6 April 2013

 

 

Four human rights organisations based in the Gaza Strip, along with the
Palestinian NGO Network, have issued a letter to Mr Robert H. Serry, UN Special
Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressing concern at a number
of recent statements he has made.

                                                      
                                          

Al Dameer Association for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights,
the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights (PCHR), and the Palestinian NGO Network issued the letter on 6 April
2013.

 

On 25 March 2013, Mr Serry delivered a brief to the United Nations
Security Council, in which he discussed, inter alia, the recent decision
by Israel to again reduce the fishing zone available to Gaza fishermen to 3
nautical miles. On 3 April 2013, Mr Serry issued a statement, in which he
condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas by
Palestinians but failed to condemn Israeli airstrikes, merely asking Israel to
“act with restraint”.

 

The organisations are deeply concerned by Mr Serry’s failure to condemn
Israeli violations of the ceasefire agreement, as well as the harsh punitive
measures taken by the Israeli authorities against the people of the Gaza Strip.
The text of the letter sent to Mr Serry is below.

 

 

Robert H. Serry

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East
Peace Process

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for
the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)

 

We, Al Dameer Association for Human Rights (Al
Dameer), Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan), the Gaza Community Mental
Health Programme (GCMHP), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and
the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), hereby raise our serious concerns regarding
the brief you delivered to the United Nations Security Council on 25 March
2013, in which you discussed, inter alia, the recent decision by Israel
to again reduce the fishing zone available to Gaza fishermen to 3 nautical
miles. We are further concerned by your more recent statement, on 3 April 2013,
which condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas by
Palestinians but fails to condemn Israeli airstrikes, merely asking Israel to
“act with restraint”. In particular, we are deeply concerned by your failure to
condemn Israeli violations of the ceasefire agreement, as well as the harsh
punitive measures taken by the Israeli authorities against the people of the
Gaza Strip.

 

Your statement on the “setback in the
implementation of the ceasefire brokered on 21 November”, which mentions the
date of “21 March [when rockets] were fired from Gaza into Israel”, fails to
accurately relay the events leading to the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement
and, most critically, fails to emphasise Israel’s responsibility, as the
occupying power, to ensure the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip.

 

Since November 2012, Israel has violated the
terms of the ceasefire agreement dozens of times, firing at farmers on their
land, fishermen at sea, and peaceful demonstrators near the border. These
unwarranted attacks on civilians represent serious violations of international
law and should be condemned. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, since the ceasefire came into effect, five Palestinians
have been killed and 110 injured in the ‘buffer zone’ by Israeli forces.[1]

 

Since 1994, Israel has increasingly imposed
unlawful movement restrictions on Palestinians in the border lands and fishing
waters, raising serious concerns for the lives and safety of civilians and
their access to livelihood. These restrictions, combined with extensive
long-term border closures, have had a detrimental humanitarian and economic
impact on the civilians living in the Gaza Strip. In recent years, the combined
policies have been internationally condemned as a form of collective punishment,
which is imposed on the civilian population in violation of Article 33 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention.[2]

 

In a statement issued jointly by the Israeli
military and the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the
Territories (COGAT) on 21 March, it was stated that the decision to again
reduce the fishing zone was made by the Israeli Prime Minister and Defence
Minister “[i]n response to the rocket fire” from Gaza into Israel that morning.[3] It was also announced that
Kerem Shalom border crossing would be closed for the same reason. These
increased restrictions form a continuation of the long-term unlawful closure of
the Gaza Strip, which are intended to collectively punish the people living in
the Gaza Strip.

 

In light of the aforementioned attacks, and the
ongoing restrictions on civilians in the border lands and fishing waters, we
strongly urge Robert H. Serry, in his capacity as the UN Special Coordinator
for the Middle East Peace Process with UNSCO, to apply the framework of
international law as it relates to occupied territory in considering the events
leading up to and including Israel’s recent retraction of the Palestinian
fishing area.

 

To this end, Al Dameer, Al Mezan, GCMHP, PCHR,
and PNGO, urge UNSCO to publically recognise and condemn the punitive measures
imposed by the Israeli authorities as a form of collective punishment of the
civilians of the Gaza Strip. We cite previous UN calls to end the use of such
measures in the Gaza Strip, including the June 2012 statement by
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, in which she
stated that the closure of the Gaza Strip “amounts to a collective punishment
of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in
contravention of international law.”[4]

 

Al Dameer Association for
Human Rights – Gaza

Al Mezan Center for Human
Rights – Gaza

Gaza Community Mental Health
Programme

Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights – Gaza

Palestinian Non-Governmental
Organisations Network – Gaza



[1] OCHA, "OPT: Protection
of Civilians – OCHA Weekly Report (19-25 March 2013), UNISPAL, 25 Mar. 2013.

[2] ICRC, “Gaza closure: not another year,” News Release 10/103, 14 June
2010.

[3] The only remaining reference to the increased fishing area is included
in COGAT’s November 2012 Monthly report, which is available here:
http://www.cogat.idf.il/Sip_Storage/FILES/8/3688.pdf

[4] UN News Center, "Top UN Humanitarian Official Urges Lifting of
Israeli Blockade of Gaza." UN, 13 June 2012.