Candidates standing in Israel's elections should take the opportunity to reassert the importance of human rights and pledge to a programme that, if implemented, would enhance peace and security in the region, Amnesty International said today.
Making a direct appeal to all candidates contesting the elections, to be held on 28 March 2006, the organization called for an open debate to address longstanding human rights challenges in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.
"Israel's security will be enhanced, not jeopardised, by greater attention to human rights," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "Concrete steps are needed to uphold the rights of Israel's most marginalized communities and to end the expansion of Israeli settlements and the construction of the fence/wall in the West Bank."
Amnesty International called for candidates to widen the debate to encompass economic and social rights issues such as the need to improve greater access to health, work and education for Israel's most marginalized communities, including Israeli Arabs and migrants who continue to suffer from discriminatory policies and practices. The organization also calls for more effective protection for women from violence and trafficking, with more perpetrators brought to justice.
It urged candidates to support the call of Israeli NGOs for the establishment of a national human rights commission with the power to investigate alleged human rights violations and propose better safeguards.
In the Occupied Territories the spiral of violence, which has claimed the lives of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians and caused widespread destruction and suffering over the past five years, makes the quest for a just and durable peace all the more urgent. Too often, policies pursued by Israel in the name of security have breached international law and grossly violated the fundamental rights of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
These include the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the construction of the fence/wall inside the occupied West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, which impede or deny Palestinians' rights to an adequate standard of living, housing, health, education, work and freedom of movement within the Occupied Territories. Ultimately such policies have caused more insecurity, as well as untold suffering.
Amnesty International also called on candidates to commit to ending Israel's imposition of collective punishments on Palestinians within the Occupied Territories, such as continuing, arbitrary restrictions on their movements which have paralysed the Palestinian economy and forced a growing percentage of the population to depend on international aid. As the occupying power, Israel is forbidden from using collective punishment and is responsible for the welfare of the occupied population under international law.
The organization called too for the introduction of an effective mechanism to ensure that unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces and attacks against Palestinians and their property by Israeli settlers are urgently and impartially investigated, and those responsible brought to justice. Currently, such killings and attacks are rarely investigated and those responsible are almost never punished.
For more information, please see:
Israel/Occupied Territories: Open letter from the Secretary General to the parliamentary candidates - Put human rights protection on the Israeli election agenda, Index Number: MDE 15/018/2006