19 April 2010 – Two orders by the Israeli military relating to movement in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) may breach the fourth Geneva Convention and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.
“The orders appear to enable Israel to detain, prosecute, imprison and/or deport any and all persons present in the West Bank,” said Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Mr. Falk said his concern was based on Israel’s new definition of the term ‘infiltrator.’ The term is defined as “a person who entered the Area unlawfully following the effective date, or a person who is present in the Area and does not lawfully hold a permit.”
“Even if this open-ended definition is not used to imprison or deport vast numbers of people, it causes unacceptable distress,” the UN independent expert said in a statement, noting that “it is not at all clear what permit, if any, will satisfy this order.”
Mr. Falk said that “a wide range of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law could be linked to actions carried out by the Government of Israel under these orders, with particular gravity in the event that young persons become victims of their application.”
He added: “Illustrative of the potential for cruel abuse is a provision of the order requiring the person deported to pay the costs of his or her deportation, and suffer confiscations of property if unable to pay.”
Mr. Falk warned that deportations under the two new orders could take place without judicial review, and that detained persons can be imprisoned for seven years, unless they are able to prove that their entry was lawful, in which case they would be imprisoned for three years.
The special rapporteur recalled that Israel is party to the fourth Geneva Convention, which outlines its obligations as the Occupying Power in the West Bank. Article 49 of the Convention states that “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
Mr. Falk also noted that, despite the fact that Israel is party to the ICCPR, “the orders establish a system that allows Israel to deport people without having their right to judicial review properly fulfilled, or possibly not reviewed at all.”
He stressed that “the orders do not even ensure that detainees will be informed in their own language that a deportation order has been issued against them.”
The independent expert, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation of human rights and international humanitarian law in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, also expressed his serious concern on “whether a military committee, as the one established by one of the orders, is the kind of mechanism appropriate to satisfy requirements of judicial review, in the case that detained persons are not deported before having their situation reviewed.”
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that in the West Bank, rioting and other incidents over the past month resulted in four Palestinians killed and 349 injured. Forty-four injuries were reported among Israeli forces.
The Gaza Strip also saw a significant increase in the number of casualties, with four deaths and 39 injuries, as well as damage to civilian homes and agricultural property. Most of the violence resulted from a series of air strikes launched by the Israeli Air Force, OCHA said in its monthly report on the humanitarian conditions in the oPt.
Poor living conditions in Gaza were exacerbated by a deterioration in the supply of electricity which resulted from a continuing decline in the import of fuel for the Gaza power plant following a funding crisis that began in December 2009, according to OCHA.
In a related development, the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process reports that crossings into Gaza will be closed today and tomorrow