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Al Mezan Welcomes the ESCR Committee’s Concluding Observations on Israel’s 4th Periodic Report and Supports its Focus on Closure


Al Mezan Center for Human Rights welcomes the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Israel. The recommendations, published this month, adopted the majority of concerns raised in Al Mezan’s list of issues and shadow report to the Committee, and importantly, called for the immediate removal of Israel’s closure regime.[1]


The Committee stated deep concern:


“about the severe impact of the policies adopted by the State party relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, namely the closure policy and the related permit regime regarding the Gaza Strip and the occupation and settlement policy in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, on the enjoyment of the Covenant rights by people living there, including the rights to work, to food, to water and sanitation, to health and education, and to cultural rights.”[2]


One of the main outputs of the occupation being the separation and fragmentation of Palestinian territory, the Committee highlighted the State’s denial of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including East Jerusalem, and also in Israel, the enjoyment of the right to family life, and called for the State to facilitate family reunification.[3] In the same vein, the Committee expressed concern “at the blanket ban imposed on students from the Gaza Strip to access education in the West Bank since 2014” and urged the State party to lift the ban.[4]


Further reflecting Al Mezan’s reports, the Committee highlighted “[t]he state of poverty and food insecurity in Gaza, which is largely attributable to the State party’s closure/blockade”[5], and the “[r]estrictions imposed on the access of Palestinians to their agricultural land, water sources and irrigation facilities, and marine sources.”[6] Also impacting the rights to food and to work, the Committee noted the “long-lasting hazardous impact of the aerial herbicide spraying […] adjacent to the fence between Israel and Gaza on the crops productivity and soil in nearby areas in Gaza”[7] and the confiscation of and damage to Palestinian fishing boats, “which has deprived them of their means of subsistence”.[8] Regarding the rights to health and to life, the Committee referred to the “complicated exit-permit application process imposed on residents of Gaza [as having] devastating consequences, including death of patients waiting for permits.”[9]


The Committee’s recommendations to the State concerning the above issues and others focused on removing the movement restrictions on people and goods, which underpin the illegal closure regime and serve as the primary obstacle to Gaza’s residents’ ability to enjoy their rights under the Covenant. The State’s negative obligations also included refraining from herbicide spraying. In terms of positive obligations, the Committee called on the State to take all measures necessary to ensure that Palestinians in the oPt have access to territorial lands and waters, and inter alia, access to sufficient, safe and clean drinking water.


Addressing the applicability of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee noted “deep concerns” at Israel’s refusal to report on the situation in the oPt, and reminded


“the State party that the applicability of its human rights obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as the concurrent application of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in a situation of armed conflict or occupation have been affirmed by [inter alia] the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.[10]


Al Mezan welcomes the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations concerning the oPt, and reaffirms that the closure policy constitutes a grave and systematic violation of the rules and norms of international law. Treaty bodies, in addition to States and the rest of the international community, have an obligation to assume a rights-based approach in their response to the Israeli occupation and its related practices and policies, and must ground their work in the primacy of international law. 


Regarding the Committee’s deadline to progress on some of the above recommendations, Al Mezan recalls that the State’s failure to acknowledge its treaty law obligations repeated by each committee within the State’s periodic review process, requires concerted pressure on the State in order to ensure accountability under the treaty system.






[1] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Israel (E/C.12/ISR/CO/4) 18 October 2019, para 11(a)

[2] Ibid footnote 1, para. 10  

[3] Ibid footnote 1, paras. 40-41

[4] Ibid footnote 1, paras. 66-67

[5] Ibid footnote 1, para. 44

[6] Ibid footnote 1, para. 44

[7] Ibid footnote 1, para. 44

[8] Ibid footnote 1, para. 44

[9] Ibid footnote 1, para 58

[10] Ibid footnote 1, para. 9

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