the 2014 hostilities in Gaza.

In the West Bank including East Jerusalem, human rights violations linked to the expansion of settlements and related violence have continued to rise. The establishment and expansion of settlements amount to the transfer by Israel of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which is clearly prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.

As noted by the High Commissioner, settler violence and the climate of fear and intimidation created by repeated violence and harassment, adversely affects a whole range of rights and has a serious psychological impact on victims of, and witnesses to, violent attacks. This is particularly disturbing when violence and harassment by settlers target schools, affecting children and their access to education with the long-term consequences that entails.

While acknowledging Israel’s efforts to address some settler-related violence, OHCHR remains concerned at the lack of adequate law enforcement by the Israeli authorities and their failure to protect Palestinians when attacks occur in their presence and at Israel’s repeated failure to investigate cases of settler violence and prosecute perpetrators.

The situation in Hebron is especially worrisome, and we regret Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. The TIPH has played a critical role in preventing and mitigating human rights violations, and bearing witness when violations did occur, for more than 20 years. As tensions in Hebron have risen since the TIPH withdrawal, non-governmental organizations who carry out similar work in the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city, H2, have in recent weeks been forced to pull out their staff due to security concerns, leaving a significant protection gap for Palestinians living there. OHCHR is deeply concerned for the safety of the population in Hebron H2 Area, following increasingly violent attacks by settlers usually accompanied by inaction on the part of Israeli Security Forces. It will be essential to ensure continued humanitarian access and protection.

As I mentioned, the reports just introduced look at human rights issues that involve all relevant authorities in the occupied territory. One such issue is detention. Palestinians continue to be subject to arbitrary detention by Israeli authorities, including the continued use of administrative detention, even of children. As of 31 October 2018, 481 Palestinians were held in administrative detention without charge or trial, including four children.

Arbitrary detention has also been carried out by Palestinian authorities. Numerous credible allegations of ill-treatment and torture have been recorded in places of detention run by the Palestinian Authority and by the authorities in Gaza, namely Hamas. Journalists and political opponents have been arrested by authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza for exercising their fundamental freedoms. Palestinians have reported being arrested without legal basis, with some spending weeks and, in some cases, months without being formally charged, nor having their case reviewed by a competent court.

The clampdown on freedom of expression noted in previous reports of the High Commissioner has continued, and in many instances deepened. In a climate of shrinking space for civil society, Palestinian human rights defenders are in the unenviable double bind situation of being at risk of detention and ill-treatment by both Israeli and Palestinian security forces. We deplore the harsh repression of protesters by Hamas security forces in Gaza over the past few days.

Journalists have been killed by Israeli forces along the fence in Gaza. Statements by some Israeli political figures seem to delegitimize media, civil society and courageous human rights defenders working on Palestinian rights issues, be they Israeli or Palestinian. This year has seen instances of restrictions on work permits and visas issued to human rights defenders by Israel, and there are strong concerns that the amended Entry into Israel law may be used to prevent human rights defenders from entering Israel and the OPT.

In the West Bank, several journalists were arrested by the Palestinian Authority on provisions of the Cyber Crimes Decree Law. Individuals expressing their views on social media have been detained and questioned, and in some cases prosecuted for exercising their rights. Demonstrations have been violently dispersed. This has made it more and more difficult for the international community to monitor and analyze the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

As emphasized in the High Commissioner’s report on accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, patterns of ongoing human rights violations are not just symptoms of the conflict but further perpetuate the cycle of violence. Lack of accountability compromises chances for sustainable peace and security. We know that. And surely – after all this time – so must the parties know it.

Thank you.