|On the Anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, The Humanitarian Conditions of the Disabled in the OPT Are Deteriorating|
|Wednesday, 03 December 2008 00:00|
Date: 03 December 2008
Time: 12:00 GMT
On the Anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
The Humanitarian Conditions of the Disabled in the OPT Are Deteriorating
Today, 3 December 2008, is the anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992). The decision of this adoption was taken to urge the international community to respect, enhance and protect the rights of persons with disabilities all over the world, in line with human rights principles, including the International Bill of Human Rights which was devoted to achieve full equality among human beings without any kind of discrimination based on sex, race, color, social origin, disability or any other form of discrimination.
This year marked a qualitative leap when the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that was issued on 30 March 2007, entered into force on 3 May 2008. Despite this, the suffering of the Palestinian persons with disabilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is steadily increasing. This is due to the serious and continued escalation of war crimes by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against the Palestinian civilians, including persons with disabilities and institutions working in the field of rehabilitation and care provision to the disabled. Persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip particularly are living unprecedented deterioration of their humanitarian conditions, due to the tight and total siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip since mid June 2007. This siege constitutes a unique form of collective punishment against the civilian population, and is a flagrant violation of all the economic, social, and cultural rights of persons with disabilities, and is also a flagrant violation against the civil and political rights of these persons.
Dozens of disabled Palestinian were killed by IOF; and many of them sustained different forms of injuries. Hundreds of Palestinians became disabled caused by severe injuries caused by IOF. According to PCHR documentation, since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada on 29 September, 2000, 81 Palestinians with disabilities, including 11 children and 4 women, were killed by IOF. These 81 victims included 21 persons with mental disability, 14 persons with mobility disability, 19 persons with hearing disability, 11 persons with psychological disability, 7 persons with dual disability and one person with visual disability. This proves that IOF did not exert sufficient effort to avoid the killing of the Palestinian civilians in general, and persons with disabilities in particular. More than a hundred Palestinian persons with disabilities sustained injuries, while hundreds of Palestinian civilians sustained injuries that rendered them disabled.
Throughout the al-Aqsa Intifada, dozens of institutions working in the field of rehabilitation a care provision to the disabled were subject to partial or complete destruction and devastation by IOF. As a result, thousands of Palestinian persons with disabilities were deprived from access to the services provided by these institutions in the areas of health, rehabilitation, education, relief, leisure and sports.
In a dangerous development, IOF imposed unprecedented tight and total siege on the Gaza Strip and strict closure on its border crossings, isolating the Strip from its geographical extension in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. IOF also closed Rafah crossing for the movement of the civilian population from and to the Gaza Strip. This step formed an unprecedented form of collective punishment, including ban on consignments of foods, medicine and fuel and on all basic needs of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
The collective punishment policy caused further suffering to Gaza disabled who became unable to access the institutions that provide care and rehabilitation services to them. These IOF arbitrary procedures caused dangerous deterioration that affected the disabled and the institutions that target them with rehabilitation and care services. Disabled persons suffered continued deprival and deterioration of their living conditions.
The IOF decision to continue reducing the fuel supplies to Gaza severely affected the level of the disabled institutions’ ability to provide their services to the persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip. Many of these institutions were obliged to partially suspend their services provided to the disabled, including education and rehabilitation programs, integration programs and relief services. More than 100,000 persons with different types of disabilities in the Gaza Strip were consequently affected, and suffered severe deterioration in their living conditions. Poverty among persons with disabilities in the Gaza strip registered more than 80%, and the disabled became unable to ensure their needs of food and medicine.
Palestinian persons with disabilities were subject to arrest by IOF and suffered many forms of humiliating maltreatment, cruelty and torture at the Israeli checkpoints where dozens of Palestinian disabled were detained for several hours. Institutions providing services to disable persons are suffering from severe and dangerous shortage of their entire needs, including spare parts, tools required to make mobile wheelchairs, medical assistive walking tools, hearing aids and their batteries, medical and supporting devices and all kinds of raw materials required to operate workshops that employ persons with disabilities to produce embroidery, sewed products, handicrafts, wood products and other kinds of products. Many educational programs, including kindergartens that target the disabled were closed for more than 5 weeks due to shortage of their needs and fuel and due to cuts of power.
This anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities coincides with the increasing suffering of the Palestinian civilian population. Rates of poverty and unemployment in the current year increased to unprecedented levels. The standards of health services and living conditions of the civilian population deteriorated to a level that threatens to the collapse of the health and education system in the OPT. The suffering of persons with disabilities escalated, as a result, to doubles. Many institutions working in the provision of rehabilitation and care services to the disables are suffering from financial crises and confronting dangerous shortage of their needs, causing the freeze of many of rehabilitation and care services provided to the disabled. Persons with disabilities who depend on allocations and subsidies provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs are suffering from the irregularity of paying these allocations and subsidies.
The fragmentation and conflict taking place in the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority negatively reflected on the conditions of persons with disabilities, who already suffer from dangerous deterioration in the standard of their enjoyment of their rights stipulated by the Disability Law concerning the rights of the disabled No. 4 for the year 1999. In this context, Palestinian persons with disabilities are still suffering from the lack of the application of the provisions of the Disability Law that stipulates their rights in the areas of health and rehabilitation services, care, education and employment and in the areas of leisure and sports and participation in the cultural life with the community.
Economic and social conditions of the disabled are deteriorating. They are suffering from irregular payment of their allocations and subsidies provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs. They and their families, as a result, are suffering from extreme poverty, deprival of many rehabilitation and care services and shortage of many medical devices needed form many of them. For more than 6 years, Palestinian persons with disabilities are still waiting for the application of the Disability Law, particularly the issuance of the disabled card that specifies the group of services which the disabled is entitled to receive through an organized program.
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PCHR calls:
1. Upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, the different institutions of the United Nations and international governmental and non-governmental organizations to exert pressure on IOF to compel them to stop their violations against the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law and the International Human Rights Law and against the Palestinian civilian population.
2. For the immediate cessation of all forms of violations committed by IOF against Palestinian persons with disabilities, including killing and causing injuries, and all forms of violations against the institutions that provide care and rehabilitation services to the disabled.
3. Upon the international community to commit the Government of the IOF to respect the international human rights instruments, including those concerning the rights of the disabled.
4. For putting an end, immediately, to the ongoing fragmentation of the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority, that caused severe effects on the rights of the Palestinian civilians in general and on the rights of Palestinian persons with disabilities in particular.
5. Upon the Palestinian National Authority to immediately issue the disabled card, stipulated in the Palestinian Disability Law, to relive the disabled and ensure decent life to them and to their families.
6. Upon governmental institutions and ministries to commit to the provisions of the Palestinian Disability Law, to ensure the employment of at least 5% of the disabled in these institutions and ministries.
7. Upon the Ministry of Education to make available the secondary education to the persons with hearing disability, as a commitment to the principle of providing equal educational opportunities to all based on equality and non-discrimination.