Representatives of Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights (Al Mezan) attended the 33rd regular session of the Human Rights Council in September 2016 to launch a two-week advocacy campaign that proceeded to Berlin and Brussels. The campaign marked the two-year anniversary of Israel’s latest military bombardment of Gaza–for which justice remains out of reach–and focused on the legal and humanitarian repercussions of Israel’s almost ten-year closure/blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan’s participation at the Council followed our recent update on accountability in Israel, which confirmed that not one criminal investigation or indictment followed Al Mezan’s submission–to Israeli judicial mechanisms–of evidence of suspected international crimes perpetrated by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge in July-August 2016.
Al Mezan’s joint oral statement with Adalah–The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel called on the Council and member states to ensure that the Israeli forces’ apparent violations of international law are subject to independent and credible criminal investigations, with the aim of ensuring justice for victims according to customary international law. The statement reflected an extended written submission on impunity. A second joint statement initiated by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies called for the protection of human rights defenders who are at the receiving end of a protracted campaign of pressure, death threats and smear tactics for their work pursuing accountability.
A final joint statement initiated by Al Haq–Law in the Service of Man urged the transparent production of the OHCHR’s settlement database. The database is an appropriate and practical mechanism to challenge the continued expansion of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, which represents one of the main obstacles to achieving self-determination of the Palestinian people. The database is in line with established international positions on illegal settlements and its publication will be a step towards changing the status quo.
During Al Mezan’s participation in a side event organized by Badil, Al Mezan noted that the impunity of Israel stems from a symptom of entrenched oppression, inequality and institutionalized discrimination borne by the government of Israel. Al Mezan’s engagement in challenging Israel’s impunity–by, inter alia, engaging with the International Criminal Court–has resulted in a backlash of attacks against human rights defenders. Al Mezan called for support in countering the attacks on our staff by highlighting our accountability work and the challenges and successes faced therein for Palestinian victims.
During a joint mission organized by EuroMed Rights, Al Mezan met with state representatives and civil society in Berlin and encouraged German officials to take meaningful steps to uphold the right of Palestinians to self-determination and ensure the respect for international law and democratic principles in the resolution of the conflict. The delegation called for the implementation of the EU’s previous commitments on the exclusion of settlement activities at domestic level and support further efforts at EU level; lifting of the Gaza closure/blockade; providing support to address intra-Palestinian schisms and the democratic deficit in occupied Palestine; and addressing discrimination and pressure on civil society in Israel and occupied Palestine.
In Al Mezan’s fight against the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians in Gaza we called on EU officials in Brussels to act on its foreign policy priorities. Al Mezan continues to document ill-treatment and torture of two of Gaza’s most vulnerable populations–patients and fishermen–and monitors the growing barriers to justice in front of the dozens of documented victims of severe physical and psychological torture by Israeli forces and security authorities during Operation Protective Edge. These policies and practices must be addressed by the EU within its political dialogues with partner country Israel, as previously committed.