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United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
18 June 2010
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES: SYSTEMATIC AND CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS MUST STOP, SAYS UN COMMITTEE ON ISRAELI PRACTICES
18 June 2010
DAMASCUS – The UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories* has expressed serious concern about the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank - including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan.
“Victims of the systematic and often arbitrary restrictions on human rights and basic freedoms have the right to see justice prevail,” said Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, and Chairman of the Committee, at the end of a 13-day fact-finding visit to Cairo, Amman and Damascus. “Violations must cease,” he added.
“The testimonies that we have heard attest to a failure to address the long-standing pattern of serious violations of human rights,” Ambassador Kohona noted. In the past two weeks, the three-member Committee has heard the testimonies of dozens of witnesses from across the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, recounting their first-hand experiences of life under occupation.
Since the Committee’s establishment, the Government of Israel has failed to accommodate its requests to visit the occupied territories. The Committee has benefited from the cooperation of representatives from the Governments of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, whose countries the Committee visited.
This year’s mission began just days after the Israeli military interception, in international waters, of a flotilla of ships carrying aid for Gaza that resulted in 9 deaths and scores of injuries; and one-and-a-half years after the December 2008 / January 2009 Israeli military offensive on Gaza, known as ‘Operation Cast Lead’.
The Committee heard information about troubling developments over the past year. Witnesses from the Gaza Strip stressed the urgency to put an end to the deliberate assaults on the civilian population. They recalled that the blockade of Gaza had entered its fourth year in June 2010 and emphasized the impossibility of reconstructing homes and schools destroyed during ‘Operation Cast Lead’. They also noted the alarming situation of the health and water and sanitation systems, which has serious implications for the health of Gaza’s residents.
Witnesses from the West Bank highlighted the issue of forced displacement. Notably, they warned that Israeli Military Orders No. 1649 and 1650, which came into effect in April 2010, leave large numbers of Palestinians residing in the West Bank at risk of deportation at any moment. They also submitted evidence on settler violence; on home demolitions and evictions, notably in East Jerusalem; and on the targeting of peaceful activists.
The Committee also heard about ongoing discriminatory policies relating to the prolonged situation of occupation, including their particular impact on women and children: the continuing violations of the right to freedom of movement resulting from the blockade, the Wall, checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles; violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property, with the apparent support of the Israeli security apparatus; restricted access to education, health and water resources; the continued trend of substantial dependency on humanitarian aid; and the treatment of prisoners, including over 300 children, held in Israeli prisons.
Testimonies relating to the occupied Syrian Golan highlighted settlement building and problems in the fields of education and health, which witnesses and officials said were aimed at altering the Syrian Arab identity of the population under occupation. Witnesses complained of an unequal and discriminatory distribution of water between Israeli settlers and Syrian inhabitants. They also recounted their suffering resulting from the separation from their families for decades. The Committee heard of the Israeli authorities’ failure to clear landmines, which pose an ongoing threat to the physical safety of all inhabitants of the area and their livestock.
Health concerns and treatment of prisoners from the Golan held in Israeli prisons, ranging from torture and ill-treatment to harsh prison conditions, continued to be reported. Witnesses explained that prisoners and their families continue to suffer as a result of restrictions on family visits.
The Special Committee also met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, and exchanged views on the latest developments in the occupied territories.
The Special Committee will present a mission report to the UN General Assembly in November 2010, with its observations and recommendations to improve the human rights situation for those whose lives are affected by occupation.
The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories is composed of three Member States: Sri Lanka (Chairman), Malaysia and Senegal. This year the Member States are represented by: Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in New York; Hamidon Ali, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the UN in New York; and Momar Gueye, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the UN in Geneva.
The Special Committee was established by the General Assembly in December 1968 to examine the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan, the West Bank -including East Jerusalem - and the Gaza Strip. Its mandate was renewed again for an additional year in January 2010.
Report of the Special Committee, 9 September 2009:
OHCHR Country Page – Israel:
OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories:
For further information on the Special Committee’s visit, please contact Sara Hamood (Mob: +41 79 444 4113 / e-mail:
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