15 Israeli and Palestinian organisations warn of far-reaching consequences of Israel’s for obstructions of UN human rights mechanisms

15 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations today warned of the far-reaching consequences of Israel’s refusal to fully cooperate with the United Nations (UN). On the morning of Israel’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), scheduled for Tuesday 29 January, it remains unclear whether it intends to participate.

This lack of transparency will not only mean that Israel avoids rigorous criticism of its violations of international law, but that the entire UPR system will be undermined by the loss of its two fundamental principles: equality and universality.

In May 2012, Israel formally announced its decision to “suspend its contact with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Council (the Council) and its subsequent mechanisms”.

Israel reportedly met with the Council President His Excellency Remigiusz A. Henczel in January 2013 and discussed a postponement of its UPR. However, as no formal request has yet been made, the Council agreed to proceed as scheduled and to consider on the day what steps to take if the Israeli delegation does not attend.

These exceptional circumstances have created uncertainty and forced some civil society organisations to revise or limit their engagement with the review process due to the risk of investing necessarily significant resources into a process that may not take place. Thus, a key component of the UPR process – civil society engagement – has been severely hampered.

Through this uncertainty, Israel and the Council are setting a dangerous precedent on the international stage, one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals. Israel’s decision to disengage from core mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system has, in effect, resulted in preferential treatment. All but one of the 193 UN Member States have attended their UPR as scheduled; in that single instance the State of Haiti was unable to attend due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. Israel should not receive any benefits or concessions for its efforts to   undermine the system of the UN and, in particular, its human rights system.

To the contrary, the Council should ensure the unobstructed process of Israel’s UPR in accordance with the principles and standards set in the UPR mechanism, thereby reasserting the condition that human rights are more important than political or diplomatic considerations.

Moreover, Israel’s move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN. Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognise the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.

Israel also rejects the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, incumbent upon it as the Occupying Power, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions, the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the oPt, and countless statements issued by governments worldwide.

In 2009, Israel declined to cooperate with the UN Fact-finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone. Justice Goldstone repeatedly called on Israel to engage, to no avail. More recently, in 2012, the UN Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the oPt was denied entry into the territory to collect testimonies. The Mission joined a long list of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, to whom Israel has also refused entry. Furthermore, since his appointment as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Richard Falk has not been allowed to enter the oPt to carry out his work.

Within this context, 15 human rights organisations call on the Council to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date.

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UNHRC poses “List of Issues” for Israel to Consider

Nazareth – On August 31, 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) requested answers from Israel to 26 questions covering the national human rights situation, including new developments since the last meeting.  Israel signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1991.  Israel must respond to this “List of Issues” in the report to the HRC in 2013.  The report will be used to judge Israel’s compliance with the ICCPR and will guide future HRC recommendations.

In consideration of human rights status of the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel, The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) would like to call the attention of the HRC and the public specifically to a few of the 26 questions.  The following questions, taken directly from the HRC “List of Issues”, and their answers in Israel’s 2013 report, will be critical in considering the ongoing discrimination faced by the Arab Palestinian minority and the necessity for change:

  • Please provide detailed information on any significant developments in the legal and institutional framework within which human rights are promoted and protected at the national level that have taken place since the previous periodic report, including any relevant case law.
  • Please provide updated information on developments aimed at ensuring the full application of the Covenant in Israel, as well as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
  • Please indicate any step taken to include the principle of equality and nondiscrimination in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and to repeal any discriminatory laws.
  • In light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (paras. 17 and 24) and in order to guarantee minorities’ rights, especially those of Palestinians and Bedouins, please provide updated information on measures taken:
    • To cease the  practice of  the  collective punitive  demolition of houses and private property
    • To recognize and promote the Bedouin population’s right to ancestral land and traditional livelihood (follow-up analysis on paragraph 24, CCPR/C/105/2). In this regard, please provide detailed information on the situation of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages and indicate measures that have been taken to stop the demolition of houses and indicate whether the State party envisages withdrawing the 2012 proposed Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev (Also known as the Prawer Plan)
    • To ensure the Bedouin’s and Palestinians’ access to health services, education, adequate housing, water and sanitation
    • What measures have been taken to ensure linguistic rights of Arab citizens of Israel?
    • To provide information on steps taken to ensure:
      • Equal representation of Jewish and Arab citizens in the civil service, in particular in decision-making positions
      • Equality in access to education between Jewish and Arab citizens, in particular in higher education where Arab citizens still face challenges to be accepted
      • The right of every citizen to participate in public life. In this regard, please comment on cases where political leadership of the Arab minority faces continued and severe attacks and harassment, including Members of Knesset
      • Please provide detailed information on efforts made to end the practice of administrative detention and whether the State party envisages withdrawing its derogations from article 9 of the Covenant. Please also indicate any measures taken to ensure that civilians are not tried before military courts and provide information on cases of ill treatment of detainees and arbitrary detention, in particular in cases of “shabah” and beatings.
      • Indicate how the State party ensures the full application of the principle of equality between women and men, in particular with respect to Israeli Arab women and women belonging to minorities
      • Please provide information on legislative measures envisaged or taken to incorporate the crime of torture in the legislation in conformity with article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and article 7 of the Covenant and to remove any justification of torture, including the notion of “necessity”
      • Provide detailed and updated information on the progress made to review  the legislation governing the state of emergency and the declaration made under article 4 of the Covenant. How does the State party refrain from using administrative detention and ensure that administrative detainees are afforded, in practice, all the fundamental safeguards, including the rights to have prompt access to a lawyer, to have an independent medical examination, to notify relatives and to receive visitors
      • Please indicate any steps taken by the State party to protect the rights of religious minorities and to ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to places of worship for Christians and Muslims
      • Provide detailed and updated information on the situation of human rights defenders’ freedom of association and freedom of opinion and expression and provide detailed information on the new Israeli anti-boycott law and its compliance with the right to freedom of conscience, expression and opinion. Please also provide information on the “Foreign Funding Law”, adopted on 2 March 2011 and specify what measures have been taken or are envisaged to revise these laws
      • Please provide information on measures taken to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary provision) and to review the State party’s policy with a view to facilitating family reunifications for all citizens and permanent residents without discrimination… Please also provide information on steps taken to ensure the right of Israeli citizens and residents of East Jerusalem to marry or live with a Palestinian partner.

The HRA calls on Israel to make a forthright and conclusive effort in responding to the concerns we highlighted here in the report to the HRC in 2013.  The State of Israel, in signing the ICCPR, is obliged to uphold international standard of human rights and humanitarian law. Accurate censure of human rights abuses within Israel is a necessary condition of upholding those standards and that is what the HRA calls on the State of Israel to do in this report. Additionally, the HRA calls on Israel to implement the ICCPR and apply it to its full intent with regards to the Arab Palestinian minority.

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