The Israeli authorities have recently introduced new measures to further hamper the access of Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip to effective and timely care at hospitals outside Gaza. The new restrictions came to light in the context of Al Mezan’s legal support to these patients, and impact those in particular who may have family members in Hamas. The measures violate the patients’ right to health and breach Israel’s obligations as the occupying power to facilitate medical treatment.
In June 2018, the Center received four briefs from the Directorate of the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) stating that four female patients were being denied permission to cross through Erez based on the patients’ alleged kinship to members of Hamas, but not on any allegation of having such affiliation or committed any wrongdoing themselves. It should be noted that on Monday, 15 January 2018, the Israeli High Court of Justice had ruled that members of Hamas and their first-degree relatives would be barred from crossing through Erez to receive medical treatment at Palestinian or Israeli hospitals.
Al Mezan stresses that the new measures serve to compound the already desperate situation of patient rights and highlight the use of discrimination to deny a person his or her right to medical care. The result of such discrimination—which is an extension of the government’s practices to delay and deny permits, arrest and detain patients, and attempt to coerce and blackmail them and their family members—is compounded threat to patient lives.
Al Mezan stresses that the new measures barring Palestinian patients from hospitals; including with occupied territory in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, constitute a form of collective punishment, outlawed under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, stating that “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
Al Mezan categorically rejects the basis on which the new measures have been enforced. Discrimination is an assault on basic rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Discrimination-based policies infringe on legal measures guaranteeing each person’s right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12 of the ICESCR) and the right to freedom of movement (Article 12 of the ICCPR).
Al Mezan calls on the international community to take effective and prompt steps to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law and thus to ensure Palestinian patients from Gaza have access to hospitals outside Gaza. As the Occupying Power, Israel is obligated to maintain public health within the occupied territory as per Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.