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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CT/640
8 August 2003

Round-up of Session

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONCLUDES SEVENTY-EIGHTH SESSION
Adopts Final Conclusions, Recommendations
On Reports of Slovakia, Portugal, El Salvador, Israel

(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 8 August (UN Information Service) -- The Human Rights Committee concluded today a four-week session at which it considered and adopted concluding observations and recommendations on the reports submitted by Slovakia, Portugal, El Salvador and Israel.

The four countries sent government delegations to answer questions raised by Committee experts in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  There are 150 States parties to the Covenant.

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And with regard to the second periodic report of Israel, the Committee welcomed the positive measures and legislation adopted by the State party to improve the status of women in Israeli society, with a view to promoting gender equality.  While again acknowledging the seriousness of the State party’s security concerns that had prompted recent restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, the Committee said it was concerned that the construction of the “Seam Zone”, by means of a fence had imposed additional and unjustifiably severe restrictions on the right to freedom of movement of Palestinians within the occupied territories.  The State party should respect the right to freedom of movement guaranteed under article 12; and the construction of a “Seam Zone” within the occupied territories should be stopped.

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Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports

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With respect to the second periodic report of Israel, the Committee welcomed the positive measures and legislation adopted by the State party to improve the status of women in Israeli society, with a view to promoting gender equality.  It also welcomed the measures taken by the State party to combat trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution, in particular, the prohibition on the trafficking law enacted in July 2000 and the prosecution of traffickers since that date.  The efforts to increase the level of education for the Arab, Druze and Bedouin communities in Israel were also noted.

The Committee noted the efforts by the State party to provide better conditions for migrant workers.  It welcomed the amendment to the Foreign Workers Law and the increase in penalties imposed on employers for non-compliance with the law.  It also welcomed free access to labour courts for migrant workers and the provision of information to them about their rights in several foreign languages.

Further, the Committee welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgement of September 1999, which invalidated the former governmental guidelines governing the use of  “moderate physical pressure” during interrogations, and held that the Israeli Security Agency had no authority under Israeli law to use physical force during interrogations.

The Committee reiterated that, in the current circumstances, the provisions of the Covenant applied to the benefit of the population of the occupied territories, for all conduct by its authorities or agents in those territories that affected the enjoyment of rights enshrined in the Covenant and fell within the ambit of state responsibility of Israel under the principles of public international law.  The State party should reconsider its position and include in its third periodic report all relevant information regarding the application of the Covenant in the occupied territories resulting from its activities therein.

While fully acknowledging the threat posed by terrorist activities in the occupied territories, the Committee deplored what it considers to be the partly punitive nature of the demolition of property and homes in the occupied territories; and the State party should cease forthwith that practice.

While again acknowledging the seriousness of the State party’s security concerns that had prompted recent restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, the Committee said it was concerned that the construction of the “Seam Zone”, by means of a fence, had imposed additional and unjustifiably severe restrictions on the right to freedom of movement of Palestinians within the occupied territories.  The State party should respect the right to freedom of movement guaranteed under article 12; and the construction of a “Seam Zone” within the occupied territories should be stopped.

The Committee was concerned about Israel’s temporary suspension order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) on 31 July 2003, which suspended for a renewable one-year period, the possibility of family reunification, subject to limited and subjective exceptions especially in the cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the West Bank and in Gaza.  The Committee noted with concern that the suspension order of May 2002 had already adversely affected thousands of families and marriages.  The State party should revoke the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) of 31 July 2003, which raised serious issues under articles 17, 23 and 26 of the Covenant.  The State party should reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents.

The Committee noted with concern that the percentage of Arab Israelis in the civil service and public sector remained very low and that progress towards improving their participation, especially that of Arab Israeli women, had been slow; and the State party should adopt targeted measures with a view to improving participation of Arab Israeli women in the public sector and accelerating progress towards equality.

While noting the Supreme Court’s judgement of 30 December 2002 in the case of eight reservists of the Israeli Defence Forces (Judgment HC 7622/02), the Committee remained concerned about the law, criteria and generally adverse determination, in practice, by military judicial officers in individual cases of conscientious objection.  The State party should review the law, criteria and practice governing the determination of conscientious objection, to ensure compliance with article 18 of the Covenant.

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