PCHR’s Delegation Testifies before the UN Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices
On 15 July 2012, a delegation of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) testified before the UN Special Committee to Investigate into Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. PCHR was represented by PCHR’s Deputy Director for Program Affairs, Mr. Hamdi Shaqqura, and PCHR’s Deputy Director for Administrative and Legal Affairs, Mr. Iyad al-Alami.
This is the second session held by the Committee in Gaza. The Committee arrived in Gaza via the Rafah International Crossing Point, as Israel refused to receive the Committee officially and prevented it from completing its work. Over the past few years, the Committee has worked from Cairo, Amman and Damascus.
During the meeting with the Committee, Mr. Shaqqura outlined Israel’s practices during the period covered by the Committee’s investigations, pointing to the deterioration of human rights and international humanitarian law in Gaza. In particular, Mr. Shaqqura highlighted Israel’s violations of the right to life. He provided data and numbers about civilian casualties that result from the disregard the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has for the principles of distinction and proportionality. He explained that the IOF directly targets civilians in their residential areas. Mr. Shaqqura noted that all kinds of weapons are employed by the IOF, and that IOF use warplanes to carry out military operations, disregarding the impacts of the use of such weapons on civilians and civilian property.
Mr. Shaqqura also highlighted the death of a child, Mamoun Mohammed Zuhdi al-Dam (13), from al-Shaaf area, on 20 June 2012 when an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a farm owned by the child’s family. Mr. Shaqqura explained that the IOF directly targeted the farm, despite the fact that the farm is located in an open area with no military operations nearby.
Mr. Shoqqura addressed the violations committed in the buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, noting that although the buffer zone is identified to be 300 meters in width, PCHR has documented attacks that took place approximately 1,500 meters from the border. He also talked about the IOF’s continued attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the sea, within the 3 nautical-miles that the IOF allows fishing.
In addition, he talked about Israel’s closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, warning of the continued institutionalization and acceptance of the closure at the international level. He pointed to alleged improvements claimed by Israel, explaining that these improvements are artificial and never address the essence of the issue. The civilians’ suffering is unfathomable and it can come to an end only by lifting the closure.
For his portion, Mr. Iyad al-Alami talked about the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails and the lack of justice in Israel’s judicial system. Mr. al-Alami highlighted the cruel, inhuman and degrading detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners, including torture, the deterioration of their health conditions, medical negligence, including prisoners who suffer from serious diseases, and solitary confinement.
Mr. al-Alami also noted that thousands of prisoners are detained under bad conditions and talked about Israel’s illegal policies practiced against prisoners, including administrative detention which violates a prisoner’s right to fair trial, their right to defense and their right to know the charges against them. He also addressed the denial of prisoners’ right to family visitation, noting that such a denial is a form of collective punishment imposed on prisoners and their families.
Regarding the lack of justice in Israel’s judicial system, Mr. al-Alami highlighted the role Israel’s courts play by providing legal protection for the crimes committed by the IOF. He also reviewed the challenges that victims of human rights violations trying to get having access to the courts face, in view of the present laws that prevent redress and reparation for victims.
Mr. al-Alami also reviewed the obstacles created by Israel’s authorities to prevent victims from having access to justice, especially the financial obstacles presented by the fees required by Israel’s courts. He explained that these obstacles place an even greater burden on Palestinian victims if they choose to resort to Israel’s courts. In addition, there are other material challenges, as a result of the IOF’s decision in June 2007 to prevent Palestinian civilians from leaving the Gaza Strip to appear before Israel’s courts, whether as victims or eyewitnesses. The IOF further creates legal obstacles by enacting laws and legal amendments designed to deny victims their right to have access to justice.