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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Israel / Bedouin, Syrian refugees /Jordan and Egypt detentions

Briefing: Israel, Jordan, Egypt

03 July 2018

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location:  Geneva
Date:  3 July 2018
Subject:  (1) Israel / Bedouin, (2) Syrian refugees / Jordan, (3) Egypt detentions

(1) Israel / Bedouin

We are deeply concerned at reports that the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar-Abu al Helu is set to be demolished by the Israeli authorities in the coming days. 

The community is home to 181 people - more than half of them children - and is one of the 46 Bedouin communities in the central West Bank that the UN views as being at high risk of forcible transfer due to an environment generated by Israeli practices and policies that coerces people and communities to move.   

For more than a decade people in the Khan al Ahmar community, which is located near to where large Israeli settlements have been established, have resisted efforts to move them to make way for settlement expansion. Legal avenues to resist ended on 24 May 2018 when the Israeli High Court ruled there was no reason to delay implementation of demolition orders over the structures in the community, including a school. The demolition orders were originally issued on the grounds that all the structures were illegally built. 

As reiterated by the Secretary-General and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the planning regime adopted by Israel in this area – designated as Area C - is discriminatory and incompatible with requirements under international law. Any demolitions undertaken in this context would likely amount to forced evictions and a violation of the right to housing of individuals living in the community.

Moreover international humanitarian law prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private property by the occupying power. 

Demolition of Khan al Ahmar would dramatically increase the coercive environment in which the community is living. There is also grave concern that should the demolition go ahead, the community may ultimately be forcibly transferred by the occupying power. International humanitarian law prohibits the forced transfer of the population of an occupied territory, regardless of the motive. Such a transfer would amount to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Forcible transfer does not necessarily require the use of physical force by authorities; it can happen when individuals or communities are given no choice but to leave.  Any transfer without the genuine and fully informed consent of those affected is considered forcible.  

We call on the Israeli authorities not to proceed with the demolition of Khan al Ahmar-Abu al Helu, to respect the rights of residents to remain on their land and have their status regularized.

(2) Syrian refugees / Jordan

The situation in Daraa appears to be worsening, with escalating attacks that are heavily impacting civilians. We urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians in southwestern Syria, and to protect those attempting to flee.

Thousands of refugees are stranded, without adequate shelter, at the border with Jordan. We call on the international community, in particular countries of the region with the financial ability to host large numbers of refugees, to take in fleeing civilians from Syria. We recognise that Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have long hosted a large number of refugees, particularly from Syria, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. It has been heartening to see many people in these countries doing what they can to call on their governments to keep the border open, and to gather food and water for Syrian refugees.

We call on the Jordanian Government to keep its border open and for other countries in the region to step up and receive the fleeing civilians.

We call on all parties involved to ensure safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need, in line with their obligations under international law.

(3) Egypt detentions

We call on the Government of Egypt to unconditionally release Ola Al-Qaradawi and her husband Hosam Khalaf, who have been arbitrarily detained in the country since they were arrested on 30 June last year. Al-Qaradawi has been held in solitary confinement for one year in one of the worst prisons in Egypt and has been denied visits from her family and lawyers since her arrest. We understand she recently began a hunger strike in protest.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 12 June issued a decision determining that Al-Qaradawi and Khalaf’s detention was arbitrary and called for their immediate release. The Working Group determined that their arrest was arbitrary and that the repeated renewal of 45-day detention orders against them has resulted in ongoing violations of their rights to a fair trial and due process. Al-Qaradawi’s prolonged solitary confinement could also amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The Working Group stated that it “cannot but conclude that Al-Qaradawi and Khalaf have been arrested and detained for their family ties with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.”

We understand that Ola Al-Qaradawi’s health is frail and deteriorating and urge the authorities to ensure that her right to health and to physical and psychological integrity is respected. We call on Egypt to release all those arbitrarily detained in the country unconditionally.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected] or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] 

2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human

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