For the 24thsession
of the UN Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva from 9 – 27 September
2013, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Haq, Al Dameer, Al
Mezan, the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), the International
Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the Palestinian Bar Association,
jointly submitted a written statement, entitled “Closure and accountability”.
In this submission the
organizations draw attention to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip
as a result of the ongoing illegal closure imposed by Israel. Following the latest developments in
the political crisis in Egypt and the deterioration of the security situation
in North Sinai, the Egyptian authorities have frequently closed Rafah
International Crossing Point. The current lack of access to Egypt highlights
the critical need for the occupation to be ended and the illegal closure to be
lifted. Israel, as the Occupying Power, is responsible for the wellbeing of the
civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
Since the June 2007
escalation of the closure Israel has imposed extensive restrictions on imports
of goods into the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it maintains a near-total ban on
exports from the coastal strip. This has led to a to critical shortages in
basic supplies, such as medicines, construction materials, fuel, and cooking
gas, and the collapse of the local economy.
The submission also
illustrates how – despite
their recognized right to move freely – Palestinians in Gaza are cut off from
the West Bank and the outside world. This directly impacts on all aspects of
their daily lives, including the right to education, family life, health care,
and access to a court. Students are denied access to their universities abroad,
families are separated, patients are denied access to healthcare, and victims
of violations are prevented from having their claim for seeking justice and
redress heard by a court.
In addition to the border closures, the Israeli military has imposed
movement restrictions within the Gaza Strip – through a so-called ‘buffer zone’
-, denying farmers, fishermen, scrap collectors and their dependents access to
their sources of livelihood. Moreover, Israeli forces carry out attacks against
farmers and fishermen who do not pose any threat to Israeli soldiers, in
flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.
The submitting organizations call upon the international community to
intervene to pressurize the Israeli authorities to immediately lift the illegal
closure, in particular by ceasing the border restrictions imposed on imports,
exports and the movement of people. It must put stop the policy of collective
punishment of the civilian population.
Furthermore, they call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949
Fourth Geneva Convention to remind Israel, as the Occupying Power, of its
obligation towards the civilian population under Article 55 of the Convention,
which states: “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the
Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the
population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs,
medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory
Finally, the submission calls upon the Egyptian authorities to
reconsider its decision to close Rafah crossing point in order to end the
suffering of thousands of Palestinian who have been trapped in the Gaza Strip,
Egypt, Cairo International Airport and other countries.