Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Human Rights

“Human rights no longer treated as a priority, but as a pariah,” Zeid tells 25th anniversary gathering in Vienna

UN Office of the High Commissioner 

Vienna (22 May 2018) – In a speech delivered Tuesday at an international conference marking the 25th anniversary of a landmark human rights declaration, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein issued a stark warning that the world in general, including Europe, is back-sliding on human rights.

 The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by consensus on 25 June 1993, and heavily influenced by the atrocities occurring just across Austria’s border with the former Yugoslavia, laid down the blueprint for human rights in the post-Cold-War era. It also set in motion the establishment of the UN Human Rights Office that Zeid now heads.

 “This anniversary could be the occasion for a polite celebration of the achievements of my Office over the past two and a half decades – and they are many,” Zeid told the delegates gathered in Vienna. “But today is not a time for soporific complacency. Human rights are sorely under pressure around the world – no longer a priority: a pariah. The legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. The practice of human rights norms is in retreat. Here in Europe, ethno-populist parties are in the ascendant in many countries – fuelling hatred and scarring their societies with deepening divisions.”

 Referring to Austria, the High Commissioner added “In this country – which more than most should be aware of the dangers of ethnically divisive rhetoric… – false and incendiary statements have been made which are fundamentally at odds with the Vienna Declaration.”

 The full text of his 870-word statement can be read below: (more…)

Advertisements

UN human rights expert condemns horrific violence in Gaza

NEWS RELEASE

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967

GENEVA (15 May 2018) – A UN human rights expert has called on the Israeli Government to immediately cease its lethal assault against protesters at the Gaza fence, who appear to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side of the fence.

 Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, condemned Israel’s excessive use of force towards largely unarmed demonstrators at the Gaza fence on Monday, which has left 58 Palestinians dead, and almost 2,800 wounded. He expressed grave fears this figure could rise sharply in coming days unless Israeli authorities uphold their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

 “This blatant excessive use of force by Israel – an eye for an eyelash – must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence,” he said. (more…)


UN Human Rights spokesperson condemns “appalling, deadly violence in Gaza”

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

 Location:      Geneva

 Subject:        (1) Gaza

We condemn the appalling, deadly violence in Gaza yesterday during which 58 Palestinians were killed and almost 1,360 demonstrators were injured with live ammunition by Israeli security forces. Of those injured, 155 are in critical condition. Six children and a health worker were among those who lost their lives, and 10 journalists suffered injuries from gunshot wounds. The already crumbling health care system in Gaza has been placed under incredible strain and those suffering life-threatening injuries face a nightmarish scenario in the absence of adequate hospital beds and medical services. We are still witnessing cases in which injured demonstrators are effectively prevented by Israel from exiting Gaza for treatment.

 The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.

 A number of the demonstrators approached the fence, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces personnel, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material. Some tried to damage the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Others burnt tires. Israeli forces responded with tear gas, plastic bullets and various types of live ammunition, some causing horrific wounds and lifelong disability. We stress, again, that lethal force may only be used as a measure of last – not first – resort, and only when there is an immediate threat to life or serious injury. An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition. This is also the case with regards to stones and molotov cocktails being thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind defensive positions.

 Again, we call for independent, transparent investigations in all cases of death and injury since 30 March. Since 30 March, 112 Palestinians, including 14 children, have lost their lives at the fence and thousands have been injured.

 We are extremely worried about what may happen today – an emotional day on all sides – and in the weeks ahead. We urge maximum restraint. Enough is enough.

 (Arabic version available on http://www.ohchr.org/AR/Pages/Home.aspx)


UNRWA dismayed by loss of life and injuries in Gaza

Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness

Jerusalem 14 May 2018

UNRWA is dismayed by the deaths and injuries in Gaza today of dozens of civilians, including children. The Agency unreservedly condemns the excessive use of force employed against demonstrators, who have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

 The population in the Gaza Strip has been exposed to the consequences of repeated armed conflicts and a stifling blockade over the past decade. Today’s violence and loss of life will add yet another layer of trauma onto an already untenable situation.

 UNRWA is specifically alarmed by the impact the latest developments have had on Palestine refugees, who constitute over 70 percent of Gaza’s population. Since 30 March, when what has become known as the “Great March of Return” started, at least 4 UNRWA students have been killed and some 125 injured.

 Behind the numbers, there are shattered lives, destinies and limbs. In many cases the injuries sustained are very severe and likely to result in life-long disabilities. UNRWA supports calls for investigations into these grave incidents in accordance with international standards to ensure accountability for violations of international law.

 The risk is high to see similar violence occur again in the coming days. Collective international mobilization is  therefore urgently required to prevent further loss of life and injury. Every additional casualty is a defeat for humanity.


UN MEDIA ADVISORY ON GAZA

GENEVA (May 14, 2018) — At the conclusion of its 95th Session, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued the following Statement:

 PREVENTION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, INCLUDING EARLY WARNING AND URGENT ACTION PROCEDURES

 Statement

 Israel

 The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, meeting in Geneva at its ninety-fifth session, from 23 April to 11 May 2018,

 Acting under its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures;

 Alarmed by the disproportionate use of force displayed by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) against Palestinian demonstrators who have been taking part, since 30 March, in the so called ‘the Great March of Return’ in Gaza, which has resulted in the death of at least 40 people, among them five children and in thousands of persons being injured;

 Gravely concerned that many of the persons who died or were injured were reportedly posing no imminent threat at the time they were shot;

 Alarmed also by the many reports according to which Israeli authorities have denied and continue to deny access to urgent medical treatment to injured Palestinians;

 Highly concerned that these incidents are taking place in a context marked by the 50 year- occupation of the Palestinian territory, the blockade imposed since 2007 on the Gaza strip and a rise of racist hate speech and incitement to racist violence against Palestinians by Israeli governmental officials and members of the ISF;

 Deeply worried about persisting discriminatory practices against Palestinians by Israel as well as the absence of adequate accountability mechanisms, which would permit Palestinians to seek justice for the human rights violations to which they are subjected and the failure to hold members of the ISF accountable;

 Concerned that while the State party publicly announced the conduct of an investigation into these events, an independent and impartial investigation has not yet taken place;

 Recalling the provisions enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Israel has been a party since 1979 and in particular the obligations contained in articles 2 1), 4 and 5 b) and d) as well as the concluding observations on Israel issued by the Committee in 2012 (CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16), especially paragraphs 10, 23, 24 and 26;

 The Committee urges the State party to:

  1.  Put an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza strip, refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and ensure prompt and unimpeded access to medical treatment to injured Palestinian;
  1. Initiate an impartial and independent investigation into the use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in compliance with international standards and hold those responsible accountable;
  1. Ensurethat all Palestinians under its effective control enjoy full rights under the Convention without discrimination especially, their right to life and security of person, freedom of opinion and expression, as well as their right to medical care;
  1. Takeall the necessary measures to fully implement the recommendations made by the Committee in 2012 and in particular:
  1. a) To fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip;
  1. b) To counter the tide of racism and xenophobia in public discourse, in particular by strongly condemning all racist and xenophobic statements by public officials and political and religious leaders, and by implementing appropriate measures to combat the proliferation of racist acts and manifestations of racist hate speech that particularly target Palestinians in the territories under the State party’s effective control.

2637th meeting

8 May 2018


Dear fellow human

My name is Olfat al-Kurd. I live in Shuja’iya in Gaza. I am 37 years old and have four children. In July 2017, I joined the B’Tselem team as one of three field researchers in Gaza. In the past few weeks, since the protests along the fence with Israel began, we have been working around the clock to document, collect eyewitness accounts and testimonies of injured people, and gather information about the demonstrations and casualties.

I attend the weekly protests not only in my professional capacity but also as a Gazan. Some of my photos, posted on B’Tselem’s photo blog, show how most of the protesters gather in tents pitched far from the fence. These families enjoy entertainment stages, live music, food stalls and other family activities. We go there to convey a political message, to demonstrate, but non-violently – we don’t go there with weapons. The soldiers shoot at us nonetheless, and people are injured from live fire and tear gas.

This week, a concerned Israeli colleague asked me why I keep attending the protests, even though it’s dangerous. I replied that I am, of course, afraid, sometimes so much that I fear I won’t come back.

But the truth is that nowhere in Gaza is safe – whether near the border or in our own homes. Israeli planes can bomb any house, anywhere, at any moment. We all live in constant dread of something terrible happening. Everyone in Gaza lost a relative in the last wars. I lost my brother in the 2009 ‘war’.

The festival activities at the protests are a rare opportunity for us to breathe, meet people, and feel that we belong to something larger than ourselves. The open areas near the fence are the vastest in Gaza, but no one has dared go there since the last war. We can’t go to the beach any longer because sewage infrastructure has collapsed as a result of the blockade, and raw sewage flows into the sea. Many Gazans live in abject poverty and cannot afford to sit in a café or a restaurant, so they come to the protests with a coffee thermos and food.

Israel has been holding Gaza under blockade for more than ten years. Some of the young people participating in the protests and being wounded or even killed by soldiers, do not know what it’s like to have running water and a steady supply of electricity. They have never left Gaza and grew up in a prison.

You can’t visit us, Israel doesn’t allow anyone to see what’s going on here. There is no real life in Gaza. The whole place is clinically dead.

The younger generations are crushed by the hopelessness and death everywhere. The protests have given us all a spark of hope. They are our attempt to cry out to the world that it must wake up, that there are people here fighting for their most basic rights, which they are entitled to fulfill. We deserve to live, too.

Sincerely,

Olfat al-Kurd
Gaza Field Researcher
B’Tselem


Gaza civilians demand action from the ICC

Palestinian victims today urged the Prosecutor of the ICC to move her preliminary examination of Palestine into a full investigation, with a complaint drafted by 40 lawyers from the Gaza Bar representing some 50 Palestinian trade unions, associations and civil society organizations plus 448 individual victims. The action was filed with the ICC by Maître Gilles Devers.

Palestinians file lawsuit against Israel at ICC

The procedure concerns three crimes:
– the blockade of Gaza
– the Israeli aggression in the summer of 2014
– the Israeli settlement of Palestine.

At a press conference in The Hague prior to submitting the complaint to the ICC, Mr Devers said that it was time for prosecutor to move the case forward.

“It is two years since Palestine has been under preliminary examination,” he said. “In Gaza, we think two years is too long.”

At a simultaneous press conference in Gaza attended by the lawyers and complainants, Basman AlAshi, Chief Executive of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital said there is a wealth of evidence available to the Prosecutor.

“All the prosecutor of the ICC needs to open a full investigation is that there is a reasonable basis for believing that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed. The destruction of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, a protected place under the Geneva Convention, provides that basis. So do the attacks on Al Aqsa, Durrah and Beit Hanoun Hospitals.”

Dr Mariam Abu Daqqa described the treatment of women prisoners in Israeli detention, from being arbitrarily detained to torture, being deprived of contact with their children, and appalling living conditions. She also noted the huge number of child prisoners, and the failure of Israeli authorities to accord them even the most minimum standards of treatment demanded by international conventions.

Lawyer Mahmoud Afana emphasised the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which breaches several aspects of international law, such as the right to self-determination, as well as many of the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Afana described the ten-year siege of Gaza as collective punishment which constitutes “… a genocidal humanitarian crisis happening in full view of the world.”

Rana Shubeir, speaking on behalf of civil society and young people, said that they are sick of living a life of fear:
fear of being denied travel for study or medical treatment, fear of another aggression, fear of never finding a job in “this black hole of deprivation and suffering.”

“We only want to enjoy the basic human rights which are guaranteed under international and humanitarian law. We want to live knowing that the future of our children will be as bright as their innocent smiles. The only way this can be achieved is through the application of justice – and that is all we ask from the ICC – apply the rules, and open a full investigation into Palestine,” she said.

Gilles Devers emphasised that this action is just the beginning of a long struggle, noting they are well-organized and determined.

He said the group was also hoping to persuade the ICC to open a full investigation “as a matter of urgency” into the situation in East Jerusalem, where Israeli authorities are imposing severe restrictions on and around Al Aqsa Mosque, and violently attacking Palestinians protesting their repressive actions against the third most holy site in islam.

“Justice is the response to violence. We call for the strengthening of this legal action. This action must be intensified. Our strength is the determination of the Palestinian people to defend their rights.”