UN SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ISRAELI PRACTICES - END OF MISSION STATEMENT
10 August 2015
The United Nations Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories met with a range of civil society groups and Palestinian officials during their annual fact-finding visit to Amman (4 to 8 August 2015).
During the visit, representations were made on a wide range of issues affecting the Palestinian and Syrian people in the occupied territories. During the course of these representations a large number of civil society organizations expressed alarm over the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular the recent incident in the village of Duma, where an 18 month old Palestinian baby died following the fire-bombing of the house by Israeli settlers. The Committee was also informed that the father of the baby, who has sustained serious injuries, subsequently died on 8 August.
It was apparent from the testimonies that the root cause of the escalating violence is the continuing policy of settlement expansion and the climate of impunity relating to the activities of the settlers.
The Committee was also briefed on a series of legislative measures, either adopted or under discussion in the Knesset, which included inter-alia, a bill to allow force feeding of prisoners, who have been on hunger strike to protest against administrative detention.
Among other such laws, the Committee was briefed on an amendment to the Penal Code for harsher sentences for young stone throwers, which now increases the punishment from 10 to 20 years, and the legislation confirming the applicability of the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law to East Jerusalem, which allows Israel to seize “absentees’ property”, including land and other goods, of Palestinians, who were expelled, fled or otherwise from East Jerusalem.
The Committee also met with representatives of the Bedouin community, who provided testimony on the expulsion, by Israeli authorities, of Bedouins, whose traditional customs and livelihood are under constant threat. Among others, the Special Committee was also briefed about demolition orders, which has led to forced eviction, displacement and forcible transfer of Palestinians.
The Committee was also briefed extensively on increasing human rights violations on women and children, which included night raids, the use of police dogs, and the ensuing psychological impact on them. The Committee also heard that during these operations, women were subjected to humiliating treatment in the presence of their families.
Civil society representatives underscored the slow pace of reconstruction in Gaza, where after more than a year, since the end of the devastating conflict, not a single housing unit completely destroyed during the conflict, last summer, has been fully reconstructed. The Committee was informed that 80 per cent of the population in Gaza remains dependent on international aid, and that unemployment levels remain at around 40 per cent and movement restrictions in and out of Gaza continues to be a major problem for the economy and welfare of the people of Palestine.
Among other issues brought to the attention of the Committee is the continued exploitation of natural resources in the occupied territories in clear violation of international humanitarian law. In this connection, it was stressed that corporate actors be held accountable for the impact of their activities on human rights. Civil society representatives submitted to the Committee that both, governments and business have roles and responsibilities with regard to protection and respect for human rights, and that the responsibility to ensure corporations respect human rights should also lie with third countries, who should cease to fund or enter into commercial transactions with organizations and bodies involved in settlements or exploitation of natural resources in the Palestinian and Syrian occupied territories.
Reference to poor conditions prevailing in prisons, including medical negligence and prisoners shackled while bathing or using toilets was also brought to the attention of the Committee. The difficulty experienced by family members in visiting Palestinian prisoners in Israel was also brought to the attention of the Committee.
The Committee held the hearings in the backdrop of the current financial crisis confronting United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In the course of the representations, the possibility of having to postpone the school year and its possible consequences was brought to the attention of the Committee. It was further stated that education is the most fundamental human right guaranteed under international human rights law, and the deprivation of this right will not only affect the future of Palestine generations, but could also subject children to the influence of extremist elements.
The Committee shares the view that unless UNRWA is sufficiently funded, its role in the occupied territories would be seriously undermined, and that the international community should ensure timely and adequate funding to sustain UNRWA activities.
The Special Committee will submit a full report* on these and several other key human rights issues brought to its attention to the seventieth session of the UN General Assembly in November 2015.
(*) Check the Special Committee’s 2014 report: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/69/355