Israeli military authorities are blocking access to and from the Gaza Strip for human rights workers, Human Rights Watch said, casting serious doubt over Israel’s ability to conduct its own report on the violations of international law and abuses committed in the occupied territory.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today that Israeli travel restrictions “call into question the Israeli military authorities’ claim to rely on human rights organisations as an important source of information for their criminal investigations into potential serious crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza war.”
The 47-page report, “Unwilling or Unable: Israeli Restrictions on Travel to and from Gaza for Human Rights Workers,” documents how Israel systematically bars human rights workers from travelling into and out of Gaza, even where the Israeli security services make no security claims against them as individuals.
The report also mentions that Egypt is also imposing severe travel restrictions on its border with Gaza.
The Israeli authorities claim that their investigations meet international standards, but this report puts serious question marks over this claim.
According to the organisation, Israel gives assurances that it also relies on reports by human rights groups to alert them of potential violations, provide documentary and forensic evidence, and facilitate witness testimony. However given the Israeli imposed restriction on travel on workers, this process is seriously undermined.
The report also called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s office to take note of the restrictions in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination of the Palestine situation.
If Israel wants the ICC prosecutor to take seriously its argument that its criminal investigations are adequate, a good first step would be to allow human rights researchers to bring relevant information to light
said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at HHRW.
“Impeding the work of human rights groups raises questions not just about the willingness of Israel’s military authorities to conduct genuine investigations, but also their ability to do so.”
ICC prosecutors are carrying out a preliminary examination of the Palestine situation, which includes analysing whether crimes falling under ICC jurisdiction have been committed, whether those crimes are sufficiently grave to merit the court’s attention and whether national authorities are genuinely carrying out credible investigations and, if appropriate, weighing prosecutions in cases that are being considered for investigation by the ICC.
HRW called on Israeli authorities to end the generalised travel ban and allow access to and from Gaza for all Palestinians. It also requested for the travel ban to be cancelled for human rights workers.