Ref:
35/2012

 

On 9 March 2012, the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) closed its 80thsession
in Geneva, Switzerland. CERD is mandated to review State Parties’ periodic
reports in light of the treaty-based obligations arising from the International
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

 

The case of Israel was reviewed by the
Committee on 15-16 February2012. Mr. Davide Tundo, a member of PCHR’s
International Unit, participated as an observer. Mr. Tundo also participated in
a series of informal briefings with members of the Committee, during which he
conveyed PCHR’s belief that equal access to justice, and the protection of the
law on a non-discriminatory basis are currently unattainable for Palestinians appealing
to the Israeli legal system, in violation of Israel’s specific obligations
under, inter alia, the Convention on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

 

Israel’s discriminatory practices and policies
against Palestinians’ right to justice, enforced in the context of its
occupation of the oPt, are evidenced in PCHR’s alternative report
presented to the Committee ahead of Israel’s review. Specific instances include
the blanket prohibition on claimants, witnesses and lawyers from Gaza appearing
before Israeli courts, as result of Israel’s long standing illegal closure
policy of the Gaza Strip, and the system of prohibitive court insurance fees,
which constitute an insurmountable monetary barrier for Palestinians wishing to
file a civil compensation claim with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. 

 

Upon conclusion of its works, the Committee has
thus released its concluding
observations
and accepted PCHR’s principal arguments.

 

In particular, while condemning Israel’s
persistent refusal to apply the Convention in the oPt, the Committee has
expressed “concern at the monetary and
physical obstacles faced by Palestinians seeking compensation before Israeli
tribunals for loss suffered, in particular as a consequence of the IDF
Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip (Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Convention)
.”

 

In this regard, PCHR believes that Israel’s
discriminatory actions against Palestinians’ right to justice, considered in
combination with other human rights violations committed in the context of the
illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, may constitute the crime against humanity of
persecution, as stated by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

 

 

With respect to Israel’s illegal closure of
Gaza, the Committee expressed concern regarding “the dramatic and disproportionate impact of the Israeli Defense Forces’
blockade and military operations on Palestinians’ right to housing and basic
services in the Gaza Strip
”. It therefore called upon Israel to “fully
respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,
rescind its blockade policy and urgently allow all construction materials
necessary for rebuilding homes and civilian infrastructures into the Gaza Strip
so as to ensure respect for Palestinians’ right to housing, education, health,
water and sanitation in compliance with the Convention
.”

 

PCHR reminds that all states are under a legal
obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention of
1949, which includes an obligation to search for and prosecute before their
courts individuals suspected of grave breaches of international humanitarian
law (i.e., war crimes), in compliance with the principle of universal
jurisdiction.   

 

Overall, it is necessary that the international
community, including UN bodies and member states, take all actions to enforce
the rule of law in the oPt and bring to an end Israel’s longstanding violations
of international law and Palestinians’ human rights.

 

The Committee’s concluding observations are
available here.
PCHR’s report to the Committee is available here.

 

For further information please contact:

Mr. Raji Sourani (Director, PCHR) pchr@pchrgaza.org

 

Mr. Daragh Murray (International Unit, PCHR) daragh@pchrgaza.org

 

Mr. Davide Tundo  (International Unit, PCHR) davide@pchrgaza.org