The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) called on Monday for an investigation into Israel's maltreatment of Palestinian prisoners and added that the viability of life in Gaza is at stake due to the Israeli blockade. The claim was made by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, in his report presented in Geneva.
Professor Falk criticised the arbitrary detention of Palestinians and called for an inquiry into the torture of detainees in Israeli prisons. "The treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is controversial. There are about 5,000 prisoners now in custody, with around 750,000 Palestinians imprisoned since 1967, when Israeli occupied the Palestinian territories." He pointed out that many prisoners are held "arbitrarily and are subjected to torture, coerced confessions, solitary confinement and denial of family visits." He called again for a probe into the death of the Palestinian Arafat Jaradat, who died last February in an Israeli jail, apparently under torture.
Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Falk accused Israel of imposing collective punishment on its 1.75 million Palestinians inhabitants, noting that the viability of life in the beleaguered territory is at stake. "The viability of Gaza needs urgent attention and cannot be left to the mercies of continuing Israeli occupation," he said. Israel maintains its blockade of Gaza because of what it claims are security concerns.
"Forty-six years ago Israel's occupation of Palestine began. Six days of war has turned into 46 years of occupation," said the professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. "Seventy per cent of Gaza's population depends on international aid for survival and 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption."
Falk visited Gaza last year in the wake of Israel's seven-day offensive against the Strip which claimed the lives of about 170 people.
Israel and its US ally boycotted the debate at the Human Rights Council in Geneva when Prof. Falk presented his report. Indeed, Israel has boycotted the forum since it approved the Goldstone Report on its 2008/9 "Operation Cast Lead" against the people of Gaza. As far as America is concerned, it believes that US citizen Falk is not working towards peace in the Middle East. Its representative at the UNHRC has called for the Rapporteur's resignation.