"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Human Rights and Democracy Report 2013
latest update 31 March 2014
Published 10 April 2014
The UK continues to have serious human rights concerns regarding the Israeli occupation of the OPTs.
Nine Palestinians were killed and 444 injured by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) between 1 January and 24 March, including in clashes at Palestinian demonstrations and during Israeli military operations. By the end of February, six Israelis had been injured in incidents involving Palestinians. UK officials raised our concerns about the IDF’s increasing use of live fire with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, the Israeli Ministry of Defence and the IDF. In line with our recommendations at Israel’s UPR, we continue to urge Israel to implement the recommendations of the second Turkel Commission report on ways in which Israel can improve investigations of complaints in relation to armed conflict.
Plans for 3,628 new settlement units were progressed in the West Bank between January and 24 March, in violation of international law. Minister for the Middle East, Hugh Robertson, issued statements condemning Israel’s decisions to announce further settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on 10 January and 19 March.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between January and 24 March, 69 incidents led to Palestinian casualties or property damage, including during attacks on Palestinian schools and vandalism of Palestinian agricultural land by Israeli settlers. For example, on 24 March, Israeli settlers vandalised and sprayed racist graffiti on 36 Palestinian vehicles in East Jerusalem. The British Consul General in Jerusalem publicly condemned these attacks. Twelve incidents resulted in injuries to Israeli settlers or damage to their property.
Israeli NGO B’Tselem reports that, at the end of January, 175 Palestinians were being held in Israeli administrative detention, the highest number since December 2012. According to the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, as of March this year, 12 of these prisoners are on hunger strike in protest against being held in administrative detention.
According to NGO Defence for Children International, there were 230 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention at the end of February. Mr Robertson wrote to the Israeli Attorney General on 31 March to urge Israel to end the use of solitary confinement for children in military detention and introduce audio-visual recording of all interviews with child detainees.
The UK is seriously concerned by continued Israeli demolitions of Palestinian properties in Area C of the West Bank and particularly in the Jordan Valley, in contravention of international law. A total of 122 structures were demolished in Area C by 24 March, displacing 194 Palestinians.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Development & Media Freedoms, three violations of media freedoms by PA forces in the West Bank were reported between January and February, including the detention of photographers documenting clashes between security forces and protestors.
According to the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, reports of torture and ill treatment during detention by Palestinian forces in the West Bank continued, with 29 complaints filed in January and February. The UK raised this issue at the annual UK-PA dialogue meeting on 6 March. The PA highlighted a number of positive steps including: the development of a code of conduct for the security forces and on the use of force; a move to stop trying civilians in military courts; and the strengthening of relations with national and international transparency and accountability organisations. The UK is supporting the development of a new Human Rights Training Manual within the Ministry of Interior, in conjunction with the EU police and rule of law mission in the OPTs. We also continue to assist the PA to improve policing and justice responses to violence against women.
The UK welcomed the new draft Palestinian National Development Plan for 2014-16, which includes commitments to continued improvements on human rights issues. We encourage the PA to turn these commitments into concrete measurable actions.
Rocket fire from Gazan militants with retaliatory airstrikes by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) continued during the reporting period. Mr Robertson condemned the rocket fire in January, and called on all parties to respect the November 2012 ceasefire. March saw the biggest escalation in violence on the Israel-Gaza border since the ceasefire, with Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants firing over 70 rockets into Southern Israel, and the IAF responding with dozens of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and by temporarily closing all crossings into and out of Gaza. The Prime Minister, visiting Israel at the time, condemned the “completely indiscriminate” rocket attacks.
According to OCHA, there has been an increase in the IDF use of live fire along the border with Gaza, resulting in five civilian deaths in the first two months of 2014, as well as 79 injuries. IDF forces also continue to fire warning shots at Gazan fishing boats nearing the fishing limit of six nautical miles imposed by Israel, sometimes injuring and detaining fisherman, as well as seizing their boats.
The UK continues to be seriously concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza, described by the Prime Minister as “unacceptable”. We continue to urge Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza and call on Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to enable a sustained increase in the flow of humanitarian aid, legal goods, and persons to and from the Gaza Strip. The frequent closure of the Rafah crossing has compounded the already fragile humanitarian situation. Although a welcome easing of restrictions on the import of building materials for international projects was announced in December, by the end of January around 30 projects run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees were still on hold.
On 16 March, the Hamas (ruling party) security services in Gaza prevented supporters of Fatah (opposition party) from holding a rally in solidarity with President Abbas.
During the reporting period, four death sentences were issued in Gaza (one on 6 February, one on 13 February, and two on 20 March). EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah condemned the sentences on 7 February, 18 February, and 24 March, and urged compliance with the PA moratorium on executions in the OPTs.
This publication is part of the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.
Submit a question or comment on the report