The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights participated in the 3rd Arab Regional Conference, held at the League of Arab States in Egypt on 28 and 29 July 2019. The conference was organized by the League’s General Secretariat in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights.
At least 120 representatives of League members participated in the Conference, as well as regional and international bodies, Arab human rights organizations and experts in the international humanitarian law (IHL) and the international human rights law. Over the course of the Conference, more than 15 work-papers were presented and discussed by participants on the status of human rights across the Arab world, including the Israeli occupation and armed conflict and the consequent human rights violations especially against women, children and vulnerable groups.
Mr. Jaber Wishah, Deputy Chairman of PCHR’s Board of Directors, represented the Centre and discussed the crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians, including killings, destruction and confiscation of private property and land, as well as the efforts to create a Jewish majority in the occupied East Jerusalem. In his presentation, Mr. Wishah also shed a light on Israel’s systematic arbitrary arrests especially against children, and the abuse of prisoners, the inhumane imprisonment conditions; he also discussed the Israeli closure policy and ongoing construction of the Annexation Wall, the settlement expansion activities that constitute a flagrant violation of IHL and international human rights law. Additionally, Mr. Wishah addressed the continued attacks against peaceful protests in the Gaza Strip’s weekly “Great March of Return and Break the Siege” protest. He also gave an overview of the continued threats against Palestinian human rights organizations and staff, under a plan approved by the highest Israeli offices and with the blessing of its judiciary, reiterating that Israeli occupation forces would not be able to continue in its conduct without its assurance of its impunity and the absence of international community in its role to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. As such, Mr. Wishah confirmed that it is the responsibility of the Arab countries, as well as the international community, to exert every effort to activate legal mechanisms for accountability to demand the international general prosecution to open an investigation on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, specifically on legal cases that have already been submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mr. Wishah called upon the Conference’s participants to draft a national policy framework to establish institutional bodies responsible for the protection of civilians, men, women and children, in armed conflicts. In their final recommendations, participants confirmed on the importance of upholding IHL and relevant international human rights law rules, and urged State Parties of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Parties to the Additional Protocols of 1977 to respect their obligations and ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances as stipulated in Article 1.
Furthermore, the Conference emphasized the need to execute United Nations General Assembly Resolution issued at its 39th session in November 2009, article 5 calling on the Swiss government as the State entrusted with the Geneva Conventions, especially the 4th Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to initiate necessary measures for a renewed conference for the High Contracting Parties in order to enforce the Geneva Conventions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including occupied East Jerusalem.
The Conference also called for unity against efforts aimed at United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Agenda item 7, or efforts to merge it under another agenda item; it also urged to pressurize the international community to facilitate the arrival of the Special Rapporteur On The Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as other Rapporteurs and international investigation committees sent to the oPt.
Additionally, the Conference asserted the need for the ICC to assume its legal obligations towards Palestinian victims, especially children and women, and to ask all stakeholders to cooperate with medical and humanitarian services personnel to facilitate unhindered access to civilians.
The continued Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip was also addressed during the Conference, demanding effective measures to be taken to end the closure and the restrictions it entails on the movement of persons and goods as stipulated in international law.
In its closing statement, the Conference emphasized the need for immediate measures to front the Israeli hate and discriminatory speech, as well as the restrictions against non-governmental organizations in the oPt, especially human rights organizations that expose Israeli practices and violations of human rights principle, IHL, international human rights law and the Geneva Conventions.
It also called for efforts to socially and psychologically rehabilitate children living under occupation and armed conflict, and to adopt protection procedures for families ensuring the continued access to food and medical services. The Conference participants also called for the encouragement of women’s participation in decision making processes on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and to end gender-based-violence and impunity. They also called for reinforcing good governance in the judiciary as stipulated in international treaties acceded to by League members.
Finally, the Conference asserted the need to establish a fund for legal and technical support to follow-up and prosecute the Israeli occupation before the ICC, and to support victims in achieving legal remedy and redress.
It should be noted that Mr. Wishah’s presentation and submitted paper were presented in lieu of Mr. Raji Sourani, PCHR Director, who was unable to travel to attend the Conference.