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Source: United Kingdom
30 September 2013

Human Rights and Democracy report 2012 - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

تقرير حقوق الإنسان والديموقراطية 2012 - إسرائيل والأراضي الفلسطينية المحتلة

The human rights situation in Israel and the OPTs remained broadly the same over July to September.

Latest update: 30 September 2013

The human rights situation in Israel and the OPTs remained broadly the same over July to September. The UK continues to have serious human rights concerns regarding the Israeli occupation of the OPTs, despite some positive steps in this period.

For example, we welcome the downward trend of Israeli use of administrative detention. According to Palestinian NGO Addameer, as of August 2013 there were 134 Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention, down from 250 in August 2012. We also welcome the release by Israel on 14 August 2013 of 26 Palestinian prisoners detained since before 1993 as an important and difficult step to help re-launch direct peace negotiations.

We remain concerned about Israeli treatment of Palestinian children in military custody. The UK continues to discuss the issue with Israel and to encourage Israel to adopt recommendations from the independent 2012 report ‘Children in Military Custody’. As of end August 2013, 180 Palestinian children were held in Israeli prisons, including 31 under the age of 16, compared to 210 in August 2012 (34 under 16).

The UK has been particularly concerned by the recent spate of demolitions of Palestinian structures by the Israeli authorities, as well as the resulting displacement and need for humanitarian assistance. In the case of Mak Hul, every structure in the community was demolished and the entire community displaced. We are also concerned that the Israeli military authorities prevented the affected community from receiving humanitarian assistance. We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities, including to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, our concerns over such demolitions, which we view as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians, as harmful to the peace process, and as contrary to international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear that the destruction of any real or personal property is not justified unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations, and that where humanitarian aid is needed, the occupying power is obliged to facilitate effectively the work of humanitarian relief schemes. The EU expressed concern at the incident in a statement on 21 September.

In a statement on 18 September, the then Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, warmly welcomed the announcement of positive Israeli steps to assist the Palestinian economy, including allowing construction materials for private projects into Gaza and agreeing to 5,000 additional work permits for Palestinians to work in Green Line Israel. However, the UK remains concerned about the damage that Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods and people have on the economy and living standards of ordinary people, and continues to urges Israel to ease these restrictions. The UN designates approximately one million Gazans as ‘food insecure’. The economic situation in Gaza has worsened further over the past three months, with the tunnel closures by the Egyptian authorities impacting on the availability of fuel, construction materials and other goods. Closures of the Rafah crossing have further limited the ability of Palestinians and others to travel to and from Gaza.

The UK continues to have concerns about Israeli use of live fire. Eight Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces over the reporting period. On 10 August an unarmed Gazan was fatally shot by Israeli forces at the fence between Gaza and Israel, reportedly whilst trying to enter Israel, and a 19 year old was fatally shot during a violent demonstration in the West Bank town of Dura on 2 July. Six Palestinians were killed in Israeli operations in Jenin and Qalandya refugee camps in the West Bank in August and September. Violent protests at the Israeli incursions into the camps were ongoing at the time. British Embassy officials raised the UK’s concerns about use of live fire with the Israeli Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office.

The UK also condemned the murder of two Israeli soldiers, who were killed by Palestinians in the West Bank on the 20 and 22 of September. One soldier was kidnapped in Israel whilst off duty and then killed, the other was shot in Hebron whilst on duty.

There have been a significant number of settlement announcements over the last three months. Plans for 3,171 settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been advanced since 30 July, though no plans have been advanced since the resumption of direct talks on 14 August. The construction of settlements, illegal under international law, has a severe impact on the social and economic rights of Palestinians, restricting their rights to free movement, their ability to earn a livelihood and the right to the protection of private property. Alistair Burt condemned these announcements and urged both parties to avoid steps which undermined negotiations.

Violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank has continued throughout the reporting period. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimate that between 1 July and 23 September there were 70 incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties or property damage, and six incidents resulting in Israeli casualties or property damage.
The UK continues to urge the Palestinian Authority (PA) to uphold internationally recognised human rights standards, and remains concerned about a number of issues. For example, Palestinian security forces killed a man in a Nablus-area refugee camp during an arrest raid on 27 August. Amjad Odeh, 37, died immediately after he was shot by Palestinian security forces in the head, according to locals. PA security forces said the victim was killed in an exchange of fire. The UK has raised the conduct of PA security forces with both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of the Interior.

The UK continues to have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Whilst the ceasefire agreed in November 2012 continues to be largely respected, extremist groups in Gaza continued to fire occasional rockets indiscriminately into Israel, with 13 launched between July and September. The UK condemns these attacks.

The de facto Hamas authorities in Gaza also sentenced five Palestinians to death between July and September in contravention of President Abbas’s moratorium on the death penalty. Mr Burt condemned planned public executions in a statement on 13 August. The executions were subsequently delayed. EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah issued statements on 13 August and 5 September condemning the use of the death penalty.

On 1 September, Israeli security forces announced a series of arrests in relation to an alleged West Bank-based Hamas sleeper cell, which they report was in the advanced stages of planning an attack on a shopping centre in West Jerusalem, during the Jewish High Holy Days. The Israel Defence Forces reported the discovery of rockets and chemicals for explosives during the arrests.

Update: 30 June 2013

There were no major changes in the trends seen in previous updates

Within Israel, the human rights situation remained broadly positive. We are following Israeli government plans regarding Bedouin land claims and unrecognised villages in the Negev. Draft legislation passed the Ministerial Committee of Legislation on 6 May as well as the first of three Knesset readings on 24 June. It has aroused particular concerns over the possible relocation of large numbers of Bedouin.

The UK continues to have serious human rights concerns regarding the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes built without Israeli permits (which are almost impossible to obtain for Palestinians) continued over the last three months. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported the demolition of 89 structures from April-May, displacing 211 people. The monthly average of people displaced in April increased by 30% in comparison to 2012. By contrast, Israeli settlement construction continued, fundamentally impacting the social, economic and political rights of Palestinians. Plans were advanced for over 1,300 new housing units and the retrospective legalisation of four Israeli outposts progressed.

The Israeli-built Separation Barrier in the West Bank prevents many Palestinian communities from accessing their land and continues to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. On 24 April an Israeli court ruled against a petition to re-route one planned section of the barrier, which if built would bisect the Palestinian community of Al-Walajah, leaving the 3000 acres of villagers’ land on the other side of the wall only accessible via agricultural gates under a permit regime.

We remain concerned about Israel’s excessive use of administrative detention and the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. As of May, 155 prisoners were administratively detained in Israel. According to NGO Defence for Children International, as of April 238 Palestinian children were detained in the Israeli system, including 135 held inside Israel in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. We continue to urge the Israeli authorities to implement recommendations made in an independent FCO-funded report by leading British lawyers in July 2012, Children in Military Custody, as well as UNICEF’s March 2013 report on the same issue. Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt most recently raised this with the Israeli Minister of Justice on 10 June and the Israeli Attorney General on 20 June.

“Price-tag” vandalism attacks and Israeli settler violence continued to rise in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank against Palestinian, Muslim and Christian targets including graffiti and vandalism in Arab-Israeli Abu Ghosh; over 1200 olive trees destroyed near Nablus; damage of Palestinian-owned cars and a church in Jerusalem, and cars and houses in Ramallah. Alistair Burt publicly condemned settler violence on 20 June. We continue to encourage the Israeli authorities to bring those responsible to justice, most recently during the visit of the Israeli Attorney General in June. The Israeli Police say they have increased patrols, as well as cooperation between the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), Police and Border Guard. At least 13 Israelis were arrested in April and charged with throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles and other offences.

The Israeli authorities reported an increase in violence by Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem against Israeli forces and civilians. On 30 April a Palestinian stabbed and killed an Israeli in the West Bank. A succession of violent incidents by Israeli extremists followed, including attacks on buses and a mosque. Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt publically condemned the events.

On 3 April, Israeli forces fatally shot two Palestinian youths who were reportedly attacking a manned Israeli watchtower with Molotov cocktails. Clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces around “Nakba Day” on 15 May resulted in injuries to nearly 200 Palestinians and four Israeli soldiers

Since March, two Palestinians have been injured by live fire from Israeli forces at the Gaza border. During Alistair Burt’s June visit to the region, he underlined his concern about IDF use of live fire in enforcing the Gaza buffer zone and fishing restrictions and dealing with peaceful protests, and visited the family of Palestinian protestors killed by the IDF

Mr Burt called again for Israel to ease restrictions on movement of goods and people to and from Gaza. Between April and June, in response to rocket fire from Gaza, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings between Israel and Gaza for a number of days (Erez remained open for humanitarian emergencies). This exacerbated shortages and led to the delay or cancellation of Gazan exports to Europe. In May, after a period of relative calm, Israel re-extended the fishing limit from three to six nautical miles. This still falls significantly short of the 20 nautical mile limit stipulated under the Oslo Accords.

After a three week halt in April, Israeli authorities have allowed the resumption of family visits for Gazan Palestinian prisoners, facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, expanding these to include parents, spouses and children up to the age of 8.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority (PA), we continue to have concerns about allegations of mistreatment by the Palestinian Security Forces. The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) published its 18th Annual Report in May: 306 allegations of torture and mistreatment in the West Bank and Gaza were received in 2012 with a further 105 received in March-April 2013. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by issuing an order confirming the PA’s commitment to the prohibition of torture. The Foreign Secretary raised this issue with President Abbas on 23 May, stressing the importance of accountability in the Palestinian Security Forces.

We continue to have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Hamas-controlled Gaza, including allegations of repression of dissent; curtailment of free speech and freedom of association including violent dispersal of peaceful protests; use of the death penalty; suppression of women’s rights; and harassment and detention of individuals suspected of “morality” offences. For example Hamas police stopped a number of young men for “indecent” haircuts and women were prevented from participating in the Gaza marathon. The Gazan Military Court has issued three new death sentences and two Palestinian men were executed on 22 June for alleged collusion with Israel, in contravention of a PA moratorium on executions.

We remain concerned at the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Gazan militant groups towards Israel in contravention of international humanitarian law. Between April and June, 27 rockets were fired towards Israel from Gaza and two from Sinai. Five mortar shells were fired into Israel. Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt publically condemned the rocket fire.

Further Information

Read and comment on the countries of concern - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Read and comment on the Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 in full


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