Last week, Al Mezan concluded its participation in the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which took place from 22 February to 24 March 2021 in a virtual format. For this Council’s session, Al Mezan's advocacy efforts focused on three critical issues: ensuring accountability and justice for the Palestinian people; exposing Israel's apartheid regime and discriminatory policies against Palestinians, also on access to COVID-19 vaccine; and raising awareness about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip.
Ahead of the Council, Al Mezan and partners submitted five joint written statements flagging a series of pressing human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) amid the current global pandemic. These include the lack of supply of and access to COVID-19 vaccines in the Gaza Strip, forcible displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, silencing and smear campaigns against Palestinian human rights defenders and organizations, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners under Israeli detention during COVID-19, and Israel’s pervasive impunity and lack of accountability for serious human rights violations in the oPt.
The 46th session of the Council opened with the Annual High-Level Panel Discussion on Human Rights Mainstreaming, focusing on the state of play in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. Al Mezan joined Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in pointing out that “for decades, Israel has imposed and proactively maintains an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people” and called “for the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid.”
During the General Debate under Item 9, Al Mezan shed light on the impact of Israel's apartheid regime on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a means to strategically fragment the Palestinian people. In particular, it was noted how “Israel’s water domination, selective vaccine application, and movement restrictions that limit food supply, deny adequate healthcare and destroy family life are also manifestations of the discriminatory policies employed throughout its prolonged occupation.” Joining other civil society organizations, Al Mezan also outlined the discriminatory and fragmenting policies endured by the African-Palestinian community in East Jerusalem as well as the attacks against the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, West Bank.
In parallel to the Council, Al Mezan and partners also co-organized an online event on “Israeli Health Apartheid during COVID-19”. Speakers included Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, and a representative from Al Mezan, who underlined that “the disparity in access to vaccines—with Palestinians having very little access and Israel leading the world in vaccine coverage—is a direct result of the apartheid and colonial aspects that characterize its occupation.”
In reiterating Israel’s failure to meet its legal obligations to supply vaccines to the entire occupied Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan and partners took the opportunity to remind the Council of the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, where “the closure has undermined all aspects of life […], denying Palestinians the enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms, and affected all basic services, including healthcare.” While welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Al Mezan drew his attention to the high level of food insecurity in the Gaza Strip—expected to worsen due to the pandemic—and prompted him to further investigate the issue.
Al Mezan and partners also welcomed the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the oPt. During the Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner, Al Mezan’s Director took the floor to reaffirm Israel’s unwillingness “to genuinely investigate allegations of war crimes and other serious violations of international law or to hold perpetrators responsible,” thus making it crucial for the Council and its Members to support “the international law and fact-based resolutions concerning the rights of Palestinians—in particular on accountability.”
In the wake of the 3 March 2021 confirmation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the opening of an investigation into the Situation in Palestine, Al Mezan and its partners called on the Council and UN Member States to promptly welcome and fully support the ICC investigation into suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine, including the crime of apartheid.
At the end of the 46th Council session, Member States adopted three resolutions on Palestinians’ right to self-determination, Israeli settlements in the oPt (both under Item 7), and the newly merged resolution under Item 2 on the human rights situation in the oPt and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice.
 See the statements led by Al Mezan (https://www.mezan.org/en/post/23951), Cairo Institute (http://mezan.org/en/post/23946), Al Haq (https://www.mezan.org/en/post/23952), and Habitat International Coalition (http://mezan.org/en/post/23950).