PCHR Releases Annual Report 2020
Date: 24 June 2021
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) released its Annual Report 2020, which covered the period from 01 January to 31 December 2020. This is the 24th edition of PCHR’s Annual Report, as the Centre has maintained this tradition since 1996.
In departure from the norm where PCHR would hold a launching ceremony for its annual report that is attended by governmental and civil society organizations, as well as public figures, for the second year on row, PCHR has cancelled the event due to the coronavirus pandemic and sufficed with an online release.
The annual report comes in two parts; the 1st addresses the state of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt); and the 2nd part illustrates PCHR’s program activities in 2020 on the national and international levels.
The 1st part of the report documents Israeli occupation forces (IOF) war crimes and violations of international law and international human rights law in the oPt throughout the year, as IOF continued to use its indiscriminate policy of willful killing and excessive use of force against the Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As a result, 32 citizens, including 10 children and 2 women, were killed in the Gaza Strip, while (25) citizens, including 6 children and a woman were killed in the West Bank, and 7 citizens were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 2 succumbed to their wounds. Also, 3 arrestees died inside the Israeli prisons after deteriorating their health conditions. Moreover, 671 citizens were injured by the Israeli forces and settlers, 14 of them sustained wounds by the settlers in the West Bank, including 71 children, a woman, 13 journalists, 3 paramedics and a peace activist. In addition to the illegal and inhuman 13-year closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, the nonstop Israeli crimes, the efforts to Judaize Jerusalem and other war crimes. Additionally, the report documents violations of human rights and obstacles to democratic transformation, the ongoing internal split and its impact on the Palestinian political system, the ongoing political arrests and public freedoms’ violations.
The report highlights the catastrophic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Palestinian health system which is already deteriorated and already suffering from a lack of resources due to the last 15 years of Israeli closure and collective punishments. The report also highlighted the clear distinction of the occupation Authorities in dealing with this pandemic, as they provided the Covid-19 vaccine for the Israeli citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, and excluded 6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Despite the Israeli Authorities’ legal responsibility to provide vaccination or allow the entry of medical aids to reach the oPt without restrictions.
The report also documented the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) updates, as the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court has recognized that its jurisdiction extends to the oPt since 1967, such as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. PCHR considered this gesture as a glimmer of hope to obtain the justice and redress for their rights after years of the Israeli judiciary’s renunciation, waiting for the initiation of a practical investigation in the near future.
The report also highlighted the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip which not only created a humanitarian crisis and deteriorated conditions, but also it was an integral part of the policy of fragmenting the geography of the oPt, and the fragmentation of the Palestinian identity in the designated areas according to the international consensus to build an independent Palestinian state. These occupying policies and measures resulted in keeping us away from our inalienable rights to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state in the Palestinian territories which were occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
The year 2020 witnessed a collapse in the legislative process in Palestine, and augmentation of the split in the judicial authority and the attempts of the executive authority to undermine its independence and control it. Also in 2020, the executive authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued to violate the rights and public freedoms of citizens, including infringement on the freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and arbitrary detention and other practices.
The report also shows the human rights violations and democratic transition obstacles belonging to the Palestinian National Authority, as the reporting period witnessed an extra deterioration in human rights conditions as a result of the internal division in the Palestinian Authority’s executive, legislative and judicial institutions.
The report also mentioned the state of emergency which was declared by the Palestinian Authority on March 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19, in addition to the state of the extension during 2020, which imposed more complexity on the conditions of the Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, which are already in crisis due to human rights violations. PCHR expressed its acceptance for the authorities’ imposition of justified and legitimate restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 with human rights standards, but on contrary PCHR warned against exploiting the pandemic conditions to impose unjustified restrictions on the state of public freedoms.
Additionally, the report addressed the overreach of the executive branch on all government bodies, which was amplified by three laws by decree issued by the Palestinian President on 30 December 2020 that brought a serious threat to the principles of rule of law and separation of power, and directly compromise the independence of the judiciary, which will carry serious implications for the Palestinian political system and public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority.
Throughout the year, security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continued the arrests, arbitrary arrests, summonses and detains against civilians without following the necessary legal procedures. However, torture and degrading treatment continued to be used by the various Palestinian security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against detainees and arrestees in the Palestinians prisons and detention centers.
The decline in freedom of opinion and expression continued, in addition to arresting and detention of journalists, opinion-holders and activists, and exposing them to investigation or interrogation on grounds of their journalistic work, or against calls for peaceful demonstration. Authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip took advantage of the state of emergency declared to control the spread of Covid-19 as a justification for these restrictions.
PCHR documented more violations by public authorities against the right to peaceful assembly in the West Bank and Gaza, as Covid-19 pandemic imposed exceptional measures to commit since March 2020, including declaring the state of emergency in the West Bank and imposing precautionary measures in the Gaza Strip. Double standards and discrimination appeared by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in light of the declared state of emergency. The two authorities allowed holding public gatherings in halls, mourning houses, popular markets, and festivals, while imposed restrictions on peaceful gatherings of a political nature and forcibly banned them.
The 2nd part of the report provides an overview of PCHR’s four strategic priorities that guided its work throughout the year, including the dedication of its efforts to hold Israeli war criminals accountable, particularly through enhanced work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international mechanism; monitoring, documenting and exposing Israeli crimes and arbitrary practices against Palestinians. Furthermore, the report illustrates PCHR’s work on the Palestinian agenda, as PCHR mobilized all its resources to promote democratic transformation and protection of human rights, which are seriously challenged under the standing Palestinian political division. Additionally, this section highlights PCHR work on organizational capacity building to strengthen the organization’s efficiency and ensure compliance with its values.
PCHR’s Annual Report is issued in Arabic and English, and it is distributed nationally and internationally to civil society organizations, national and international human rights organizations, official and governmental bodies, diplomatic missions and representative offices, United Nations bodies, journalists and media.