Monday, 10 Ocotber 2011, a delegation from the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights, comprising of PCHR Director Raji Sourani, and International Legal
Officer Daragh Murray, completed a two week mission to the United States. This
mission marked the first time in over 11 years that Mr. Sourani was allowed to
enter the United States. However, his entry was based on a once-off waiver; the
United Sates’ decision to continue denying visa to Mr. Sourani will be challenged.
mission focused on a number of key issues, principal amongst which was the
pursuit of accountability. In this context, and in light of the General
Assembly’s pending discussion of the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on
the Gaza Conflict (the ‘Goldstone’ Report), PCHR highlighted the pressing need
for enforcement of the rule of international law in Israel and the occupied
Palestinian territory. In the event of a violation of international law,
criminal investigations and prosecutions are required. PCHR presented extensive
evidence indicating the Israeli and Palestinian failure to effectively address
allegations of international crimes, and consequently emphasised the need for
recourse to mechanisms of international criminal justice, and in particular the
International Criminal Court.
also highlighted the ongoing criminal closure of the Gaza Strip. The current
collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population has now been in place for
over four years, and has effectively become institutionalised. The United
Nations – consequent to its role in the Quartet – has become complicit in the
commission of international crimes.
PCHR noted that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core building
blocks of society. Any activity surrounding the PLO’s statehood bid must not
ignore these fundamental requirements.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011, PCHR Director Raji Sourani presented a talk at Harvard
Kennedy School, entitled “Closure, Accountability, and the Split: Gaza Today”.
The talk was moderated by Sara Roy, and focused on the current human rights
situation in the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territory. Mr. Sourani
detailed Israel’s illegal closure policy, which collectively punishes Gaza’s
civilian population, and the acceptance of the closure’s institutionalisation
by the international community. Given the absence of the rule of law, and the
consequent systematic violations of international law, Mr. Sourani highlighted
the pressing need for accountability. The lecture was hosted by the MIT/
Harvard Gaza Working Group, which includes the Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School; Middle
East Forum, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; Human Rights
Program, Harvard Law School; Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard
Kennedy School; and the Center for International Studies, MIT.
On Wednesday, 5 October 2011,
the PCHR delegation returned to New York. Mr. Sourani participated at a talk at
the New School for Social Research, hosted by Louis Bickford, Director of the
New York Office, Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Mr.
Sourani also gave a lunch time talk at the RFK Center.
Continuing the advocacy
mission, PCHR’s delegation met with a number of figures and organisations,
including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Centre for Constitutional
Rights, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Grassroots
International and Open Society Institute. A meeting was also conducted with
Kerry Kennedy, president of the RFK Center.