A UN panel of independent experts in Geneva has urged Israel to end a host of practices violating Palestinian human rights.
The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its State parties, published its concluding observations Thursday following a review of Israel’s human rights record earlier this month.
Addressing what chair Nigel Rodley described as “a range of serious problems“, the Committee’s final report contained 18 separate “principal matters of concern and recommendations”. These included a stark description of systematic discrimination inside Israel, where “the Jewish and non-Jewish population are treated differently in several regards”.
Israel’s “domestic legal framework”, the experts noted, “maintains a three-tiered system of laws affording different civil status, rights and legal protection for Jewish Israeli citizens, Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.”
The Committee urged Israel to “ensure equal treatment for all persons within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction regardless of their national or ethnic origin and in particular pursue the review of all laws discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
One such law highlighted under ‘Protection of the family’ was the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, and the restrictions it imposes on family reunification of Israeli citizens with Palestinian spouses from the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza Strip.
Israel denies the applicability of the ICCPR to the Occupied Palestinian Territories on the grounds that the covenant does not apply extraterritorially – “one of the very few state parties” to take this position, according to Committee member Cees Flinterman. The Committee, rebuffing the argument, duly addresses a number of issues of concern pertaining to Israeli military rule.
On Gaza, the Committee expressed “its concern at allegations of human rights violations committed during the military operations” of both Operation Pillar of Defence (November 2012) as well as this summer’s Operation Protective Edge. They noted specifically:
the disproportionate number of casualties among civilians, including children; the destruction of homes and other civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities and schools, in particular UNRWA schools used as shelters for civilians and other UN installations
The Committee also urged Israel to lift its “long-standing blockade” of the Gaza Strip, “insofar as it adversely affects the civilian population.”
In the West Bank, the Committee slammed Israel’s “continuing confiscation and expropriation of Palestinian land”, as well as “restrictions” on Palestinian access to “agricultural land and adequate water supply.” The experts further condemned the “construction of the Wall in the West Bank”, the “construction and expansion of settlements”, and “the retroactive legalization of [settler] outposts.”
Demanding an end to these practices, the Committee described Israeli policies as undermining “the enjoyment by Palestinians of a wide range of their Covenant rights, including the right to self-determination.”
Other aspects of Israel’s military rule addressed by the Committee were “excessive use of lethal force” against “Palestinian civilians”, “restrictions on freedom of movement” for Palestinians, the revocation of East Jerusalem permanent residency status, a “discriminatory zoning and planning regime”, and home demolitions – including a return of “punitive demolitions.”
The Committee also looked at “the continuing practice of administrative detention of Palestinians” based on “secret evidence”, and expressed concern “at reports of the use of torture and other ill-treatment in the State party’s detention facilities, including widespread, systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment of Palestinian children.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli government had made “strenuous efforts” to show compliance to the Human Rights Committee, sending a “high level delegation” to testify in Geneva, and submitting a 72-page report in advance. There was no immediate response from Israeli officials to the Committee’s findings.