Commission on Human Rights
57th Special Session
Item8 of the provisional agenda
Question of the Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine
Oral Statement made by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization with Special Consultative Status.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) firmly believes that, over the course of the last six months, the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has deteriorated rapidly, reaching an all new low. PCHR also expresses its dismay at Israel’s continued occupation and gross, systematic and massive violations of international human rights and humanitarian law which have resulted in an escalating human rights and humanitarian crisis.
However, although the current human rights and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is grave, it should be recognized that the roots of the current crisis extend beyond the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada and owe to the continued Israeli occupation of the Arab Territories, including Palestine. Prior to the onset of the al-Aqsa intifada, Israel’s continued occupation and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, such as settlement construction and use of collective punishments, created an explosive situation that ignited with the provocative visit of Ariel Sharon to the al-Haram al-Sharif (or the holy sanctuary).
However, since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada on 29 September 2000, the human rights and humanitarian conditions within the Occupied Palestinian Territories has become even more grave. Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been numerous and include:
Ø Use of excessive, unjustified and disproportionate force against civilians: Israel has used heavy weaponry normally employed in full-scale warfare against Palestinian civilians. This has occurred during clashes with demonstrators who are either unarmed or using stones as well as when there were no clashes at all. It has also included bombings of Palestinian residential areas in the absence of a military threat. This scale of force is unprecedented since 1967 when Israel first occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ø Violations of particular protections accorded to persons enjoying special status: This includes several categories: children, medical personnel, and journalists/human rights workers.
1. Children: As of 17 March 2001, 32% of the persons killed have been children. In addition, schools have been fired upon and shelled regularly.
2. Medical Personnel: Israel has not only prevented medical personnel from carrying out their duties, but Israel has also directly attacked clearly identifiable medical personnel and/or clearly marked ambulances. As of the end of February, this has resulted in four deaths and dozens of injuries of medical personnel.
3. Journalists and Human Rights Workers: Israel has also violated the special protections accorded to journalists. Local and international journalists have been chased, intimidated and fired upon by Israeli occupation forces. Also, human rights workers from Palestinian human rights NGOs have been attacked in the course of their duties. These attacks are part of an orchestrated effort to hinder coverage of Israeli violations.
Ø Extra-Judicial Killings: Since 9 November 2000 alone, Israel has carried out at least 10 assassinations of Palestinian leaders as part of an official policy of political assassination, in two cases killing six civilian bystanders.
Ø Use of Torture: There continue to be reports of torture and inhumane treatment in Israel.
Ø Settlements: In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has continued to establish and maintain Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This policy not only violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, but it is also a policy of “land-grabbing” and creating a fait accompli in advance of final status negotiations. In addition, it is also part of a larger policy of “population transfer” designed to displace the Palestinian population with an Israeli one. Also, often protected by Israeli occupation forces, armed settlers have attacked Palestinian civilians from heavily fortified and strategically located settlements.
Ø Land Confiscations and Destruction of Civilian Property: During the year 2000, Israeli occupation authorities demolished 223 Palestinian-owned buildings in the West Bank (including Occupied East Jerusalem) and in the Gaza Strip, including 133 houses. In addition, from September 2000 to 14 February 2001, approximately 7 sq km of land have also been leveled in the Gaza Strip.
Ø The Israeli Siege of the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israel has implemented the closure policy in unprecedented levels. This not only constitutes collective punishment, and thus violates international humanitarian law, but has also resulted in an increasing stranglehold on the Occupied Palestinian Territories resulting in a “bantustan” system of apartheid–in which the Gaza Strip has been transformed into the “Gaza Strips.” The siege has resulted in the social and economic suffocation of the Palestinian people and have furthermore resulted in:
Freedom of movement violations
Freedom of religion violations
Violations of humanitarian law regarding access to medical facilities
Freedom of education violations And an
Increase in extreme poverty
However grave the current human rights and humanitarian condition in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we fear the worst is yet to come. In order to stop the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that continued after Oslo and escalated since 29 September 2000, PCHR calls upon:
I The Government of Israel, until such a date when it ceases its occupation of Palestinian lands, to:
Ø Apply de jure the Fourth Geneva Convention
Ø Adhere to its international obligations and to stop the:
-use of excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate force
-violations of the particular protections of those enjoying special status
-policy of extra-judicial killings
-use of torture
-establishment and maintenance of settlements
-land confiscations and destruction of civilian property
-siege of the Occupied Palestinian Territories
II. The Human Rights Commission to:
Ø Urge the international community to send an international protection force to the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Ø Urge the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to immediately reconvene the adjourned conference and pressure Israel to implement de jure the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Ø Fully implement resolution S-5/1
Ø Adopt the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry report
Ø Recommend the report of the Commission of Inquiry to the UN General Assembly