On Monday, 10 April 2016, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) launched its 2016 annual report (Arabic version). This report is the 21st of its kind, as PCHR has always published annual reports displaying the human rights conditions since 1997. The event was attended by a large number of public figures, including decision makers, politicians and representatives of human rights, community-based and youth organizations. The event presented by journalist Taghrid al-‘Amour and extensively covered by media.
The ceremony was opened with a welcoming speech by Dr. Riyadh al-Za’noun, Chairman of PCHR’s Board of Directors. He said that throughout the year PCHR devotes great efforts to prepare this report, which documents the Israeli violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip; obstruction of the reconstruction, extra-judicial killings against civilians; apartheid crimes; land confiscation in favor of settlements; making Jewish majority in Jerusalem and other crimes committed by the Israeli forces. He indicated that the report further addressed human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Dr. al-Za’noun said the report, including the reported violations, is locally and internationally published through websites and social media in addition to all human rights centers throughout the world.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, reviewed the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Israeli blatant violations against the Palestinian people in 2016. Sourani said the report this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of oPt. He added that this year is a black one par excellence, considering it as the most violent and repressive against the Palestinian people.
Sourani shed light on the Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, where Israel attempts to make a Jewish majority. He added that settlement activities constitute a major violation as Israel threatens Palestinians’ existence by the de facto policy. He explained that seizing most of the Palestinian lands undermines the two-state solution.
Sourani tackled the Israeli illegal and inhuman closure imposed on the Gaza Strip for the tenth year consecutively. He said that this closure has not only banned the movement of persons and goods throughout those years, but turned people’s life into a living hell at all levels and standards. Sourani said that the closure is a crime against humanity recognized by all international human rights organizations, UN bodies and even Israeli human rights organizations.
The extra-judicial killing crimes were the basic title of the Israeli violations in 2016. These crimes were committed against children and women, who were murdered with cold blood at checkpoints in front of the whole world. However, Israel managed to escape punishment and did not work on bringing the perpetrators to account.
Sourani considered that the absence of international accountability has encouraged Israel to practice war crimes. He also stressed that human rights organizations will work hard on the international level along with UN bodies and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure prosecuting Israeli war criminals, bringing them to justice and ending the cruel closure imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
On the Palestinian level, Sourani said that this year was the worst as the political system witnessed ongoing state of division that has been institutionalized in light of the absence of any national reconciliation.
Sourani mentioned that the division led to more deterioration in the judiciary; the existence of two judiciaries separated from each other in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the executive authority’s measures undermining the judiciary’s independence, including the overthrowing of the Chief Justice Sami Sarsour in a humiliating manner, in addition to forming the constitutional court resulting in lifting the immunity of the PLC members later.
Sourani added that the continued deterioration in the authority’s structures and the predominance of the executive authority over the legislative and judicial ones led to more deterioration in the human rights status in general. This deterioration resulted into the retreat of the public freedoms situation, including the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, and the continued arbitrary political arrests and torture crimes. Sourani pointed out that the division has increased poor living conditions for Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
The ceremony of the annual report had a wide media coverage by local and regional agencies. The ceremony was also covered with photos and videos on the social media. A large number of the social media bloggers and tweeters attended the event, in addition to a group of young tweeters and bloggers, who are called “Social Media Army.” Those tweeters worked on covering the ceremony to audience around the world using the two hash tags: #freedom_justice and #PCHRAR21. The #freedom_justice hash tag was trending as more than 2 million persons around the world followed it within less than an hour.
It should be noted that the attendees received hard and soft copies of the report along with the summary. Moreover, PCHR works currently on the report’s translation into English, which will be published soon.