The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been present in Gaza since 1996, and has been engaged in supporting the Palestinian Authority in building democratic institutions. In 2001, an evaluation mission recommended that OHCHR strengthen its activities in the Palestinian Territories - particularly in the current crisis. Colleagues of mine who have just been there, to formulate a project, witnessed first hand the ongoing use of excessive force and other collective punishments such as restrictions of movement which cause such suffering to the local population and also adversely affect OHCHR activities.
The current cycle of violence from both sides makes human rights work at once more urgent and more difficult to pursue. Such impediments are also contrary to the provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention and international human rights law. It is two months since the Government of Switzerland convened a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to assess the application of that Convention to the protection of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All participants noted that the situation of escalating violence and its impact on both Israeli and Palestinian civilians was alarming.
In light of the damage to the offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza City, and injury of other United Nations staff during the recent bombing of the city, I remain extremely concerned about the safety of staff and the ability of the Office to carry out its work under the prevailing conditions. My Office will, however, continue its efforts despite the very difficult situation, hoping that both parties will put an end to the violence and address the fundamental problems that divide them."
Background information on OHCHR activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
OHCHR's activities in the area designated as Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) form part of the broad international effort aimed at developing the social and economic infrastructure of the OPT by strengthening Palestinian institutional capacities in various sectors. The OHCHR programme, which began in late 1996, focuses on institution building in the area of the rule of law.
A project evaluation mission early in 2001 concluded that to assist institutions which strengthen the rule of law in Palestine, it was necessary to place a greater emphasis on strengthening institutional structures. A project formulation mission went to the area earlier this month.
The next phase of the project for 2002-2003 will involve work on:
- Administration of justice and the rule of law
- Human Rights Education
- National Institutions
- Mainstreaming of Human Rights
Direct beneficiaries of the programme include Palestinian Authority officials, police, members of the judiciary, prosecutors, lawyers, prison officials, members and staff of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights and various human rights NGOs.
The OHCHR programme relies to a large extent on existing national human rights expertise and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights to implement programme activities. Civil society and non-governmental groups, as well as Palestinian Authority ministries, agencies and departments, contribute to the programme. A number of programme activities are specifically designed to bring together various national actors involved in, for example, law reform, or formulation of strategies in national development sectors.
The OHCHR's Office is based in Gaza, with a sub-office in the West Bank. Its staff is composed of two international, two national professionals and three national support staff. The office works under the coordination of UNSCO, and is supported administratively by UNDP in Jerusalem.
For further details, please contact:
Mr. Karim Ghezraoui,
Arab Region Team
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 GENEVA 10
Fax: + 41 22 917 90 03
Tel: + 41 22 917 91 47