Al Mezan welcomes the adoption, on 30 March 2022, by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee of its concluding observations on Israel, which call on the State to lift the blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip, end practices of collective punishment, and ensure accountability for persistent Israeli human rights violations committed during Israel’s successive military operations against Gaza. The recommendations are framed in the context of “pre-existing systematic and structural discrimination against non-Jews in the State party”.
The Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its States parties, reviewed Israel for the fifth time on 2-3 March 2022. Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society attended the Committee’s 134th session, participating through the formal and informal NGO briefings with Committee Members. During NGO briefings, Al Mezan and partners called on the Committee Members to recognize that Israel has imposed a regime of institutionalized discrimination, oppression, and apartheid against the Palestinian people—including Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, and Palestinian refugees in exile—in violation of the ICCPR.
Prior to the session, Al Mezan, joined by partners, submitted a shadow report highlighting Israel's most flagrant violations of the ICCPR in the Gaza Strip during the reporting period, including blatant violations of the right to life in the context of the Great March of Return demonstrations and during the May 2021 hostilities, the continued restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in Gaza, including medical patients, and the chronic impunity for Israel’s violations. The Center also joined partner organizations in a submission concerning Israel’s violations of the ICCPR through its imposition and maintenance of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, including through its prolonged belligerent occupation. In 2018, Al Mezan and partners submitted a joint report to the Committee’s List of Issues.
In the Concluding Observations, the Committee voiced deep concern about the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, amounting to the collective punishment of more than two million Palestinian residents of Gaza, “and about its adverse impact on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of movement and other rights under the Covenant, including access to basic and life-saving services.” Particular emphasis was put on the adverse effect of the closure and its related policies on Palestinians patients from Gaza, with the Committee emphasizing the “decrease in the approval rate of applications for exit permits from Gaza and reported delays and even denials of applications for exit permits submitted on behalf of patients in need of medical treatment”.
The body of independent experts also reaffirmed its strong critique of Israel’s “continuing restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the State party throughout the OPT, including East Jerusalem, through its discriminatory permit regime and designation of access-restricted areas” and further concerns “that, in enforcing movement and access restrictions, the Israeli Security Forces often use lethal force, such as live ammunition, leading to deaths and serious injuries of, inter alia, […] Gaza farmers whose lands were designated as an access-restricted area, and Gaza fishermen along the Gaza Coast where the authorized fishing zones are often reduced or entirely closed”.
The Committee was also critical of Israel’s lack of accountability for human rights violations, including the excessive use of lethal force, “resulting in a general climate of impunity.” The Committee showed particular concern around the excessive force used by Israeli forces in policing demonstrations, including the Great March of Return. It was also strongly urged that Israel ensure accountability for human rights violations committed during its successive military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide victims or their families effective remedies and guarantees of non-repetition. The Committee also noted that “no perpetrator has been brought to justice for excessive force used against 260 Palestinians, including children, during the May 2021 Escalation of Hostilities in Gaza.”
Finally, on the subject of equality and non-discrimination, the Committee noted the “pre-existing systematic and structural discrimination against non-Jews in the State party” and reiterated the recommendations made by the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that Israel review and amend its Basic Law: Israel – The Nation-State of the Jewish People “with a view to eliminating its discriminatory effect on non-Jewish people and ensuring equal treatment of all persons within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, in conformity with the Covenant.”
Al Mezan welcomes the concluding observations and emphasizes that the violations cited by the Committee form part of Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people, a primary component of the crime of apartheid. The State’s noted failure to ensure accountability for systemic human rights violations allows for their repetition and maintenance of this institutionalized system of discrimination.