Representatives of Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights attended the thirty-fourth regular session of the Human Rights Council from March 16, 2017. The session came to a close today, with inter alia the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands abstaining from resolution, ‘Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’.
In our written statement at the initiation of the session, Al Mezan noted Israel’s continuous disregard of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law (IHRL) obligations through settlement expansion, closure and blockade policies, and denial of accountability and justice for the Palestinian population. Al Mezan’s focus on accountability highlights the role that impunity plays in permitting the continuation of such violations.
Al Mezan’s joint oral statement with Adalah-The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights on accountability noted Israel’s failure to investigate cases alleging serious violation of the laws of war by its armed forces and government leaders, committed during Israel’s 2014 attack on the Gaza Strip. The stated impunity is evidenced by Israel’s refusal to open criminal investigations into any of the 107 criminal complaints submitted by Al Mezan as well as the zero indictments issued into Al Mezan and Adalah’s 28 complaints, two and half years after the attack. The partners called on Israel to remove all barriers in Palestinian access to legal remedy and to hold those responsible for serious violations of international law to account through appropriate, fair and independent mechanisms.
During the Interactive Dialogue on human rights defenders, Al Mezan cited our experience of the continuously shrinking space for civil society and threats against human rights defenders who, in particular, cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Al Mezan reaffirmed Special Rapporteur Lynk’s recommendations, which include the need for Israel to comply with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and to repeal restrictive legislation and policies that target human rights defenders.
Al Mezan endorsed the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ oral statement on collective punishment in the oPt and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, which result in forcible displacement. The statement calls on the Council to pursue an investigation into the policies of collective punishment in a special report.
Al Mezan representatives also met with states representatives and civil society, and participated in three panel events with inter alia Badil and Medical Aid for Palestine to call for accountability for serious violations of international law, including violations of the right to health. In a side event organized by the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Al Mezan presented the Palestine section.
Some Human Rights Council members, notably European Union members and vocally the United States, failed to support the implementation of the rule of law today by abstaining on the accountability resolution tabled by the State of Palestine, which passed with a majority. The three resolutions for vote placed due focus on the dire need for accountability—for past as well as ongoing serious violations—and reaffirm the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Al Mezan calls for Council members to recommit themselves to supporting implementation of the rule of law, justice, and protection of human rights, in the context of Israel and the oPt, in line with foreign policy narratives maintained for other states.
As the human rights conditions continue to deteriorate in the oPt and new legislation deepens serious violations of international law, it is increasingly urgent that states echo the situation by insisting on instating respect for international law and protection of civilians under occupation.