Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS
Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories
Note by the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the members of the General Assembly the forty-sixth report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, submitted pursuant to Assembly resolution 68/80.
With regard to the Gaza Strip, the report addresses long-standing concerns associated with the blockade and the access-restricted areas and focuses on recent hostilities between Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups. It also addresses the situation of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan.
1. The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories was established in 1968 by General Assembly resolution 2443 (XXIII). It is currently composed of three Member States: Sri Lanka (Chair), Malaysia and Senegal. The Special Committee members are the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, Palitha Kohona, the Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York, Hussein Haniff, and the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Fode Seck. During the annual mission of the Special Committee to the region in 2014, Mr. Haniff served as acting Chair while Sri Lanka was represented by the Minister and Head of Chancery of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Brussels, Samantha Jayasuriya.
2. The mandate of the Special Committee, as set out in General Assembly resolution 2443 (XXIII) and subsequent resolutions, is to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the population of the occupied territories. The occupied territories are considered those remaining under Israeli occupation since 1967, namely the occupied Syrian Golan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
3. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 68/80, in which the Assembly requested the Special Committee, pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to consult, as appropriate, with the International Committee of the Red Cross according to its regulations in order to ensure that the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories are safeguarded and to report to the Secretary-General as soon as possible and whenever the need arises thereafter. The Assembly also requested the Special Committee to continue to investigate the treatment of the thousands of prisoners and detainees, including children and women, in Israeli prisons and detention centres in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The present report covers the period from 27 June 2013 to 5 June 2014, although important information received until August 2014 is included where relevant.
III. Activities of the Special Committee
A. Consultations with Member States in Geneva
4. The Special Committee held its annual consultations in Geneva on 26 and 27 March 2014 with Member States concerned with the implementation of the aforementioned General Assembly resolution in order to discuss the most pressing matters to be addressed in the Committee's report to the Assembly. A meeting request was sent to the Permanent Mission of Israel, but as in past years no response was received. The members of the Special Committee met with the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, as well as with the Permanent Representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey. In addition, the Special Committee met with the Permanent Observers of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Meetings were also arranged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
5. During the discussions, representatives of Member States and other interlocutors expressed support for the work of the Special Committee, but expressed dismay at the worsening situation in the occupied territories. Key concerns include settlement expansion; settler violence; arbitrary detention; the excessive use of force and the increasing trend of Palestinians getting killed by live ammunition; the demolition of Palestinian homes and the forcible transfer of Bedouin and herder communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; the deprivation of residency rights; the Judaization of East Jerusalem; the negative impact of excavations being conducted under the Al-Aqsa mosque; and the general lack of accountability that accompanied all these violations. At the time, support was also expressed for the efforts of the United States of America to broker the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations despite the low expectations.
6. Concerns raised during the meetings of March 2014 helped to inform the Committee's annual field mission and were taken into consideration for the present report.
B. Field mission to investigate Israeli practices
7. The Government of Israel maintained its practice of non-cooperation with the Special Committee. The members were therefore unable to hold consultations with the relevant Israeli authorities and did not gain access to the occupied territories within its mandate. Owing to increased insecurity in the region, the Special Committee was also unable to visit the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. The Special Committee convened meetings in Amman and Cairo from 1 to 3 June and on 4 and 5 June 2014, respectively. When it was not possible for witnesses to travel to Amman or Cairo, testimony and briefings were provided to the Committee by teleconference. The Committee was unable to hold meetings in the Syrian Arab Republic owing to the prevailing situation in the country, but met with interlocutors who travelled from the occupied Syrian Golan to Amman
8. The Special Committee is grateful to have the opportunity to meet in 2014 with victims, community representatives, witnesses, non-governmental organizations, Palestinian officials and United Nations representatives. The Special Committee also met with representatives of the League of Arab States. The Committee expresses its appreciation to all those who provided testimony and briefings on a wide range of human rights issues.
9. At the end of its annual mission to the region, the Special Committee held a press conference on 5 June 2014 in Cairo with the assistance of the United Nations Information Centre. Documentation and other materials submitted to the Committee were thoroughly reviewed in advance of the preparation of the present report and were archived by the Secretariat. Most information contained in the present report is based on submissions received in June 2014; however, where particularly pertinent, updates as at August 2014 have been included.
IV. Situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
A. Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli detention facilities
10. According to information received from Palestinian officials, since the start of the occupation in 1967 the overall number of detainees held in Israeli prisons and military detention facilities has exceeded a staggering 850,000, the vast majority of whom were Palestinians, including 25,000 children. As at June 2014, 5,243 detainees were held in Israeli custody in more than 17 prisons, detention centres and military camps in the occupied West Bank and in Israel.1 Of that figure, 198 detainees were children, some of whom were detained without charge, and the youngest was 14 years old.
11. Palestinian officials informed the Special Committee that the collapse of the nine-month-long peace negotiations brokered by the United States had been triggered by Israel reneging on its commitment to release on 29 March 2014 the final group of 30 detainees held in Israeli custody since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Administrative detention and hunger strikers
12. It was reported that, as at June 2014, 191 Palestinians, including 8 Palestinian Legislative Council members, continued to be held by Israel under administrative detention, without charge or trial, for an indefinite period of time. As in past years, the Committee heard that those detainees had not been informed of the reason for their arrest and that initial administrative orders of six-month periods could be renewed by military order an indefinite number of times without producing charges, a practice that falls short of international standards.
13. The Special Committee reiterates that international law only exceptionally permits the use of administrative detention, yet Israel has regularly placed individuals under administrative detention, with approximately 23,000 administrative detention orders reportedly issued since 2000. The Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have repeatedly stated that administrative detainees should be charged or released without delay.
14. On 23 April 2014, approximately 100 Palestinian administrative detainees launched a peaceful hunger strike to protest against the continued use by Israel of administrative detention and to demand that a basic standard of due process be observed: to know what they were accused of and to be able to defend themselves. By early June, the total number of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike reached more than 290 as the protest movement spread.
15. The Special Committee was alarmed to receive reports that some of the detainees, already in a poor state of health, had been further ill-treated and punished by the Israeli Prison Service for their participation in the hunger strike. This reportedly included the denial of essential salts and water, access to lawyers, and family visits; placement in solitary confinement; and beatings.
16. The Special Committee was also dismayed by reports that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) was considering a legislative amendment to enable the force-feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers as a response to the desperate plea by Palestinian detainees for Israel to discontinue its practice of administrative detention. The Special Committee expressed its concerns in this regard during a press conference held on 5 June 2014 and in its press release of the same day.
17. A number of the hunger strikers were hospitalized, some in critical condition, given the duration of the hunger strike. The majority reportedly ended their hunger strike on 25 June 2014, following an agreement that the isolation of hunger strikers as punishment would end and that they would be returned to their original prisons.2 However, Israel took no steps to cease or review its use of administrative detention.
18. The Special Committee supports calls by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for the Knesset not to amend the Prisons Act to authorize the force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike against their will. There has also been opposition from the World Medical Association and the country's own medical association. At the time of writing, the voting on this amendment had been postponed.
Medical neglect, torture and ill-treatment in Israeli custody
19. In 2014, the Special Committee once again heard testimonies indicating that the medical needs of Palestinian detainees within the Israeli prison system had been neglected, in some cases leading to deaths which might have been avoided with proper care and timely diagnosis. One witness also raised the plight of Palestinian women held in Israeli custody, in particular noting instances where pregnant women had been forced to give birth chained and shackled to their beds.
20. Moreover, according to information received by the Special Committee, more than 1,500 detainees are suffering at present from various serious illnesses, such as kidney failure, heart diseases and cancer, for which most detainees reportedly only receive painkillers as treatment from Israeli doctors. It was noted that part of the problem with such doctors was their employment by, and allegiance to, the Israeli Prison Service. All other public sector health professionals in Israel were accountable to the country's Ministry of Health. The need for Israeli authorities to allow all Palestinian detainees, especially women and children, to be periodically seen by Palestinian doctors was underscored.
21. According to information received, 73 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody as a result of torture since 1967. One non-governmental organization noted that it had treated 143 former detainees who were victims of torture in 2013. In the first half of 2014 alone, it had already treated 151 victims of torture. The vast majority of them had been arrested for alleged political or security reasons in the West Bank.
22. The Special Committee was informed that the majority of torture victims arrested in 2013 had been detained during midnight or early morning raids. Up to a third of them reported being beaten and humiliated in front of family members at the time of arrest, and almost half of those victims' homes and property had been severely damaged during the arrest. The majority of detainees were reportedly forced to endure stress positions for long periods of time, known as “shabeh”, and almost half of the detainees reported being subjected to severe beatings at some point during their detention.
23. Besides the physical torture and ill-treatment, the testimonies suggest that many Palestinian detainees were subjected to psychological torture and ill-treatment. The most common methods include solitary confinement; verbal assaults to religion, values or culture; sleep deprivation; random inspections at any time of the day or night; and being forced to stand naked. Recent years have reportedly seen a decline in some practices and patterns of physical torture, which have been replaced by forms of psychological torture that have long-term detrimental consequences on the health of the individuals concerned.
24. The Special Committee was alerted to the physical consequences of the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian detainees, which include skin diseases; ulcers; asthma; respiratory complications; back or spinal pain; and headaches or vertigo. The longer-term psychological effects reported include insomnia; insecurity; seclusion; and feelings of alienation. Seventy per cent of detainees were reported to be suffering from low self-esteem and sexual dysfunctions as a result of shame or humiliation associated with acts against the sanctity of their bodies.
The situation of Palestinian children detained by Israel
25. Among the 500-700 Palestinian children passing through Israeli prisons and detention centres each year, the Special Committee continues to be alarmed by reports of widespread ill-treatment.3 In 2013, approximately 76.5 per cent of children detained by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank allegedly endured some form of physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation.
26. Most of the alleged incidents were said to occur within the first 24-48 hours after arrest. In the vast majority of cases involving children, they were accused of throwing stones, which under Israeli military occupation can potentially lead to a sentence of up to 20 years' imprisonment, depending on the age of the child. As in past years, many Palestinian children were reportedly transferred to interrogation and detention centres located in Israel, including Petah Tikva and Kishon detention centres and Shikma prison, in violation of international law.4
27. Notwithstanding the observations and recommendations made by the United Nations Children's Fund early in 2013 with respect to children in Israeli military detention, the ill-treatment of children appears to continue with impunity. In 98 cases monitored in 2013 by a non-governmental organization based in the West Bank, the majority of those children had been blindfolded with their hands tied; questioned alone; not informed of their right to remain silent; and not informed of the reason for their arrest. More than half of those children had been subjected to night-time raids and arrest; physical violence; verbal abuse, humiliation and intimidation; strip-searching; and denial of adequate food and water. In 21 of those cases, children had been held in solitary confinement for two or more days. The longest period of solitary confinement of a minor documented in 2013 was reportedly 28 days.
28. The testimony of a 14-year-old Palestinian boy, formally submitted to the Special Committee, is presented in a summary below. The members of the Committee consider the testimony to be emblematic of the unacceptable torture and ill-treatment experienced by Palestinian men, women and children across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
29. According to the testimony, the boy was arrested during a midnight raid by 10 Israeli soldiers on his family home in February 2013. He was taken away, alone, his hands bound with plastic ties, and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers, to the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. He was beaten in the face and on the head and kicked in various parts of his body throughout the journey. During the interrogation, the boy was forced to sit in painful positions and made to frequently squat and raise his arms while being told to confess to throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, which he denied. The boy signed a confession in Hebrew, which he could not read, only after being threatened, including with electrocution by a wire collar and violation by the interrogator's baton.
30. After spending two days in solitary confinement in a tiny cell with a foul-smelling mattress, during which time he was allowed to use the bathroom only once a day, he was taken to court without the presence of a lawyer. The boy's case was postponed five times over a period of 100 days, during which time he was held in an overcrowded space with 30 other detainees. Two months later, the boy was transferred to a prison in Israel, where his mother was able to visit him for the first time since his arrest.
31. The boy was presented before a military court on eight separate occasions and detained for more than 13 months. During that time, he was reportedly regularly subjected to verbal abuse from Israeli Prison personnel before being released on 21 March 2014. He suffers from excruciating pain in the back and spine, headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, impaired speech and reduced mobility due to damage incurred to his nervous system. He continues to suffer from sleep disorder, nightmares, lack of self-esteem and self-imposed isolation.
32. Committee members were informed that, of 15 complaints filed in 2013 with the Israeli authorities by one non-governmental organization concerning either ill-treatment or torture of children, not a single indictment had been issued against the alleged perpetrators, and it was unclear as to whether an investigation had been initiated.
B. Situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
33. Information and testimonies received by the Special Committee consistently indicate that Israeli settlement expansion continues through a combination of
policies and practices, including the issuance and implementation of confiscation, demolition or eviction orders against Palestinian structures based on the lack of a valid permit; the forced relocation of Bedouin and herder communities; and the denial of residency rights, particularly in East Jerusalem. Settler violence was also reported to be a factor that contributed to forcing Palestinians off their land. As at June 2014, the settler population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was reported to be about 600,000.
34. In Hebron, a new settlement in the heart of the old city was created for the first time since the 1980s, when settlers took over the Al-Rajabi House, a four-story building capable of housing 40 families after a protracted legal battle in April 2014. Witnesses expressed concern that the consequences would likely be heightened movement restrictions for Palestinians in the old city, more road closures and the increased harassment of Palestinian residents and human rights defenders by settlers.
35. The year 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall. The illegality of the wall and of settlements is clearly established under international law, yet the construction of both continues. One non-governmental organization noted that, despite the assertion by Israel that the wall was a temporary security measure, Israel continued to construct the wall separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank, isolating West Bank villages and cities from one another and restricting Palestinian access to land and freedom of movement. The Special Committee notes that the wall is a further cause of the displacement of Palestinian communities (see A/68/379).
Demolition of homes and forcible transfer
36. The Special Committee remains seriously concerned by the ongoing demolition of Palestinian structures and the forcible transfer of families and communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. During the nine-month period of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations until April 2014, the issuance and implementation of demolition orders in Area C of the West Bank and in East Jerusalem continued at an alarming rate. The Special Committee notes that 565 Palestinian-owned properties were destroyed in 2013, including residential shelters, schools, water cisterns and animal pens, on the basis of a lack of planning permits, which are rarely issued by the Israeli authorities.
37. Those particularly at risk of forcible transfer are Bedouin and herder communities living in the Jerusalem periphery. According to information received, the forcible transfer of those communities appears to be part of a broader plan by Israeli authorities to evict them from the Jerusalem periphery and the Jordan Valley and to relocate them to three main “township” sites, namely Al-Jabal, Nweima and Fasayil in the West Bank. It appears that one of the sites selected for the relocation of the communities is located next to a landfill site.
38. According to information received, in one incident on 19 August 2014, citing a lack of building permits, Israeli authorities demolished all of the structures in the Bedouin community of Tel al-Adassa in East Jerusalem, rendering all seven families (some 39 people) homeless. The Israeli authorities ordered the community to evacuate the area permanently or risk high monetary fines and confiscation of livestock. No alternative locations or housing options were offered, and so, with no other choice, the community split and moved to two different temporary locations, where they remain vulnerable to further demolitions and repeated displacement due to a lack of legal security of tenure and the inability to obtain building permits. The Special Committee notes that such removals may amount to a violation of the prohibition of the forcible transfer of individuals or communities under article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of the rights to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home. It was also reported that, on 28 April 2014, eviction orders were issued to at least five Palestinian Bedouin and herder communities living in Sateh al-Bahr in the West Bank.
39. In terms of legal remedies to address the forcible transfer of Palestinians, in particular Bedouin and herder communities in the West Bank, the Special Committee notes that past cases brought before the Israeli Supreme Court by affected individuals have not been encouraging. For example, in case 6999/10, Abu al-Kabsh v. Military Commander of IDF in the West Bank, the Court denied the petition of Homsa (Tubas Governorate) inhabitants challenging the evacuation orders to eight households in an area declared as a closed military zone. The grounds for rejection were the assertion by the Court that “the main question in this appeal is whether the petitioners permanently reside in the military zone, and to that question we cannot answer in the affirmative”. The Court ruled that “nothing associates the deportation of selected individuals ... with the deportations envisaged under article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”. In a similar case (case 613/10, Bani Mania et al. v. Military Commander of IDF in the West Bank), the Court made it clear that the burden of proof regarding the establishment of permanent residency lay with the petitioners.
Interference with international humanitarian assistance
40. The Special Committee is alarmed by reports indicating that Israeli authorities have further exacerbated the hardships experienced by displaced Palestinians through the denial of, or interference with, international humanitarian assistance to the affected communities. It was alleged that Israeli authorities intentionally targeted humanitarian assistance as part of a coercive environment that facilitates forcible transfer. It was also noted that the Israeli judicial system appeared to be unwilling or unable to provide effective remedy in such cases because of recurrent delays in the appeals against stop-work or confiscation orders against humanitarian assistance projects.
41. One non-governmental organization alone recorded 51 incidents of Israeli interference with its internationally funded humanitarian aid projects from February 2011 to May 2014 at a cost exceeding $1.7 million. Such incidents in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have included the issuance of stop-work orders and the confiscation or demolition of emergency tents, mobile latrines, water cisterns, solar panel systems and residential structures. Around 200 residential and livelihood structures and 66 water and sanitation facilities were reportedly affected during that period.
42. Interference with humanitarian aid affecting access to water for Palestinian communities is particularly alarming, in view of the already disproportionate distribution of water resources in the West Bank. Committee members note that, in marginalized communities in the West Bank, Palestinians survive on less than 20 litres per capita a day, the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organization in emergency situations to sustain life. In contrast, settlements nearby have unrestricted access to water, well-watered lawns and swimming pools.
The human rights of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem
43. The Special Committee was informed that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem continued to be treated by Israel as “permanent residents”, with their residency status subject to revocation at any time on the basis of a number of discriminatory laws. These include the Passports Law of 1952, the Entry into Israel Law of 1952 (requiring residents to prove that East Jerusalem is their centre of life) and the Nationality Law of 1952 (amendment 9). It has been estimated that, between 1967 and the end of 2013, more than 14,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem had their residency status revoked.
44. One non-governmental organization working for Palestinian residency rights noted that, if only one parent has permanent residency, then the parents must submit “a request to register birth” and prove “centre of life” before the child can become a permanent resident. Since 2004, the Ministry of Interior of Israel has reportedly received 17,616 applications for child registration, of which 12,247 were approved and 3,933 rejected.
45. The Special Committee received a written submission resulting from an interview conducted by a non-governmental organization in October 2013 that highlighted the impact of the revocation of East Jerusalem residency on a 17-year-old Palestinian girl currently living in the West Bank and whose father has East Jerusalem residency status. After she unexpectedly discovered that Israel had revoked her East Jerusalem residency in 2010, she said:
Designation of areas as closed military zones, national parks and archaeological sites
47. The Special Committee notes that Israeli strategies for settlement and territorial expansion have also included the designation of certain areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as closed military zones, national parks and archaeological heritage and tourism sites. This has reportedly served to fulfilbroader political objectives aimed at redefining the demographic boundaries of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
48. In this context, testimonies heard by the Special Committee highlighted the plight of the Masafer Yatta herder community of 1,300 persons in the South Hebron Hills. Surrounded by three Israeli settlements (Ma'on, Suseya and Karmel), it is at particular risk of eviction, in view of the area that it inhabits being designated as a live firing zone. According to information from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between 2011 and 2013, more than 80 per cent of these communities reported a decrease in the number of their livestock due to a number of Israeli measures, including restrictive planning and zoning, settler violence and Israeli military activities.
49. As an example of the use of national parks for settlement expansion, the Special Committee was briefed on the case of Israeli plans for the Mount Scopus Slopes National Park in East Jerusalem, approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in November 2013. The approval came despite a lack of support from the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Israel and the reported admission by a staff member of the National Parks Authority of Israel, published two months earlier in the Haaretz, that the main reason for the establishment of the Mount Scopus Slopes Park was to prevent Palestinian construction in the area and not to protect nature. It was noted that, if the plans for the national park were approved, it would reclassify 740 dunums of land belonging to the villages of Al-Isawiya and At-Tur as off-limits to Palestinian construction and development.
50. Members of the Special Committee also received information on the case of the “Spring house” in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem, located at a central intersection that joins the City of David tourism site with the Kidron Valley Promenade and the Mount of Olives. The “Spring house” consists of an ancient water spring and structure that served the Ein Hilweh community for hundreds o f years until Palestinian residents lost access to it in 1995, when archaeological excavations began on the site and the area was closed to the public and transferred to the management of the Ir David Foundation. On 26 January 2014, the Israeli authorities published the plan for turning the site into a biblical tourist attraction that includes a visitor centre on top of the spring, connecting it to the adjacent City of David site. A hearing for objections had been planned for 11 June 2014; no further information on its outcome was submitted to the Committee.
51. The Special Committee notes that the impact of Israeli policies and practices resulting in the dispossession of Palestinians is compounded by a lack of planning provisions for Palestinian communities living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to information received from one non-governmental organization, just 1 per cent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development (most of which has already been developed or cultivated), and 94 per cent of permit applications from Palestinians for any type of construction in Area C of the West Bank are rejected by the Israeli military commander.
52. Testimonies of representatives of non-governmental organizations and Palestinian refugee camps indicated that settler violence continued to afflict Palestinian communities across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The most common forms were reported to be physical assault and stone-throwing. Palestinians are often victims of beating with sticks, iron pipes and knives, and in some cases they are exposed to Molotov cocktails and live ammunition. The Special Committee was briefed that Israeli Defense Forces typically intervened on the side of the settlers and fired tear gas to disperse the Palestinian crowds gathered to repel a settler attack.
53. The highest rates of settler violence were recorded in areas around Nablus, the South Hebron Hills, the Northern Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem. Palestinians living in the villages of Asira al-Qibliya, Burin and Ureef, near the Yitzhar settlement, in the Nablus Governorate were singled out for particular attention.
54. In one sample compilation of 58 victims of incidents related to settler violence in the Nablus Governorate, data collected in 2013 by one non-governmental organization suggested that 10 per cent of injuries of Palestinians were linked to the use of live ammunition, 19 per cent to trauma following physical assault, 30 per cent to tear gas inhalation and 36 per cent to the use of rubber-coated bullets. The psychosocial effects of settler violence reportedly experienced by many Palestinians include feelings of frustration, fear and insecurity, eating and sleeping disorders, anxiety, aggressiveness, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other behavioural problems.
55. The Special Committee is particularly concerned about the long-term effects of settler violence on children living in Palestinian villages located in close proximity to settlements. According to a Palestinian villager quoted in a written submission from a non-governmental organization, “children can't think of anything else but settler violence. They fear settlers and keep thinking of how they can escape and hide when settlers attack. Even their games are affected: children play 'Arabs and settlers' by throwing stones at each other.” The villager also noted that “the attacks result in nightmares, bed-wetting and panic. Our children will grow up and their fear and panic will grow with them.”
56. The Special Committee was informed that, in Ureef village, villagers built a 4-metre-high wall to protect children at school from stone-throwing settlers. In Burin village, a school counsellor was reported in February 2014 as stating that settler violence was responsible for the increased aggressiveness of schoolchildren, a regression in academic standards and more frequent absence from the classroom.
57. The impact of settler violence also extends to the overall economic situation of Palestinians and their access to livelihoods, with attacks on private property, including crops, olive trees and livestock, resulting in financial losses and reducing access to food. It was reported that 10,700 olive trees were vandalized by settlers in 2013, with a spike in attacks during the harvest season.
58. Witnesses noted that settlers would go back to settlements safe in the knowledge that there would be no pursuit of complaints. According to one non-governmental organization, from 2005 to 2013 only 8.5 per cent of investigations opened by the Israel Police relating to suspected attacks by Israelis on Palestinians or Palestinian property resulted in the filing of an indictment.
Excessive use of force by Israeli security forces in the West Bank
59. Briefings received by the Special Committee indicated a dramatic increase in Palestinian fatalities, including children, in incidents of use of force by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. Reportedly, 27 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2013, of whom 17 were Palestinian refugees killed in 14 separate incidents, compared with 8 in 2012. In the first half of 2014, 12 Palestinians were reportedly killed by Israeli security forces.
60. In the context of a marked increase in the number of Israeli security operations in 2013, the Committee also noted a rise in the number of Palestinians injured in 2013, reportedly as a result of the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces. The number of Palestinians injured from rubber bullets doubled from 757 in 2012 to 1,516 in 2013. This was particularly notable in and around refugee camps, where the number of those injured rose from 38 in 2012 to 486 in 2013. It was also reported that 11 of the 12 refugee fatalities in 2013 were caused by live ammunition.
61. Detailed information was received on Khan al-Ahmar and Arrub refugee camps in the West Bank. A representative from Arrub refugee camp located in Area C noted that there had been 116 search operations conducted by Israeli security forces, apparently the highest number of operations in any single refugee camp in the West Bank. Providing an eyewitness account, he recounted that, on 7 August 2013, he was visiting friends after midnight when they heard Israeli soldiers shouting in Hebrew at their neighbour's home. He stated that Israeli soldiers had broken down the door and entered the house, arresting a 17-year-old Palestinian. As he was dragged out of the house with a bag over his head, children who had gathered around the house began throwing stones at the soldiers. He witnessed the soldiers using the teenager as a human shield to protect themselves. The 17-year-old reportedly remained in Israeli custody as at 1 June 2014.
62. The Special Committee also takes note of a number of other incidents in a disturbing pattern of search-and-arrest operations resulting in Palestinian fatalities. On 26 August 2013, three Palestinian refugees were killed by live ammunition and 19 others injured during an early morning Israeli security operation at Qalandia refugee camp. It was noted that, while the Israeli security forces appeared to have been met with resistance, including by stone-throwing, this did not justify the use of live ammunition — a breach of international standards on law enforcement and rules of engagement. The Special Committee is concerned that some of those injuries have resulted in permanent and lifelong disabilities, including paralysis.
63. On 15 May 2014, Israeli security forces allegedly shot and killed two boys, aged 16 and 17 years, during Nakba Day demonstrations. As documented in closed-circuit television footage, the boys posed no direct threat when they were killed. In relation to that incident, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that the killings may amount to extrajudicial executions under international human rights law, as well as wilful killings under international humanitarian law.
64. The Special Committee remains deeply concerned by the lack of accountability for cases of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces. It was informed that, from 2003 to 2013, the Israeli authorities reportedly opened criminal investigations into 179 cases of alleged killings of Palestinians by Israeli security forces. This resulted in just 16 indictments and seven convictions. It was noted that the recommendations of the government-appointed Turkel Commission that had reviewed the country's accountability mechanisms still required implementation.
65. Members of the Special Committee were informed that the Military Advocate General decided in December 2013 to close the file on an incident that had occurred two years prior regarding the death of a Palestinian man, Mustafa Tamimi, who had been throwing stones at an Israeli military vehicle. He was killed when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister at him at a distance of less than 5 metres. That incident and the statistics cited above speak volumes about the prevailing lack of accountability.
66. At the time of writing, the Special Committee notes that a significant deterioration of the human rights situation in the West Bank has occurred and that, since early June 2014, 25 Palestinians have reportedly been killed by Israeli security forces and 3 by Israeli civilians in the West Bank. The use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces to control demonstrations and clashes increased, in particular after the last two weeks of July, when 532 Palestinians were reportedly injured by live ammunition. Approximately 1,500 Palestinians have been detained in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, between mid-June and 25 August. That number reportedly includes 250 new administrative detention orders, making it the highest number of administrative detainees held in the past five years.
C. Situation of human rights in the Gaza Strip
67. During its mission to the region in June 2014, the Special Committee heard of the critical situation in the Gaza Strip, notably in relation to fuel, electricity, food, water and sanitation, and unemployment. The Israeli-imposed blockade, coupled with the access-restricted areas, is fundamentally undermining the ability of Gaza's population to sustain itself. The Committee recalls the failure of effective accountability for the Israeli military operations from December 2008 to January 2009, and of November 2012, and stresses that it is an ongoing struggle for Gaza to recover after the devastation and trauma wrought by these violent events.
Hostilities between Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza
68. The Special Committee is outraged and profoundly saddened that yet another deadly and disastrous escalation of hostilities between Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups befell the people of Gaza in July and August 2014. In August 2014, another fragile and temporary ceasefire was brokered in Egypt. The Committee expresses its sincere hope that Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza will use the pause in hostilities as a platform from which to start building a lasting ceasefire and to address some of the long-standing sources of human rights violations in Gaza, including the blockade, and ultimately achieve peace.
69. At the time of writing, the escalation of hostilities was still ongoing, and it would be premature to draw any conclusions as to violations of international law, especially as the Special Committee has not had the opportunity to hear direct witness accounts. However, on the basis of preliminary information gathered by the United Nations, as well as reports from civil society and the media, there are indications of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law on both sides.
70. As at mid-August 2014, the Palestinian death toll was almost 2,000. That figure is shocking, not only because it exceeds that of the Israeli military operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 (A/HRC/12/48, para. 30), but also because around 70 per cent of those killed were civilians, including some 460 children.5 The large-scale destruction by Israeli air strikes and shelling of homes and civilian infrastructure, including the attack on Gaza's only power plant, as well as of schools, hospitals and water and sanitation infrastructure, is nothing short of a disaster for Gaza.
71. While the mandate of the Special Committee is limited to the investigation of Israeli practices, members note that Palestinian rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately towards Israel, in contravention of international law, have at the time of writing caused the deaths of three civilians in Israel.
72. During its mission, the Special Committee heard from Palestinian officials how repeated Israeli military attacks on Gaza had not only inflicted upon the population the burden of rebuilding and dealing with a high number of physical disabilities but also produced a generation of children in Gaza with psychological traumas. The Special Committee notes that, according to initial United Nations estimates relating to the 2014 hostilities, at least 373,000 children in Gaza require direct and specialized psychosocial support.6
73. The Special Committee welcomes the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council in its resolution S-21/1 to investigate violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, since 13 June 2014. Its report will be significant as an initial step towards ensuring accountability.
74. In June 2014, the Israeli-imposed blockade entered its eighth consecutive year despite repeated calls by the international community to lift it.7 The Committee reiterates that the blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment imposed by Israel on the population of Gaza in contravention of international law. 8
75. The Committee is dismayed that, during its universal periodic review in October 2013, Israel rejected all recommendations directly referencing the “blockade”, “closure” or “free movement of goods and people” in Gaza.9 The Special Committee learned that a scanner for containers was installed at the Kerem Shalom crossing in 2013, donated by the Government of the Netherlands to address the security concerns of Israel, but that Israel maintained its restrictions on the export of goods from Gaza to the West Bank.10 According to the United Nations, in 2013 only 23 truckloads exited Gaza to the West Bank and 160 to other countries, whereas prior to June 2007 250 truckloads were exported per week.
76. The Special Committee was briefed on the effects of the blockade on unemployment. In the first quarter of 2014, unemployment in Gaza stood at 40.8 per cent, a 12.9 per cent increase since the second quarter of 2013. These percentages do not reflect underemployment among the Gaza population. Unemployment trends were reportedly driven largely by the obstruction of construction materials entering Gaza. According to information received, up to 30 United Nations projects worth $115 million had been disrupted by Israeli restrictions and 37 projects were pending approval. Some projects were resumed in 2013, but the need for Israeli authorities to ease such restrictions was underscored.
77. The effects of the blockade of Gaza are wide-reaching and threaten the very future of Gaza. The blockade undermines the economy and its ability to rebuild and repair homes and vital infrastructure. According to information provided by Palestinian officials, children in Gaza suffer from malnutrition-related deficiencies, such as stunted growth and anaemia. A well-known report entitled “Gaza in 2020: a liveable place?” issued by the United Nations in August 2012 describes Gaza as an “urban economy, heavily reliant on intensive trade, communication and movement of people”. The Committee was troubled to hear accounts suggesting that the critical point might arrive even sooner than 2020. Now more than ever, a concerted international effort is urgently needed to reverse the effects of repeated Israeli military operations and years of blockade. One Gazan non-governmental organization opined that the international community continued to deal with Gaza as a humanitarian crisis, while its root causes were political. Thus, it was noted that any sustainable solution would first need to address the political reality.
78. Even before the current crisis, there was a severe shortage of fuel in Gaza, exacerbated since the summer of 2013 by the destruction of many of the approximately 3,000 unauthorized tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.” Fuel transported into Gaza through those tunnels had been used to power the Gaza power plant, which, in addition to electricity purchased from Egypt and Israel, was a significant source of Gaza's power supply. According to information received from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the insufficient and irregular electricity supply caused a reduction in the availability of running water and necessitated the use of backup generators in private households that could afford them, as well as in hospitals, where sensitive medical equipment suffered from the constant fluctuations in electricity. In addition, high fuel prices resulted from the scarcity of fuel, affecting both the economy of private households and the cost of sustaining livelihoods, including such livelihoods as fishing and farming, where fuel is needed to run vehicles, boats and equipment.
79. Moreover, the situation concerning water and sanitation in Gaza was critical before the current crisis and has now suffered a severe setback. According to information received by the Special Committee, Israel has prevented the effective implementation of major water and sanitation infrastructure projects, which can alleviate the situation. At the time of its mission, the Special Committee was informed that 90 per cent of the water from the underlying coastal aquifer was not potable without treatment and that the aquifer could become unusable by 2016. The precise extent of the damage caused by Israeli attacks on the water and sanitation infrastructure in the ongoing hostilities is still unknown.
80. The access-restricted areas on land and sea in Gaza, which have been imposed by Israel since 2000, continue to have an adverse human rights impact on Gaza. The main impacts are twofold: the effects on livelihoods, especially during peak fishing and harvest seasons, contributing to food insecurity and poverty; and the physical insecurity resulting from the enforcement by Israel of the access-restricted areas.
81. According to several sources, between 80 and 88 per cent of households in Gaza are aid recipients, even before the 2014 conflict. According to the United Nations, 35 per cent of agricultural land in Gaza and up to 85 per cent of Gaza's fishing waters are affected by the restrictions. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, a 20-nautical-mile fishing limit was agreed. While Israel has cited security reasons for imposing the access-restricted areas, the Special Committee is concerned that the measure creates a disproportionate negative impact on the lives of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza and that it is used as a punitive measure. The fishing limit has reportedly been changed, including in response to rocket fire from Gaza. The Special Committee also heard accounts of confiscation and destruction of fishing boats and nets.
82. Accessing farming land within 300 metres of the perimeter fence of Israel is largely prohibited, while presence for several hundred metres beyond the designated access-restricted areas up to 1,000 metres is unsafe. The Special Committee notes that the insecurity of the areas adjoining the access-restricted areas also affects homes and schools. It heard from representatives of fishermen in Gaza that the fishing limit was 6 nautical miles but that fishermen, even before they reached the imposed limit, were threatened, including with warning shots fired with live ammunition by Israeli naval forces, particularly during the peak fishing season. The Special Committee remains concerned that, in addition to the hardship that the imposition of the access-restricted areas creates for livelihoods, there is an unacceptable degree of uncertainty as to the reach of the access-restricted areas. Thus, contradictory statements by Israeli authorities as to the allowed limit, in combination with the use of live ammunition to enforce the access-restricted areas, create an uncertain and insecure environment. According to the United Nations, in the first quarter of 2014 four Palestinians were killed and 74 injured as a result of Israeli enforcement of the access-restricted areas.
D. Business and human rights
83. The Special Committee was briefed on the continuing exploitation of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel and Israeli and foreign companies, and on corporate involvement in a number of Israeli measures with adverse human rights impacts, including involvement in Israeli settlements.
84. In June 2014, the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises issued a statement on the implications of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the context of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.12 In that statement, it recognized that the military occupation of the Palestinian territory constituted a conflict situation, even in the absence of active hostilities, and referred to the heightened risks of corporate involvement in human rights abuses in such situations. With respect to the illegal status of settlements under international law and the publicly available information about the relation between settlements and human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Working Group noted that this “should necessarily preface and inform any human rights due diligence exercise carried out by a business operating in the settlements” and that “the corporate responsibility to respect human rights exists over and above compliance with national laws and regulations”.
85. With reference to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Working Group stated that, where a business could not prevent or mitigate human rights risks, it might need to consider termination of operations (Principle 19). The Special Committee would like to stress that the heightened risk of negative human rights impacts applies to the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory as a conflict-affected area and is relevant not only for corporate involvement in settlements but also for corporate involvement in other measures related to the occupation.
86. The Special Committee was briefed on corporate activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and on their effects on a range of human rights, including on the right to self-determination as encompassing the right of the Palestinian people to “freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources”.13 The Special Committee will highlight just three examples that were brought to its attention.
87. The Special Committee learned of 10 Israeli and multinational companies currently involved in stone quarrying in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. One of those is Heidelberg Cement, which since 2007 has owned three plants in West Bank settlements through its subsidiary Hanson (UK) and one Israeli aggregates quarry in the occupied West Bank through Hanson Israel.14 According to information received, around 75 per cent of the product from the stone quarry is transferred to the Israeli construction market while the remainder is sold to both settlers and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
88. The Israeli cosmetics company Ahava has previously been criticized for exploiting the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the profit and benefit of Israeli settlers.15 The detrimental impact of their activities on the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory was also highlighted by non-governmental organizations. According to information received, it is the only cosmetics company licensed by the Government of Israel to mine mud in the Dead Sea area. The Israeli settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia hold 37 per cent and 7.5 per cent of Ahava's shares, respectively.
89. The Special Committee heard how G4S Israel, a subsidiary of the large British multinational company G4S, had been contracted by Israeli authorities, as well as private actors, to provide security services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. According to testimony received, such activities include armed guarding within Israeli settlements in the West Bank; provision and maintenance of equipment of checkpoints associated with the wall and its related systems, and the provision of systems; and personnel directly related to the detention or imprisonment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel. The Special Committee notes that concerns have previously been raised over the business activities of G4S in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (see A/67/379, paras. 47-51, and A/68/379, para. 37).
90. The Special Committee is aware of a human rights review dated June 2014 available on the website of G45,16 in which the company asserts that it does not intend “to have an adverse impact on Palestinian human rights, and does not plan deliberate joint wrongdoing with Israeli authorities”. The review expresses the opinion that “Israeli systems of detention and movement restrictions are essentially justifiable and properly managed”. The Special Committee refers to the wealth of United Nations reports and documentation on human rights concerns in these areas, including by the Working Group on business and human rights, and stresses the importance of companies acting with enhanced due diligence in the context of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in line with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
91. The Special Committee notes reports that many States members of the European Union have issued statements warning of the legal and financial risks of doing business with Israeli settlements, including in the occupied Syrian Golan.17
V. Situation of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan
92. Approximately 20,000 Israeli settlers reside in 33 settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan, enjoying disproportionate benefits in terms of water and agricultural resources. A local non-governmental organization noted that, in January 2014, the Government of Israel had reportedly approved a project proposal to develop 30,000 dunums of land in the occupied Syrian Golan, which includes the establishment of 750 farming estates and $108 million in investment over four years to provide for agricultural training, upgrades of water systems, and land mine clearance, all of which would benefit mostly Israeli settlers.
93. It was also noted that the Government of Israel had sponsored agricultural expansion, which was strategically timed as a concerted effort to increase settler presence in the occupied Syrian Golan at a time of protracted internal conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. The “leading role” of Israel in supporting settlement expansion extends to the occupied Syrian Golan, as reflected in the funding from the State treasury of Israel through the Settlements Division of the World Zionist Organization. Approximately $6.4 million of the $51 million transferred from the State treasury to the World Zionist Organization in March 2014 was reportedly allocated to the northern district, which includes the occupied Syrian Golan.
94. Testimony also focused on the exploitation of natural and agricultural resources, including prospecting by Israel for oil through a local subsidiary of United States-based Genie Energy, which was granted a licence early in 2013 by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Israel to explore for oil and gas in a 153-square-mile radius in the southern part of the occupied Syrian Golan (see also A/68/379). The Special Committee was informed by non-governmental organizations based in the occupied Syrian Golan that it was difficult to track where the prospecting works were taking place.
95. A representative of an agriculture association based in the occupied Syrian Golan also noted that it was now virtually impossible to market apples grown locally, with the Syrian market disrupted and traditional markets in the Occupied Palestinian Territory inaccessible owing to Israeli occupation policies and practices.
96. The Special Committee calls upon the Government of Israel to:
(b) Cooperate with it in the implementation of its mandate, in accordance with the country's obligations as a Member State and, in particular, in the light of the demand of the General Assembly in resolution 68/80;
(c) End the current practice of administrative detention and either bring to trial those administratively detained with all applicable judicial guarantees or immediately release them;
(d) Scrap the proposed amendment to a bill that would allow for the force-feeding of Palestinian detainees;
(e) Ensure that all Palestinian children detained by Israel have access to a lawyer of their choice prior to investigation and throughout the investigation process, and allow a parent to be present at all times during the interrogation;
(f) Prohibit the solitary confinement of minors, which amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(g) Ensure that all credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, including of children, are investigated promptly, impartially, independently and thoroughly and that those responsible are brought to justice in line with international standards;
(h) End the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including through the use of land confiscations and declarations of closed military zones, national parks and archaeological sites;
(i) Facilitate the voluntary return of those who have been displaced and ensure property restitution and compensation for any damaged property;
(j) Immediately cancel all existing stop-work, demolition and eviction orders against Palestinian structures;
(k) Grant Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory access to a fair and non-discriminatory zoning and planning regime consistent with human rights standards and principles of international humanitarian law;
(1) Immediately cease plans to forcibly transfer the Bedouin community in the Jerusalem periphery and to relocate them elsewhere in the West Bank;
(m) Ensure that sufficient law enforcement resources are allocated to address incidents of settler violence and that impartial and effective investigations are carried out and proper measures taken to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice;
(n) Cease interference with the provision of humanitarian aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
(o) Take immediate steps to ensure compliance with international standards for law enforcement and ensure accountability for the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
(p) Ensure accountability for repeated Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, including the military operation of 2014, and cooperate with the independent international commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-21/1;
(q) End the blockade of Gaza, which amounts to the prolonged collective punishment of its entire population. In relation to maritime territory, Israel must, at the minimum, bring its policy and practice in line with what it agreed as part of the Oslo Accords, namely a 20-nautical-mile fishing limit;
(r) Inform Israeli and multinational corporations working in the occupied territories of their corporate social responsibilities to act with heightened due diligence and of the international legal ramifications of business activities with negative human rights impacts;
(s) Comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981), which annuls the decision of Israel on the annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan, and end its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the occupied Syrian Golan;
(t) Immediately take steps to cease the expansion of and reverse settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
(b) The United Nations and the international community to apply pressure to ensure the lifting of the blockade and, as an immediate priority, ensure the free movement of humanitarian goods and persons in humanitarian cases;
(c) Member States to review national policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures in relation to business activity to ensure that they effectively serve to prevent and address the heightened risk of human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas;
(d) The international community to give effect to its legal obligations, as contained in the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall, not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall, not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by the construction, and to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law;
(e) The General Assembly to adopt measures to address Israel's long track record of non-cooperation with the United Nations, particularly regarding the implementation of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and mechanisms established by the Assembly and its subsidiary bodies.