Geneva, 15 June 2020
Distinguished President of the Human Rights Council,
Colleagues and friends,
I have the honour to present four reports under the agenda item 7 concerning the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.
I will start with the twelfth periodic reporton the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/HRC/43/70) pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1. Covering the period from 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019, this report provides an overview of recurring violations of international humanitarian law by Israel as well as by Palestinian armed groups; and violations of international human rights law by all three duty-bearers, namely Israel, the State of Palestine and the de facto authorities in Gaza.
Throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the reporting period was marked by the ongoing shrinking of civic space as the three duty-bearers continued to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Many of those detained for simply expressing their opinion through social media, attending demonstrations or criticizing the authorities were reported being ill-treated and, in a number of cases, tortured.
The report also highlights serious concerns regarding persistent excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces and continued lack of accountability for such acts. During the reporting period, 131 Palestinians, including 23 children and five women, were killed by Israeli Security Forces in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In addition, thousands of Palestinians were injured from live ammunition by Israeli Security Forces, including over 2,075 during demonstrations at the Gaza fence. In the same period, 11 Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians, namely six civilians (including a girl) and five soldiers.
As previous reports, the present one underscores the negative impact of the blockade and closures of Gaza, which continued to severely restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, constituting collective punishment of the Gaza population. Other Israeli practices that may amount to collective punishment continued at a high rate and are highlighted in the report, including punitive demolitions, revocation of travel and work permits, and withholding of bodies. In addition to being explicitly prohibited by international humanitarian law, collective punishment violates a range of human rights, including the rights to presumption of innocence, to an adequate standard of living, to health, to education, to work, and to family life.
The report also highlights human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza, particularly arbitrary arrest and detention, ill-treatment, in some cases possibly amounting to torture, as well as gender-based violence and discrimination, including against LGBTI persons.
The second report is on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/43/67), submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 40/24. It describes the impact on human rights of continued Israeli settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also addresses issues relating to Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The report notes that during the reporting period – between 1 November 2018 and 31 October 2019, the expansion of Israeli settlements accelerated in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The construction of outposts, the demolition and destruction of Palestinian property and the resulting displacement continued at a fast pace.
During the period under review, the number of incidents of settler violence against Palestinians reached its highest level since 2013, rising to 352 from the 254 reported during the previous reporting period. In many instances, Israeli Security Forces failed to protect the Palestinian population or even participated in the harassment and attacks. Impunity continued to prevail for most of these acts.
The third report is on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan(A/HRC/43/69), as requested by Human Rights Council resolution 40/21. As per usual practice, this report is based on information received from Member States. For the present report, the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq responded to the request to provide information.
The fourth report is on the database of business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/43/71), prepared pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36. The report set out factual determinations, at the standard of reasonable grounds to believe, that 112 business enterprises were involved in one or more of the listed activities set out by the fact-finding mission. It did not provide legal characterization of those activities or entities’ involvement therein. Pursuant to resolution 31/36, OHCHR consulted with the Working Group on business and human rights on issues relating to process and methodology. The compilation and screening of data, including the inclusion of specific entities in the final report, was undertaken on its own by OHCHR. With reference to any updating of the database, OHCHR would recommend the Human Rights Council establish a group of independent experts, with a time-bound mandate, to report directly to the Council for such a purpose.
But in case that Member States prefer OHCHR to continue updating it, we would need additional budget for it.
The reports presented describe the persistence of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The continued excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, causing death and injury to Palestinians, and the ongoing lack of accountability for such acts of violence remain of serious concern. The immediate and long term impact of thousands of injuries suffered at the Gaza fence is placing a heavy burden on the already impoverished community and overstretched health facilities and social services in Gaza.
The Office urges all duty-bearers to address these and other critical human rights concerns outlined in the reports.
I will conclude by emphasizing our concern regarding the shrinking space for civil society throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We continue to receive alarming reports of travel bans, arrests and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, and of highly organized campaigns aimed at tarnishing their reputation. This further constrains the already limited civic space. As tensions grow and violence escalates, human rights defenders and organizations are the first line of response and calls for accountability. We must stand in support of them.