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Joint written statement* submitted by the International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, a nongovernmental organization in general consultative status, the Union of Arab Jurists, Arab Organization for Human Rights, General Arab Women Federation, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development - VIDES, Nord-Sud XXI - North-South XXI, Organisation Mondiale des associations pour l'education prenatale, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, non-governmental organizations in special consultative status, Indian Council of South America (CISA), International Educational Development, Inc., International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), World Peace Council, non-governmental organizations on the roster
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
Addressing continuing grave breaches of international law by the occupying power*
In November 2013 the UN General Assembly designated 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. The aim was to promote solidarity, contribute to international awareness of core themes of the question of Palestine.
Resolution 68/121 by which the year of solidarity with the Palestinian people was adopted came after years of futile diplomacy and disregarded UN declarations, resolutions and recommendations that failed to end Israel's illegal military occupation and war crimes. Until this day Israel continues to violate international law with impunity, notably the fourth Geneva conventions, which hold that occupation is only a temporary situation, that the occupant does not acquire sovereignty over the territory and that re-establishing the full and free exercise of sovereignty will normally end the state of occupation.
Contrary to these requirements the prolonged occupation of Palestine goes with annexationist, colonialist and ethnic-cleansing goals, especially in relation to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Its hallmark is the determined pursuit of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.3 The absence of morality and the cynical, calculating nature of Israel's ethnic cleansing and creeping land-grab involves a wide range of human rights violations, including the persistent denial of the right to self-determination to the Palestinian people.
Israel's colonization of Palestinian land is not only a grave violation of international law, but seems conceived specifically to humiliate the Palestinian people. Palestinians are daily confronted with road-blocks in their own land, heavy restrictions on movement, including impeded access to education, emergency health services and water supply, accompanied by daily harassment and violence by settlers and property taken from them at will and with impunity. The ongoing attrition of enforced evictions in which Palestinian families are ordered to leave their homes in sudden, early-morning raids to make way for Israeli settlers are part of it.
Despite the authority of international law and the resolutions of the United Nations, the situation is essentially frozen and even deteriorating. Palestinians are increasingly frustrated by the lack of action from the international community against the persistent non-compliance of the occupying power with international law and in particular Israel's creeping annexation of Palestinian land through colonial settlement expansion.
The 1949 fourth Geneva Convention govern the treatment of civilians during wartime in territory under military occupation. The convention outlaws torture, collective punishment and the resettlement by an occupying power of its own civilians on territory under its military control. Transfers of the civilian population of the occupying power into the occupied territory, regardless whether forcible or voluntary are hence prohibited. Israel rejects that the convention applies to its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), yet a 1999 resolution passed by the States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention unanimously found that the Fourth Geneva Conventions do apply to these settlements.
The ongoing expansion of settlements in the oPt therefore is a war crime that falls into the provision of Article 8 of the International Criminal Court statutes. Yet, despite abundant condemnation the international community has so far effectively failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel's crimes have continued with impunity. While blinding the world with an alleged readiness to make “painful compromises,” the occupying power expanded settlements in an unprecedented haste, obviously playing for time in order to annex a maximum of Palestinian land in a minimum of time.
Although article 53 of the fourth Geneva Convention holds that destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property is prohibited, demolitions across Area C and East Jerusalem accelerated throughout the time of peace talks, with a 43 percent rise in demolitions and a 74 percent rise in displacement compared to the same period in 20124. During the 9 months of negotiations thus a total of 567 Palestinian homes were demolished and Israeli occupation forces confiscated more than 14,000 acres of lands owned by Palestinian citizens, only to register them with names of Jewish Settlement companies.5
Meanwhile international and local aid organizations faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition, in a further violation of article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention, stating that the Occupying Power undertaking transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons.
During the same period, the Israeli Government promoted plans and tenders for at least 13,851 housing units in the settlements and East Jerusalem — an average of 50 units per day and 1,540 units per month. These units include tenders for 4,868 units — 2,248 of them in West Bank settlements and 2,620 units in East Jerusalem.6 The blueprints and structures for Israeli settlements, and tenders for the construction of about 13851 housing units, thus were about four times higher than what had been announced before the negotiations.7
The separation barrier
Another serious feature of Israel's creeping land annexation at the expense of Palestinians is the ongoing construction of the separation barrier, far beyond the Green Line. On 9 July 2004 the International Court of Justice held that Israel's building of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is illegal and must stop immediately8, noting that combined with the Israeli settlements, the barrier alters the demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territory and impedes the Palestinians' right to self-determination. Israel should make reparations for any damage caused by its erection, the judges ruled, stop construction immediately and dismantle the sections of the barrier that have already been built.
The refusal of Israel to implement this assessment of international law by the highest judicial body of the United Nations is cause for serious concern. Ten years later the construction continues and Israel maintains on its website a map of 30 April 2006 showing its revised route. 9 The full route is 422 miles of zigzagging curves and loops, making it more than twice as long as the 199-mile-long Green Line.10 The evolution of this structure and its impact on the lives of those it is designed to keep out of Israel, have been widely described. Thousands of Palestinians have difficulty reaching their fields and the damage to the agricultural sector means that Palestinian farmers cannot get supplementary income and makes it impossible to increase the number of workers in what is the primary sector of Palestinian economy.”
The Palestinian economy would expand by more than a third if Israeli restrictions on movement, land access and water use are lifted in the majority of the occupied West Bank that remains under full Israeli control, a report issued by the World Bank in 2013 held. “More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agriculture and resource rich is inaccessible to the Palestinians,” the report said. “Without the ability to conduct purposeful economic activity in area C, the economic space of the West Bank will remain crowded and stunted, inhabited by people whose daily interactions with the state of Israel are characterized by inconvenience, expense and frustration.”12
At the end of 2012, sixty Palestinian communities were still compelled to use detours that are 2 to 5 times longer than the direct route to the closest city. “The total potential value added for alleviating today's restrictions on the access to and activity and production in area C is likely to amount to $3.4bn or thirty five per cent of Palestinian GDP in 2011,” the report said. It estimated that Palestinian unemployment would shrink by more than a third if the strictures were eased and that the need for foreign donor support would be reduced.”13
Expansion of settlements, demolitions, the separation barrier and economic restrictions are no isolated events. Their commission mirrors systematic and discriminatory Israeli policies, laws and practices, affecting Palestinian human rights on all levels, including children.
Israel continues use arbitrary detention of Palestinian civilians for up to 6 months without trial and the detention orders. These detentions can be extended indefmitely for additional 6-month periods. In practice, however, many have been detained for much longer periods, some up to or over 7 years.14 As of March 1st 2014, 5,224 Palestinians were detained by Israel, including 210 under the age of 18, and 183 held under Israeli administrative detention orders, without charge or trial. The conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military courts was 99.74 percent in 2010.15
The situation is extremely severe when it comes to number of Palestinian children held in detention. Against international regulations the number of Palestinian children held in solitary confinement and subjected to harsh interrogation and general mistreatment in Israeli prisons was increasing by 2 percent in 2013, compared to the previous year. The average number of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention at the end of each month during 2013 was 199. Over 76.5 percent of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons experienced some form of physical violence and 98 percent were not informed of the reason for the arrest.
Unlike Israeli children living in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian children are not accompanied by a parent and are interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, or being properly informed of their right to silence.16 After sentencing, around 50 to 60 percent of Palestinian child detainees are transferred from occupied territory to prisons inside Israel in another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The practical consequence of this is that many of them receive either limited or no family visits due to freedom of movement restrictions.
The international community is obliged by international law and United Nations resolutions to hold Israel accountable and not to condone Israeli violations anymore. Israel's overt and furtive annexation of Palestine is also the annexation of Palestinian dignity, rights and freedoms. However, it is not only the people of Palestine who are injured; all are the losers when international law is cynically and deliberately abused and neglected.
However during 2013 and during 2014, the year when the international community as a whole was expected to intensify its work for Palestinian rights, the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council has been undermined by the boycott of Item 7 on the adopted agenda of the Council by regional and political groups of states as a result of agreements with the occupying power.
In view of this disturbing development we call on the Human Rights Council and all UN Member States:
1. To use the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as an opportunity to strengthen HRC work on Palestine and not reduce it by undermining Item 7 of the HRC agenda.
2. To take appropriate actions to urge all regional and political groups to participate under Item 7 and all states that are not represented by regional and political groups to speak under Item 7 at the 26th session of the Council.
3. To encourage the HRC President and High Commissioner to undertake a high level effort to bring all regional groups back to Item 7.
4. To work for the Council to adopt a resolution in support of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and decide to hold a panel discussion on Palestinian Rights and observance of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People during the 27th session of the HRC, including with the new special rapporteur.