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* The summary of the report is being circulated in all official languages. The report itself is contained in the annex of this document and is being circulated in English and Arabic.
** The report was submitted late, awaiting comments on the report from the Government concerned.
Human rights violations in the form of violence are pervasive throughout the OPT as a result of the protracted conflict and occupation. Security measures by the Israeli occupying forces combined with the response this provoked among various Palestinian elements have contributed to an integrated system of violence, which intersects with a traditional patriarchal gender order that creates traumatizing impacts on Palestinian women.
The report highlights the role of Israeli security measures on human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT. Within such a disenabling environment, an integrated system of violence at the intersection of occupation and patriarchy subjugates women through a continuum of violence linking all spheres of life. Women experience violence as a direct and indirect effect of security measures, as well as violence within the family and community that is heightened as a result of the security situation.
In creating an enabling environment to combat violence in the OPT, it is important that Israel immediately cease its violations of international law and that a sustainable resolution of the conflict be reached. Such a resolution rests on an effective response to the core of the conflict in the region - i.e. the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land.
I join the appeal of Palestinian women to Israeli society, particularly to Israeli women, to pressure the Government of Israel to end the occupation. I call on the Government and the Palestinian Authority to implement the road map toward the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State and sustainable peace in the region. In this regard, and in accordance with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), I emphasize the importance of the full involvement of Palestinian and Israeli women in the peace process.
I urge the Government of Israel to observe international law to ensure the rights and protection of Palestinian civilians, with particular emphasis on the right to health and the provision for expectant mothers and the ill to receive immediate access to medical care. In this context, freedom of movement must be allowed to United Nations staff and other humanitarian agencies operating in the OPT. I further urge the Government of Israel to include treaty-body reporting, particularly on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), information on its compliance with its obligations to promote and protect women’s rights in the OPT.
I call on the Palestinian Authority to adopt a policy of zero tolerance to all forms of violence, including terrorism; to work toward the development of a democratic, secular State that protects women’s rights; to establish a unified domestic legislation criminalizing sexual assault, domestic violence and honour crimes; to provide legal, political and financial support to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and to increase political representation of women. I call on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to adopt the Bill of Rights for Women and promote the implementation of all draft bills geared toward gender equality.
I call on the international community to be increasingly active in promoting accountability for observance of international law by Israel in the OPT; to enhance the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to enable it to comply with its obligations; to support, through bilateral and multilateral funding, civil society initiatives to improve women’s status; and to support the Palestinian and Israeli women promoting peace and conflict resolution throughout the region. I urge the Security Council to authorize an international mechanism in the OPT to ensure the observance of human rights and humanitarian law and the implementation of existing Council resolutions; to complement these efforts, expand the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) field office in the OPT to include a monitoring function.
REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, ITS CAUSES AND
CONSEQUENCES, YAKIN ERTÜRK, ON HER MISSION
TO THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
(13 to 18 JUNE 2004)
2. I am very grateful for the support provided by the United Nations country team for ensuring a substantively and logistically successful visit. In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Osman Hassan, the Director of the OHCHR field office in the OPT and his staff for their support, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for facilitating field visits in the Gaza Strip.
3. During the mission, meetings were held in East and West Jerusalem, the West Bank (Ramallah, Jenin and Anin) and the Gaza Strip (Gaza city, including Al-Zaytoun area, and Jabalia refugee camp). I undertook a number of field visits to refugee camps and to villages near the separation wall to interview victims of human rights violations and their families. I also visited the Ramleh Central Prison and interviewed Palestinian female detainees. I had consultations with and received information from representatives of the Government of Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), representatives of the Palestinian Authority, and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). I also met with representatives of human rights and women’s organizations, academics, lawyers, survivors of violence, families of victims and United Nations agencies. (A list of interlocutors is in the appendix.)
4. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the victims of violence and their relatives who agreed to relate their personal experiences, which enabled me to have a deeper understanding of the problems arising for Palestinian women.
AND HUMANITARIAN LAW
6. National security has become a global concern and measures undertaken in this regard, regrettably, have often compromised human rights and humanitarian law. This is a salient feature of the state of affairs in the OPT, accelerating particularly after the second intifada in 2002. Through military orders, Israeli authorities have built and expanded Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, exploited water and economic resources, controlled crossing points, required work permits and regulated the movement and the intimate lives of the Palestinian people. This situation has provoked resistance in different forms, including violence by militant groups. Thus, an integrated system of violence, intersecting with violence inherent in patriarchal gender relations, has become institutionalized, which cuts across all spheres of women’s lives in the OPT.
7. After having visited the region and witnessed the reality of life in the OPT, I am extremely concerned that the measures taken by Israel for security reasons are in fact perpetuating the conflict and provoking further violence. I am further concerned that such measures will exacerbate the hostilities, thus confining both Palestinian and Israeli civilians, to a perpetual state of insecurity. The Palestinian people, however, are bearing by far the brunt of the situation, and this is cultivating seeds of desperation in the OPT.
8. Israel has the right to address security concerns. However, human rights law calls for a balance between legitimate national security concerns and the protection of fundamental freedoms. Therefore, measures must be proportionate to the threat that they are designed to counter and must be non-discriminatory in nature. Under international law certain rights are not subject to suspension under any circumstance, including the right to life; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and fundamental principles of fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
9.9. The Human Rights Committee (HRC) in its concluding observations on Israel 2 reiterated that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) do apply to the population of the occupied territories. It specifically stressed that Israel has to “ensure that measures designed to counter acts of terrorism, whether adopted in connection with Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) or in the context of the ongoing armed conflict, are in full conformity with the Covenant”. The Committee noted Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention entailing restrictions on access to counsel and to disclosure of reasons for detention. It stated that these features limit the effectiveness of judicial review, thus endangering protection against torture and other inhumane treatment. It also expressed its concern over the use of prolonged incommunicado detention. The Committee deplored the punitive nature of the demolition of homes and called on Israel to cease the practice.
10. Prior to my visit to the OPT, the Security Council on 19 May 2004 adopted resolution 1544, which reiterates the obligation of Israel, as the occupying Power, to scrupulously abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the numerous previous resolutions on the Palestinian question. The international community has stated clearly that the concept of military occupation applies to the Palestinian territories, and therefore, Israel is subject to the provisions and rules of the international humanitarian law that regulate the situation of occupation. 3
11. While the representatives of the Government of Israel indicated that security measures are a last resort to protect the Israeli population from terrorist attacks, they also stressed that human rights law and the law of war may at times be incompatible. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) legal service said that any action exceeding “military necessity” is investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted if found guilty. They assured me that they are very sensitive to “collateral damage”. However, they admitted that sometimes mistakes are made due to poor intelligence. They emphasized that all actions are also subjected to review by the Israeli Supreme Court and all residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip may petition against alleged human rights violations.
12. On 27 May 2004, Adalah, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and the NGO Al-Haq filed a petition and a motion for an injunction to the Israeli Supreme Court against IDF, the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to define, for the first time, the legal scope of the term “military necessity” in accordance with international humanitarian law, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and recent decisions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The petition challenged IDF’s justification of “military necessity” for its policy of house demolitions. At a hearing on the petition on 26 October 2004, the Supreme Court requested additional submission on a specific event within a specific location related to the petition.
14. The occupation has pervaded all aspects of life and entailed violations of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. Violence is used by IDF as a tool to sustain the occupation and by the Palestinian militants as a tool to resist it. The strategic use of instruments by Israel such as land confiscation, extrajudicial executions, daily military incursions, arbitrary closures and curfews, demolitions of homes and arbitrary detention among others have all contributed since 1967 to the current mistrust and hostility pervasive throughout the OPT.
15. The situation in Gaza is like an open prison, with Israel totally controlling the movements in and out of the area. In May 2004, Israel launched raids of unprecedented violence and destruction in the south of the Gaza Strip with the aim of finding and destroying tunnels stretching under the border from Egypt through which weapons were allegedly being smuggled into Gaza. They demolished homes, damaged schools and other public buildings, and destroyed infrastructure, much of which reportedly stood several hundred metres away from the border. Palestinian civilians, including women and children, were shot without warning. On the first day of the incursion a 14-year-old girl was killed, followed by many more injuries on the second day as troops opened fire on demonstrators. I was unfortunately unable to visit Rafah, as IDF closed the road on the day I was scheduled to travel there. 4
16. I heard testimonies from female refugees in Jenin who reported that during the two-week military incursion in 2002, IDF sent missiles into the camp, killing and injuring women and children, and demolishing homes. Ambulances were prevented from entering the camp, resulting in death due to lack of medical care. Women were used as human shields to enter houses. Many men were arrested and detained incommunicado for a period of six months. Women and children were disabled and suffer post-traumatic stress as a result.
17. Widows, 67 per cent of whom are aged between 18-30 years, told me that, even as wives of martyrs with an enhanced status, they are never free in a conservative patriarchal community. Therefore, they have forgotten that they are women, and now see themselves only as mothers and providers for their family. Women with husbands explained that the dire economic situation and the pressures of the occupation have made men more violent because they have lost their ability to provide and protect - two essential elements of manhood in a traditional patriarchal society. As men become stripped of their manhood, women become the shock absorbers of the crises as targets of domestic violence. 5
18. Violence against women manifesting itself within an integrated system of violence emanates from two sources: Israeli security measures; and the family and the community.
21. Aside from the physical obstructions, an ID system regulates the movement of people within the OPT and from one side of the wall to another. In the occupied territories, people hold one of three different ID statuses corresponding to their place of residence: West Bank, Jerusalem or Gaza. To further illustrate the complexity of the system, a West Bank permit holder requires a permit to pass through any of the numerous military checkpoints along the “Green Line” into Israel and Jerusalem. If over the age of 16, the same person would need an additional permit to travel from one Palestinian town to another within the West Bank and yet another to enter the industrial zone where he or she works. Palestinians with a Jerusalem ID have the right to move in and out of Jerusalem and throughout most of the OPT, a right often disrupted by border and civil police. The complex and restrictive nature of these practices also poses difficulties for marriage and family unification. 7
22. According to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (A/58/311), in Jerusalem tens of thousands of Palestinian families live in the city without residence permits since they fled and returned after the 1967 war. The absence of a residence permit deprives them of health and social services and prevents children from attending Israeli public schools. 8
23. Concerns have been raised with regard to pregnant women in the OPT not being able to access appropriate health care and hospitals safely due to restrictions on movement. This is now further exacerbated by the construction of the wall. 9 I received reports of denied or delayed access that resulted in women giving birth at the checkpoint, causing complications and loss of life in some cases. For example, Rula Ashtiya, who on 28 August 2003 was reportedly denied passage by Israeli soldiers at Beit Furik checkpoint, gave birth on the road. Her baby died shortly afterwards and only then was she allowed through the checkpoint to the hospital in Nablus. Similarly, Lamees Tayseer Ibrahim Qassem gave birth to premature twins on 22 December 2003. She was kept at the checkpoint for an hour and a half in the middle of the night. When the ambulance on the other side was finally allowed through the checkpoint, her condition had already deteriorated and both newborn girls died shortly after birth.
24. According to one report, 10 during the two years of the intifada the number of stillborn births in the West Bank increased by 500 per cent, the number of babies born at home doubled and there were at least 39 cases of births at army roadblocks. Restrictions on movement have also increased the number of home deliveries. According to UNICEF figures of 8 March 2004, the number of home deliveries increased from 8.2 to 14 per cent since 2002. During the same period, the number of women attending post-natal care decreased from 95.6 to 82.4 per cent. Also since 2002, 52 pregnant women gave birth at military checkpoints. Between September 2000 and December 2002, 19 women and 29 newborn infants died at military checkpoints. In addition, 37.9 per cent of women reported that access to health services became difficult. This was due, according to 44.3 per cent of these women, to the Israeli siege and for another 27.9 per cent to the lack of money to pay for health services.
25. The transgression of the freedom of movement and risks of settler attacks on the roads, as well as dehumanizing treatment at military checkpoints, compel families to marry their daughters at an early age rather than send them to school. This situation cuts women off from their social networks at a young age, since women typically move to live in their husband’s town after marriage. Consequently, immobility deprives women of the support and services of formal and informal networks and institutions.
27.27. During the period January-April 2004, IDF demolished 250 residential units for “security reasons”, according to the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights. Thirteen houses were demolished on the pretext that a family member participated in, helped carry out or planned operations against Israeli targets. Additionally, 13 houses were demolished in West Bank cities and villages (including East Jerusalem) on the pretext that the owners did not have building permits. UNRWA estimates that, during raids on Rafah in May 2004, the homes of around 3,800 people were totally demolished or damaged beyond repair: “From 18 to 24 May (2004) a total of 167 buildings in the Tel Sultan, Brazil and Salam quarters of Rafah were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. These buildings housed 379 families or 2,066 individuals. In total, in 6 days, 277 buildings, housing 641 families or 3,451 individuals have been demolished in Rafah. Since the start of the intifada 1,476 buildings have been demolished in Rafah, affecting 14,666 people.” 11
28. The manner in which the house demolitions have been implemented renders entire families homeless and destitute and inflicts great suffering on the civilian population who, in the process, encounter loss of life, arrests and harassment. The force used and the failure to provide warning maximizes the emotional and physical trauma of the demolition. The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing emphasized on several occasions the disproportionate effects of house demolitions on women, children and the elderly.
29. Women are particularly burdened in having to adjust to new conditions when their homes are destroyed. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions noted that: “Women suffer immensely from forced eviction. Domestic violence is higher in the precarious and often stressful situation of inadequate housing, especially before and during a forced eviction.” 12 In addition to domestic violence, house demolitions compound women’s responsibilities as they must sustain life in the domestic sphere. Whether or not women work outside the house they devote a significant amount of their time and energy to work in the home. While men and children may spend more time outside the house, the home is the only refuge for Palestinian women. Once the home is destroyed, women are not only left without a place of belonging, they must often carry the burden of rebuilding the home and coping with the inconveniences of moving in with relatives.
30. I visited the site of a demolished house in the Al-Zaytoun area of Gaza city and spoke to members of the Ashour family. They told me that the demolition took place during an Israeli military incursion on 11 to 13 May 2004. The demolished building consisted of four floors and housed approximately 30 people. Soldiers forcibly entered the building, took the men and boys, then allegedly tied and beat them. The soldiers returned at midnight and ordered the inhabitants out of their homes with little time to collect any belongings. The building was then demolished, also crushing the taxi that provided the family with its livelihood. The men were later released, but the family was never provided any explanation as to why their home was destroyed. At the time of my visit, the family had not yet filed a complaint against IDF but intended to do so.
31. Representatives of the Government of Israel told me that there are two distinct types of house demolitions: those that occur during the course of military operations and those carried out for a specific military purpose, e.g. demolition of houses as a deterrent for potential suicide bombers. The authorities indicated that each individual whose house has been designated for demolition has the right to petition to the High Court of Justice and that there have been a significant number of cases in which the court revoked the order for house demolitions due to petitions. Furthermore, I was assured that private land seizures were compensated. However, Palestinian lawyers claimed that there was no effective recourse for victims of such violations as complaints heard by the Israeli Supreme Court were often ruled invalid. 13
32. The United Nations country team also informed me that it has filed numerous compensation claims with the Israeli Supreme Court for the destruction of United Nations property. In 2002 and 2003, UNRWA submitted claims to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting that the Government pay an amount totalling US$ 778,743 for damage to UNRWA property in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between September 2000 and December 2002. As of the end of 2003, UNRWA had received no response from Israeli authorities regarding these claims. The agency intended to submit in due course additional claims for the damages incurred in the period from 1 January to 30 June 2003. 14
34. The NGO Defence for Children International (DCI) 16 reports that since the start of the intifada the Israeli military has detained 2,500 children of whom 403 remain in detention, of whom 116 have been sentenced. Many were picked up in mass arrest campaigns in 2002, held incommunicado without access to a lawyer or a social worker and denied contact with family. Some were eventually released without charge while others have been held for longer periods, transferred from police stations to interrogation centres and prisons within Israel where they await trial. The majority of the Palestinian detainees under the age of 18 are held in Telmond Central Prison along with Israeli juvenile criminal detainees, while some remain in a variety of other detention centres.
35. A report from human rights organization Addameer 17 reveals that the number of Palestinian women political detainees has increased since September 2000. As of 14 September 2004, 91 Palestinian women are currently held in Israeli prison, of whom 9 are minors: 86 women out of the 91 are security prisoners and 5 are held on criminal charges; 4 prisoners are administrative detainees; 90 of the prisoners are held by the Israeli prison service and 1 woman by Israeli security authorities. 18
36.36. I requested to visit the Telmond Central Prison (Hasharoon), where female Palestinian security detainees were reportedly being held. 19 The Israeli authorities informed me that there were no female detainees at that location and that I could instead visit the women’s section of Ramleh Central Prison (Nevi Tertze) located inside Israel, provided that I agreed to interview female detainees in the presence of an Israeli prison guard. I received reports that the female detainees had been moved from Ramleh Central Prison to Telmond Central Prison in January 2004 and again transferred back to Ramleh following my request to visit Telmond Prison. The reasons behind moving the prisoners between the two locations remain unclear.
37. At the time of my visit to the women’s section of Ramleh prison, the status of female Palestinian security prisoners was as follows: 2 newly arrived, 2 administrative detainees, 2 juveniles on remand, 25 on remand and 19 sentenced prisoners. Some of the women had given birth during their detention, and in such cases the newborn are allowed to remain with the mothers until two years of age. While the general conditions in the prison seemed satisfactory, I was concerned to learn that pregnant detainees are reportedly shackled whilst in labour during transit to the hospital. After giving birth, the mother is again shackled by one leg to the bed. The use of these restraints violates international standards and may constitute cruel practices.
38. A 2001 United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) study 20 revealed that Palestinian women may be arrested at their homes, in the middle of the night, by a group of armed soldiers or at a checkpoint on their way to or from school/work and detained indefinitely without charge or trial. 21 According to the study, detainees are held in solitary confinement, forced to give birth in prison cells, tortured, verbally and sexually abused and threatened. Former female detainees, whom I met, confirmed these reports and referred to the Russian Compound police detention centre in West Jerusalem, where they were held in solitary confinement and tortured during interrogation. 22
39. Women are also subjected to beatings and humiliation during the arrest or detention of their family members. Entire families may be arrested when IDF fails to find a suspected “terrorist”. Palestinian women are reportedly detained in order to put pressure on relatives who may be wanted by Israel or already under interrogation. 23 Women are then held incommunicado or in administrative detention in Israeli military prisons for indefinite periods of time, serving as “bait” to control the actions of suspects. This practice denies the detainee the right to access to counsel, fair trial and even to know the alleged offence of which they are accused.
40. According to DCI research, the majority of girl detainees have been held for allegedly committing serious security offences, such as attempting to kill Israeli settlers or military personnel. During the second intifada, Palestinian women began training to become suicide bombers. From January 2002 to January 2004, seven Palestinian women conducted suicide bombings and approximately four more were arrested before they could carry out planned attacks. During my visit, two girls, aged 14 and 15 were arrested at night under suspicion of planning a suicide bombing ( Haaretz , Israeli daily newspaper, 17 June 2004). The heightened security measures resulting from such suicide bombing has made women prime suspects at checkpoints, where they may be subject to body searches and detained under administrative order. DCI research shows that many of the girls thus detained were not involved in terrorist acts.
41. In a conservative culture where families and communities keep girls under close scrutiny, a community may regard the modesty and innocence of a girl who has been detained as having been violated because of her absence from public view. Such stigmatization can have lifelong repercussions. For example, my interview with Feda, a female minor from the old city of Hebron who was detained for two years for allegedly attempting to kill an Israeli mother and daughter settler, revealed how a woman’s victimization can become compounded. Feda became an outcast in her own society as she is perceived to have been sexually compromised during her two years of detention. Although her family remains supportive, she continues to face difficulties reintegrating into the community.
42. I did not receive any testimonies of rape during detention. Cases of sexual violence may go unreported owing to the taboo and stigma attached to being “impure”. Israeli authorities assured me that any form of sexual abuse by Israeli security forces or prison personnel would not be tolerated.
44. A study by the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) and the Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) 25 shows that in the majority of cases women and children were killed or injured due to dangers on their way to work or school; lack of medical care as a result of access being denied at checkpoints; collateral death or injury during targeted operations; and IDF shelling in or near their homes during curfews or closures of villages, refugee camps and towns. The following are some examples of girl child victims in Khan Younis refugee camp: in March 2003, 12-year-old Hoda Darwish was sitting at her desk when a bullet fired from an Israeli observation post on the outskirts of the camp hit her, leaving her blind. 26 On 7 September 2004, 10-year-old Raghda Adnan Al-Assar was struck in the head while in class at an UNRWA elementary girls’ school and died on 22 September 2004. On 28 October 2004, 9-year-old Rania Iyad Aram died after being shot while on her way to school. 27
45. On 9 November 2000, two Palestinian women were among the first victims of Israel’s policy to implement targeted assassinations of alleged Palestinian terrorists. According to the 2003 annual report of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, between 29 September 2000 and 31 December 2003 Israel carried out a total of 160 assassination operations, killing 327 Palestinians (13.7 per cent of the total number of Palestinians killed in the same period), among them 14 non-targeted women. Hundreds of men, women and children bystanders have also been wounded in these operations. 28 According to DCI, 29 at least 584 Palestinian children, 67 of whom were girls, have died and thousands have been injured since September 2000. Twenty-four of the girls perished during Israeli air and ground attacks on their homes and 13 died from random fire while conducting everyday activities. Another source 30 shows that of the estimated 3,207 Palestinians killed since 2000, 590 were children and 230 women, 255 were victims of targeted killings, and 40,000 were wounded in the same time period. According to Palestinian Red Crescent Society data, from September 2000 to September 2004 a total of 27,879 Palestinians were injured and 3,332 killed, of which 132 were women and 74 girls.
46. Women on both sides, who experience the killing and injury of their loved ones, find themselves suddenly transformed into heads of households, primary-care takers and providers.
Palestinian women in particular must endure this with few resources and support on which to rely. The psychological trauma of bereavement and the additional burdens placed on women are further dimensions of the gendered impact of crisis situations, so often overlooked in analysis.
49. Parallel to this, the use of land, water, food, the demolition of homes and the destruction of the general economy as a weapon against the occupied population have resulted in a deterioration of the living conditions in the OPT. Sixty per cent of the Palestinian population reportedly lives under the poverty line, while the majority of the population is unemployed and large numbers of people are homeless. Unemployment systematically renders men unable to provide for their families, forcing women to take up work outside the home. At the same time, however, their freedom of movement has been curtailed due to the increased protectiveness of families in order to avoid risks and harassment at checkpoints. This contradictory situation undermines women’s ability to contribute to family sustenance and to attend school, particularly at the university level.
50. There is a consensus among analysts that the deepening of the conflict in the OPT and the expansion of the tools of occupation has weakened the negotiating power of Palestinian women to challenge the patriarchal gender contract which has, in part, become a defence mechanism to keep the society intact. For the most part, conformity to traditional norms of honour and the observance of group boundaries has provided women, particularly in refugee camps and rural areas, a safeguard against the hostile face of the occupation. In a sense, as well articulated by Nahla Abdo, Palestinian women “are placed in a double jeopardy, having to face both the patriarchal-national ‘self’ and the foreign oppressive ‘other’”. 32
52.52. The intensification and expansion of the security measures pose a direct attack on Palestinian male image and identity. Men, who in most cases have become unemployed due to the closures, are humiliated and dehumanized in public during military incursions and at checkpoints. Their ability to provide for and protect their home and family is seriously undermined, creating a sense of “inadequacy”. According to Rubenberg (2001), “with the enactment of masculinity challenged daily by an occupation that deprives men of the sources of their gender identity - land and the ability to support and defend their families - women’s status as markers of family honour and respectability has been enhanced”. 34 The failure to perform in accordance with the requirements of traditional patriarchal society is said to result in increased frustration on the men’s part, which often leads to violence in the home. Rubenberg goes on to say, “A culture of shame and control, ranging from gossip to honour killings, and the subsequent and corresponding internal constraints, serves to keep women isolated and vitally aware of the consequences of the minutest aspect of their behaviour.” In this way, women find themselves as multiple victims of the crisis in the OPT as they bear the restrictions imposed by a traditional patriarchal society combined with the physical and emotional effects of the political and socio-economic situation. “Forced into silent suffering, many women are trapped into a world of solitary despair. Feelings of loneliness, loss, isolation and helplessness become overwhelming.” 35
53. During my visit to Jabaliya refugee camp, I met a woman who decided to take her life as a last resort after many years of living as a refugee and being routinely subjected to domestic violence. After the attempted suicide, the woman became an outcast in her home and community. Her situation has since worsened because she not only continues to endure the violence and hardship of her living conditions, but now must also live with the shame of having attempted suicide.
54. Women are expected to cope with the consequences of the occupation and provide stability to their family and community under the worst of circumstances. In situations of unjustified loss of life the elevated concept of the “martyr” in Palestinian society has become survival and coping mechanism for women. According to Shamas, 36 “Under the concept of ‘martyrdom’, Palestinian society and culture demand that women suppress their grief when their children or husbands are killed, for they are believed to have died a ‘noble’, ‘worthy’ and indeed ‘holy’ death. Thus, women are often denied the right to cry openly, and are even urged to ‘ululate’ in celebration, which many of them do while in a state of shock, hysteria or total breakdown.” This masking of grief further obfuscates the psychological impacts of violence on women and creates yet another dimension to their suffering.
55. All of these factors have resulted in the overall acceptance of domestic violence as legitimate by the individuals as well as the society at large. This is revealed by the following results from a public opinion poll conducted in 2002: 37
57. Nadia Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a prominent researcher on honour crimes in Palestinian society, draws attention to the societal dimensions of honour crimes, whereby the family acts under pressures from society in fear of being socially ousted. 38 Available information also indicates that some of the women who have been threatened or killed for allegedly dishonouring their family were victims of rape or sexual assault by an intimate associate within the domestic sphere. The murder of women, or “femicide”, in such situations is used to cover up shameful crimes committed by male members of the family.
58. Although data regarding honour killings is patchy, according to the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee 39 33 women were killed in the name of honour in 2002, the majority of whom were under the age of 18. The Committee is concerned that the destruction of the Palestinian security sector and the gaps in the law protecting women exacerbate impunity for these crimes. “Throughout the occupied territories, the resolution of such cases is subject to overlapping, and often competing authorities.” 40 The lack of national sovereignty and a history of occupation have undermined the ability of the Palestinian Authority to legislate and implement measures to deal with such societal atrocities. Tribal and militant centres of power thus fill this vacuum, often working to resolve cases through reconciliation and mediation while at the same time concealing the crime in an effort to prevent the spread of scandal.
A. Legal framework
60. The Palestinian people are subject to an amalgamation of laws inherited from different historical periods: Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, Jordanian and Egyptian laws and Israeli military orders. This multiplicity of laws has led to the lack of consistent and uniform Palestinian legal references. Furthermore, patriarchal biases prevailing in the legal provisions and criminal justice system prevent women from accessing justice and escaping violence. The following are areas of immediate concern to my mandate:
(a) The Personal Status laws that regulate women’s rights and roles within the family in the OPT are not unified. While Muslim women in the West Bank are subject to Jordanian law, those in Gaza are subject to Egyptian law. As for Christian Palestinians, laws established by their respective churches govern each denomination. Furthermore, these laws contain discriminatory provisions. For example, the Jordanian Personal Status Code of 1976, which grants a battered woman the right to file for a divorce on the grounds of “conflict and disaccord” resulting from harm inflicted by the husband, requires that the wife show scars of physical abuse in order to proceed with the divorce. Moreover, social pressures, the practical applications of the law, and the lack of financial resources to pay for lawyers and court fees limit women’s access to the legal system. All of the Personal Status laws endorse discrimination between the sexes. For example, marriageable age in the West Bank for boys is 16 years of age and for girls 15 years of age. In the Gaza Strip, the implementation of the “family law” is left to the judge’s discretion, falling within the age range of 9 to 17 years for girls and 12 to 18 years for boys, based on the “maturity” level of the individual;
(b) The Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 of 1960 includes a mitigating circumstances clause, whereby the perpetrator of an honour crime may be immune from punishment if it is shown that the victim committed an adulterous act. With regard to incest, article 286 of the Jordanian Penal Code stipulates that, “Incestuous actions shall only be pursued upon the complaint of a male relative or an in-law, up to the fourth-degree kinship.” Therefore, neither the victim nor a female relative can file a complaint. The absence of official policies and procedures further aggravates the difficulties in creating effective preventive and therapeutic programmes or effective working strategies to combat incest. In cases of rape, the law provides the judge with major discretionary authority to estimate the gravity of crimes and to impose the appropriate sentence. This may have negative consequences, as gender-based discrimination comes into play in judges’ determinations, particularly in sentencing. Furthermore, article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code lowers the sentence against the perpetrator if a “legal and correct marriage contract is forged” between him and the victim. Therefore, the perpetrator may, in effect, escape punishment by marrying the victim.
62. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the PA’s establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in November 2003 and is pleased to note that it is addressing violence against women as a cross-cutting issue in all of their programmes. They are working with the Ministry of the Interior to train police on women’s rights and to create police stations that facilitate women’s access. The ministry has the potential to improve the situation of women and the Special Rapporteur hopes it will receive the resources and support it requires to be an effective institution for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the OPT.
63. The Ministry for Social Affairs also contributes to the promotion of women’s human rights by providing vocational training and seed money to women. It financially supports 48,000 hardship cases of which 60 per cent are female-headed households. There is one women’s shelter supported by the ministry in Nablus, which provides counselling and vocational training.
65.65. The 1993 Oslo accords shifted the force of the intifada from the grass roots to the higher level leadership that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Since then women’s groups have expressed concerns about the Authority’s shortcomings regarding gender issues. These groups hoped to involve women in public life to overcome traditional roles and practices as well as the constraints relegating women’s rights to secondary status on the political agenda. Consequently, women organized their own Women’s Technical Committees to increase women’s involvement in the peace process and other areas. These initiatives opened a debate on women’s participation in political parties that reached President Arafat’s desk in 1995 in the form of a proposal to create a Woman’s Council. The proposal was not approved; instead, women’s committees were formed within the ministries. 41
66. Women have advocated penal code reform and equal rights in the constitution, and have succeeded to a certain extent. However, since the second intifada, there has been a noticeable regression in terms of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms. The Israeli occupation has had immobilizing impacts on activities of NGOs and other sectors. This has resulted in a re-evaluation of priorities and strategic goals within Palestinian civil society. One human rights defender told me that, “Every plan for improvement is being demolished. We are building sandcastles, whatever we build is destroyed by the next wave of security measures implemented by the IDF.”
67. Women’s groups have called for quotas for women candidates in the elections, 30 per cent for local council elections (September 2004) and 20 per cent for the legislative council. NGOs conduct community educational workshops in accordance with international standards on women’s rights and monitor the criminal justice system’s response to victims of violence. Adalah persists in its legal advocacy work, filing petitions to the Supreme Court of Justice of Israel. NGOs and lawyers also work with female Palestinian former and current detainees to provide psychosocial support, legal assistance and vocational training to help them reintegrate into their communities and resume their lives.
68. Community-based organizations operate at the grass-roots level to overcome the challenges of occupation and to provide support for each other. I visited a community-based women’s centre in Anin that offered an oasis of hope. The women, with support from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), organized, received vocational training and learned about their rights. Their activities are coordinated by the Rural Women’s Development Society (RWDS) under the PARC coalition umbrella. Anin is a small mountain village in the north of the West Bank with a population of 3,500. The majority of the population used to work in Israel before the construction of the wall and have suffered due to the confiscation of their lands because of IDF measures to protect a nearby Israeli settlement.
69.69. The efforts of the Palestinian and Israeli women’s peace groups are also noteworthy. A constructive dialogue between them started in the late 1980s to develop common strategies for resolving the ongoing conflict, having identified the Israeli occupation as the source of suffering for both sides. Although these initiatives suffered with the heightened conflict following the Al Aqsa intifada, the process provided Palestinian and Israeli women an invaluable peace advocacy experience through which they continue to link their efforts to foster a just peace for the two peoples. 42
71. The United Nations faces numerous obstacles in carrying out its mandate in the OPT. Israel’s imposed restrictions on freedom of movement, for one, prevent United Nations personnel from delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance. Israeli military fire into UNRWA schools and other buildings have disrupted services and led to civilian deaths. I was informed by UNRWA that it builds donor-funded homes and schools only for IDF to demolish the structures or confiscate the school buildings for military purposes and detention centres. 44 Despite such constraints, the United Nations is doing its utmost to provide critical services in the OPT.
73. The multilayered impact of displacement and the integrated system of violence created by the conflict and occupation continue to take a heavy toll on lives of Palestinian women as security measures and military necessity increasingly take on a character of collective punishment. The consequences of this situation are compounded and in some cases far more severe for women. Women not only bear the combined burdens of occupation and patriarchy but due to the former their capacity to transform the unequal gender structures of the latter is curtailed. The priorities imposed by the national struggle have for decades belittled women’s struggle to eliminate violence against women as a weapon of patriarchy.
74. Palestinian women live in a permanent state of insecurity, tension and fear. The grave and systematic violations of human rights perpetrated by Israel in the OPT demand urgent action to prevent further violations. The ongoing impunity for human rights violations is unacceptable. The international community has spoken clearly and issued numerous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on necessary actions to move towards a just settlement of the conflict. The United Nations has created special procedures to monitor and report on the human rights situation; however, it has failed to ensure compliance with its resolutions.
75. Human rights organizations 45 have called on the international community to take immediate and concrete action to stop Israel’s ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Rafah and elsewhere in the OPT. They acknowledge that international bodies and leaders have clearly condemned the situation, most recently through the passage of a Security Council resolution on Rafah. As they rightfully point out, however, the world has not been sufficiently active in promoting Israel’s immediate cessation of and accountability for its illegal practices in the Gaza Strip. Such inaction is an abdication of responsibility to uphold international and humanitarian law. As a Palestinian woman activist says, “Peace will only be achieved when there is freedom, equality and justice.” 46 It is essential that Israel immediately cease all violations of international law and a sustainable resolution of the conflict be reached. Such a resolution rests on an effective response to the core of the conflict in the region - the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land.
76. I would like to recall and support the following call from Palestinian women: “Security for Israelis will not be achieved by shelling residential areas, destroying homes, killing innocent civilians, tightening closures, harshening economic realities, subjecting 3.5 million Palestinians to siege and curfew, humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints and assassinating activists. Nor will security for Palestinians be achieved by killing Israeli civilians. But there will be no end to these great losses until the concept of security is revised to serve Palestinians as well as Israelis … We call upon Israeli society, and Israeli women in particular, to pressure their Government to end the occupation, and to join our quest to work together to build a new concept of security … We are actively working for, and anticipating a day when a just peace will prevail and both sides may enjoy its many fruitful results.” 47 This call is urgent not only for the peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis but for the peace and security of the entire region.
77. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has consistently maintained that Israel’s human rights obligations apply in the occupied territories. I fully support the conclusions and recommendations contained in his reports and call for their implementation.
78. In addition, I would like to make the following recommendations:
List of persons and organizations consulted during the mission
Mr. Daniel Meron, Director of International Organizations and Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and colleagues
Legal Adviser, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
Coordinators of the Territories, MFA
Prison authorities, Ramleh Central Prison
Israeli civil society
Mr. Meridor (former Minister of Justice)
Prof. Raday (former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women)
Arab Association for Human Rights
B’tselem, the Israeli information centre for human rights in the Occupied Territories
Dr. Nabil Shaath, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Intisar Al-Wazir, Minister of Social Affairs
Ms. Zahira Kamal, Minister of Woman Affairs
PLC members (Ms. Rawia Shawwa and Ms. Jamileh Saydam)
Palestinian civil society
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
Mr. Younis Khatib, Palestinian Red Crescent Societies
Mr. Tayseer Tamemy, Chief Justice of religious courts
Jerusalem Centre for Women
Women’s Affairs Technical Committee
Project Coordinator, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid
Director, Women’s Studies Centre
General Union of Palestinian Women
Director of Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University
Addameer Prisoners’ and Human Rights Association
Women against Violence
United Nations country team
Mr. Osman Hassan, Director, OHCHR/OPT
Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Deputy Commissioner General, UNRWA
Dr. Ayoub Alem, Chief, Field Health Programme
Mr. Kamal Abu-Qamar, Deputy Field Relief and Social Services Programme and Women’s Officer
Representatives from UNDP, UNFPA, UNIFEM, WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, OCHA