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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUES WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES AND WITH THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

18 March 2019

The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, and with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, reminded once again that Israel had not allowed him to visit the occupied territory since he had assumed this mandate three years ago.  That was part of a broader pattern of Israel’s non-cooperation in recent years with various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.  The situation in Gaza was moving from a tragic human-made crisis to a humanitarian catastrophe.  Israel had maintained a hermetic air, sea and land blockade around Gaza, controlling who and what entered and left the Gaza Strip.  Settler violence in the West Bank was on the rise.  The Special Rapporteur highlighted the Palestinians’ right to water, natural resources and the environment. 

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as the concerned country.

State of Palestine spoke as the concerned country, saying that Israel was attempting to hide these crimes and violations of humanitarian law, flouting the norms of international treaties and laws.  The colonizing efforts of Israel had lasted too long, and were causing Palestinians to lose faith in the international community, and that community’s ability to uphold international law. 

The Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine also spoke.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers condemned all attacks on unarmed Palestinian people and all violations of international humanitarian law, including land confiscation and destruction of houses.  Delegations called on Israel to grant access to the current mandate holder and to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms.  The unlawful blockade had created a serious emergency situation in Gaza, threatening the entire population.  Israel had to recognize that the natural wealth, environment and resources in the occupied Palestinian territory belonged to the Palestinian people.  Some delegations reiterated their call for Palestinians to enjoy their right to self-determination and to establish a sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Other speakers called attention to the inherent discrimination in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  Mr. Lynk had yet again used unacceptable language against Israel with classic anti-Semitic tropes. 

Speaking were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, European Union, Kuwait, Pakistan, Sudan, Tunisia, Iraq, Cuba, Qatar, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Saudi Arabia, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Botswana, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Libya, Jordan, Maldives, Bahrain and Oman.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Norwegian Refugee Council, Touro Law Center, The Institute on Human Rights and The Holocaust, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Ingénieurs du Monde, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, United Nations Watch, Institute for NGO Research, and The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd.

Santiago Canton, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the Commission was mandated by the Council to investigate the large-scale protests in the Gaza Strip that started on 30 March last year.  He regretted that the Israeli Government had not cooperated with the Commission.  The Commission found that Israeli Security Forces had committed serious violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law which warranted criminal investigation and prosecution.  One hundred and eight-nine Palestinians had been killed, of which 183 with live ammunition, including 35 children, people with disabilities, two journalists and three paramedics.

Kaari Betty Murungi, Member of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, reminded that the Gaza healthcare system had no capacities to deal with the scale and nature of the injuries.  Many persons had suffered complicated injuries that required operations.  The international community should continue to support the healthcare system in Gaza and place diplomatic pressure on Israel to permit patients to exit Gaza. 

Sara Hossain, Member of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, urged the Council’s Member States and the international community to consider the issue of assistance to those whose lives had been affected by the ongoing shootings.  There should be protective monitoring as the protests continued and the issue of accountability needed to be addressed. 

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as the concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Commission for its efforts in compiling the report and all who helped the Commission in its work, and appreciated the efforts of non-governmental organizations that provided information.  This was the third Commission of Inquiry since 2009 to investigate violations and Israel, the occupying force, had refused to cooperate with any of them, accused the Commissions of being partial, and rejected their conclusions.  Israel considered itself above the law and rejected resolutions of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.  

The Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine also spoke.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said it was deplorable that 256 people had lost their lives and over 29,000 had been wounded, including children, medical workers, journalists and persons with disabilities.  It went against the principle of proportionality under international humanitarian law.  The non-cooperation of Israel with the Commission was proof of Israel’s total disregard of international instruments and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Some delegations stressed that the Council had a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure just remedy to victims.  Other delegations noted that the Commission documented violations that amounted to crimes against humanity so the international community had to end Israel’s impunity.  Some speakers said that Hamas had staged the march as a propaganda stunt to create causalities with which to indict Israel as it knew that this Council would libellously condemn Israelis for protecting their families.  They criticized many aspects of the Commission of Inquiry’s work, including its incoherent legal analysis and its failure to take into account the role of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. 

Speaking were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group,  Pakistan, Belgium, Slovenia, Iraq, Tunisia, Qatar, Cuba, Syrian Arab Republic, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Maldives, Egypt, Algeria, Spain, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, China, Oman, Lebanon, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Ireland, Switzerland, Libya, South Africa and Jordan.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: United Nations Watch, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Institute for NGO Research, The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, World Jewish Congress, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, and Defence for Children International.

The Council will next hold a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (A/HRC/40/73).  (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/73)

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, reminded once again that, contrary to its solemn obligations as a member of the United Nations, Israel had not allowed him to visit the occupied territory since he had assumed this mandate three years ago.  That was part of a broader pattern of Israel’s non-cooperation in recent years with various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.  The Special Rapporteur reminded that the situation in Gaza was moving from a tragic human-made crisis to a humanitarian catastrophe.  Under international law, Gaza remained an occupied territory.  Although the Israeli military and settlers had left in 2005, Israel had maintained a hermetic air, sea and land blockade around Gaza, controlling who and what entered and left the Gaza Strip.  Gaza’s economy had all but collapsed, and the World Bank reported that at roughly 54 per cent unemployment, it had the highest unemployment rate in the world.  Mr. Lynk endorsed the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that the use of lethal fire by Israel against the demonstrators who had not posed an imminent threat was unlawful.  He also supported the Commission’s recommendations, including two of its most important ones: that Israel must immediately lift its suffocating blockade of Gaza, which was the source of many human rights and humanitarian law violations; and there must be full accountability for the unlawful behaviour of the Israeli military. 

The Special Rapporteur recalled that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, also presented significant human rights issues as the Israeli occupation deepened and thickened.  His October 2018 report to the General Assembly had focused on the alarming trends towards annexation in the West Bank.  Even though annexation under modern international law was strictly forbidden, Israel continued full-steam with settlement expansion, its political leaders openly speaking about annexing some or all of the West Bank, and it had never rescinded its unlawful annexation of East Jerusalem, despite scores of resolutions by the United Nations.  Settler violence in the West Bank was on the rise.  The Temporary International Presence in Hebron, which had provided some measure of protection to the Palestinian residents of Hebron, had been unilaterally shuttered by Israel.  Forced evictions continued to occur in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.  Mr. Lynk highlighted the perilous situation of human rights defenders in Palestine and Israel, as Israeli authorities were continuing their efforts to silence them, including through disinformation campaigns, as well as the targeting of civil society funding sources. 
 
The Special Rapporteur further raised the issue of the database of business enterprises engaged in certain Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory that the Council had called for three years ago in its resolution 31/36.  The availability of such a database was a vital tool to help ensure that companies, including companies in settlements, assessed the human rights impact of their activities and took all necessary steps to ensure that they did not have an adverse impact upon the human rights of the Palestinian people.  The Special Rapporteur was disappointed that the database was not yet ready for its release, but he remained optimistic that it would be launched in the near future.  He urged the Council to stand behind its decision from 2016 to create the database.  He condemned the violent suppression by Hamas of the popular demonstrations in Gaza against living conditions over the past several days which had resulted in the reported arrest of 500 people and the beating of journalists and human rights defenders. 

The Special Rapporteur highlighted the right to water, natural resources and the environment.  A cluster of Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills were forced to buy expensive trucked-in water for their homes and animals.  In Gaza, the collapse of the coastal aquifer, the only natural source of drinking water in the Strip and now almost entirely unfit for human consumption, was contributing to a significant health crisis among the two million Palestinians living there.  Throughout the West Bank, Israeli quarry companies extracted approximately 17 million tons of stone annually, almost all of which was destined for the Israeli local market.  The Dead Sea and its plentiful natural resources, part of which lay within the occupied Palestinian territories, was off-limits to any Palestinian development while Israeli companies were permitted to harvest the minerals in an apparent act of pillage.  Groves of West Bank olive trees were routinely destroyed by Israeli settlers with virtual impunity.  The transfer of Israeli industrial waste to treatment plants in the West Bank contributed to the environmental scarring of the occupied territory, without the involvement or consent of the Palestinians.  For the almost five million Palestinians living under occupation, the degradation and alienation of their water supply, the exploitation of their natural resources and the defacing of their environment was symptomatic of the lack of any meaningful control they had over their daily lives as Israel, the occupying power, exercised its military administrative powers in a sovereign-like fashion, with vastly discriminatory consequences. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

Israel was not in the room to take the floor as the concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur and condemned Israel’s refusal to participate in the process. Israel was attempting to hide these crimes and violations of humanitarian law, flouting the norms of international treaties and laws which Israel was a member of.  The colonizing efforts of Israel had lasted too long, and were causing Palestinians to lose faith in the international community, and that community’s ability to uphold international law.  For 52 years, Israel had continued with the same policies of assassination, execution, deportations and exploitation, undermining the historic and legal character of the area.  The discrimination against the Palestinians was racially motivated.

The Special Rapporteur’s report was now part of a corpus of legal documentation of great legal work that documented the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territories, destroying agriculture and fishing.  Israel had spread a colonizing and racist system, added to which were the crimes of individual settlers against Palestinians. They had seen systematic attacks against their people to deprive them of their security.  Israel had put a stop to the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, the removal of which was compromising the individual security of Palestinians.  They had seen children die, as the emergency services had not been able to intervene after fire and so forth.  The intervention by the international community must happen to stop Israel pillaging the occupied territories of resources, which was worse than apartheid.  The actions of the Israeli army and settler movement were supported by 142 laws, including a law on nationality.  The work by the Special Rapporteur and other rapporteurs representing the international community showed that work was vital.  Mr. Lynk’s report must be acted upon, so that human rights were protected and the security of the Palestinian people was re-established.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967


Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noted that Israel continued to exploit and destruct Palestinian water, agricultural land, minerals, mud, stone and oil causing serious environmental damage on Palestinian communities.  What measures could be taken by the international community, including in this chamber, to reverse systemic impunity for Israel’s violations?  Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, regretted that the Rapporteur had not been granted access to the occupied Palestinian territories.  Concern was shared over practices which infringed on Palestinians’ access to their natural resources, in violation of Israel’s duties as the occupying power.  Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said Israel had continuously failed to cooperate with the Council, its mechanisms and the mandate holder.  The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, especially their right to self-determination, were enshrined in international instruments and should be implemented immediately. 

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that in the Summit in Margarita in 2016, States of the Non-Aligned Movement had reaffirmed that the Israeli occupation constituted a destabilizing factor in the region.  The unlawful blockade had created a serious emergency situation in Gaza, threatening the entire population.  European Union expressed concern for human rights abuses, particularly over 24,000 injured Palestinians during protests, and called on Israel to grant access to the current mandate holder. Based on the latest report, what were the main socio-economic consequences of the occupation?  Kuwait condemned all attacks on unarmed Palestinian people and all violations of international humanitarian law, including land confiscation and destruction of houses.  A sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital must be established.

Pakistan said that the findings of the Special Rapporteur’s report were alarming, especially regarding the prevalence of poverty among Palestinians and their lack of access to food.  Israel had to recognize that the natural wealth, environment and resources in the occupied Palestinian territories belonged to the Palestinian people.  Sudan reiterated the importance of keeping item 7 on the Council’s agenda and rejected the efforts to eliminate that agenda item.  It strongly condemned the barbaric acts of the occupying power against the Palestinian people, calling on Israel to govern in the best interest of the people.  Tunisia noted that Israel’s policies were leading the Palestinians to despair, trying to deplete their natural resources.  The policies of bulldozing the Palestinian land and ending its biological diversity was a confirmation of Israel’s intention to accomplish the slow death of the Palestinian people.   

Iraq regretted the ongoing and systematic violations of Palestinians’ rights and regretted that those attacks had not garnered the adequate attention of certain member and observer States.  Iraq condemned the ongoing settlement activities and underscored the right of the Palestinians to return to their land.  Cuba reminded that the serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory had been repeatedly condemned by the international community.  The only sustainable solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the existence of two States.  Qatar condemned Israel’s refusal to grant access to the Special Rapporteur, recalling that the Palestinian people had been living in bitter and difficult conditions, which robbed them of their basic needs.  Israeli settlements constituted a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and they revealed that Israel did not believe in the two-State solution. 

Bolivia (Plurinational State of) stated that behind many international conflicts, there was a desire to control natural resources, and they were concerned about the Special Rapporteur’s findings that access to water in the occupied territories was so constrained.  They joined the Special Rapporteur in his recommendations and urged that Israel respect its obligations as an occupying power.  Saudi Arabia said the report reaffirmed the Israeli occupying power’s continued violations of international law as it continued to build settlements in the occupied territories, and to carry out mass evacuations of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.  Saudi Arabia fully supported the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur, including the full implementation of Security Council resolution 23/34.  Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) condemned the severe human rights violations in the occupied territories, and Israel’s policies of restricting access to healthcare for Palestinians, in violation of international law.  They called on Israel to allow access to drinking water for Palestinians, and to ensure the cessation of the building of settlements.  Botswana encouraged Israel to grant the Special Rapporteur access to the occupied Palestinian territory in order to carry out his duties in accordance with his mandate.  Botswana stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and was concerned about the mass evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, their limited access to health, and the environmental degradation they were subjected to.  Egypt noted that the report gave many examples of human rights violations such as the destruction of houses, infrastructure, illegal searches, and denial of education.  They regretted that the international community had not been able to uphold international law for the Palestinians.  Algeria expressed their regret over the occupying power’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.  They reiterated their support for his conclusions, notably bringing about an end to the occupation of the Palestinian people, and called for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own sovereign State.

Iran said considerable numbers of Palestinian civilians, women, children and journalists had been killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations.  This demonstrated again the unbearable situation faced by people in Gaza for decades and testified of crimes against humanity.  Bangladesh said that the heinous blockade of Gaza for the twelfth year was resulting in unacceptable suffering of the Palestinians.  Bangladesh condemned ongoing settlement expansion activities in the West Bank.  Lebanon said that the report showed again that the practices of Israeli authorities’ day after day denied the Palestinians of their basic rights.  A fear was voiced that the report would be dead letter in the face of inactivity of the international community.

Indonesia deeply regretted that Israel continued to shy away from its legal responsibilities of an occupying power.  Israel had appropriated private and public property without lawful authority, exploited the territory’s natural resources for its own gain, and practically ended the Palestinian people’s right to development.  Afghanistan condemned the exploitation of natural resources by Israel while banning its use by the very people who owned it, which had led to a humanitarian crisis.  Given the absence of any political will whatsoever on the part of Israel to address the violations, the international community was called upon to end the misery that had perpetuated now for over a half a century.  Zimbabwe reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to independence in their own State on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.  Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement had implications on the exercise of the Palestinians’ rights to education, health, employment and family life.

Turkey appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s emphasis on the devastating effects of the Israeli occupation on the natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The everlasting campaign of violence against Palestinian civilians by the Israeli security forces proved that the international protection of the Palestinian people was an obligation, not an option.  Libya condemned Israel’s methodical attacks against the Palestinian people, noting that the Israeli authorities engaged in the deportation of Palestinians and the destruction of their homes.  The United Nations and the Council had to rise to their historic and moral responsibility to stop those violations and secure the rights of the Palestinians to return to their land.  Jordan called for the continued allocation of technical resources to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  Jordan rejected all Israel’s actions that sought to change the situation on the ground, including the illegal settlement activity, and it called for the recognition of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Maldives reiterated its strong condemnation of the systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It called on the international community to provide substantial funding to prevent another humanitarian disaster.  Bahrain urged Israel to abide by the United Nations resolutions regarding illegal settlements and to guarantee the right of individuals to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  The siege of Gaza amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinians and it should be lifted.  Oman called for holding accountable those responsible for human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Israel was acting in total disregard of international instruments, leading to many casualties and victims, and to what could be regarded as crimes against humanity. 

Interim Remarks

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, in interim remarks, stated he had heard three main areas of concern from speakers.  First regarding accountability, he believed there was an enormous gap between international legal promises and international legal performance and protection, with respect to Israel and its occupation of the Palestinian territory.  The database listing businesses engaging with the settlements, which the Human Rights Council had authorized, was a good tool, would shed light on the occupation, and would help.  Economic factors were important, as the settlements were the engine of the occupation.  There had been repeated calls for accountability by very respected reports.  He warned that criticism without consequences was an empty substitute for action.  Mr. Lynk reminded the Council that article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations required Member States to abide by all resolutions of the United Nations.  There were 25 United Nations Security Council resolutions pertaining to the settlements and the application of the fourth Geneva Convention that Israel had not abided by.

Second, regarding the living conditions in the occupied territories, the Special Rapporteur said he would focus on Gaza as it was there that the crisis was the greatest.  He welcomed the empathy expressed today by speakers for the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza.  The anguish that lay behind the fence around Gaza was more invisible to the international community than the moon.  Both the former and present United Nations Secretary Generals had expressed concern about the blockade of Gaza.  The closure of Gaza suffocated the people, and amounted to collective punishment.  Third, he noted the concerns raised regarding the responsibilities of the occupying power.  Any occupying power had to assure four areas of responsibility.  It must act only as a temporary administrator until it returned the territory back to the sovereign population, acquire no sovereign right over that territory, must govern in good faith, and must act as trustees, subject only to their legitimate security and administrative requirements.  He had found Israel to be in breach of all four of these aspects of international law.  Amongst the best things the Human Rights Council could do would be to initiate a study to see if Israel was an unlawful occupier, and launch a study on the repercussions of a country that refused to uphold international laws on occupation.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967

Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine stressed the need to hold to account and investigate Israel for the war crimes it perpetrated.  The High Commissioner was called on to submit reports on Israeli violations to the International Criminal Court and called the Prosecutor of the Court to open a formal investigation into the Israeli crimes.  Norwegian Refugee Council said that the prolonged occupation could not but oblige the occupant to intervene for the benefit of the occupied population, when the passage of time so demanded.  A corollary right to provide development assistance was raised when the occupying power failed to discharge its duties accordingly.  Touro Law Center, The Institute on Human Rights and The Holocaust said that modern anti-Semitism had its mechanisms in the United Nations, the Council and Democrats in the United States. The goal was to demonize the Jewish State.

Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man said that throughout the 51 years of occupation, Israel had systematically exploited the natural resources of Palestinians.  In the Gaza Strip, over 95 per cent of water was unfit for human consumption.  Ingénieurs du Monde noted repressive regimes that tortured human rights activists, including Turkey, Lebanon, Venezuela, Iran and others.  Rapporteur only focused on Israeli actions and failed to discuss all other human rights abuses.  None of the press releases addressed Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields or attacks on Israeli civilians.  International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that the occupation resulted in under-resourcing local Palestinian judicial institutions, with near-total denial of jurisdiction for Palestinian tribunals over Israeli parties.  As a result, Palestinians were forced to resort to Israeli courts which had a systematic bias against them so the Rapporteur was asked about how to provide access to justice to Palestinians.

United Nations Watch called attention to the inherent discrimination in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and asked that his mandate be expanded.  The organization had repeatedly drawn the attention of the Special Rapporteur to him ignoring the victimization of the Palestinians and Israelis by Hamas, which prejudged the outcome of the findings.  Institute for NGO Research reminded that the Special Rapporteur had yet again used unacceptable language against Israel with classic anti-Semitic tropes.  He had cited non-governmental organizations with links to terror groups in violation of the Code of Conduct of the Special Procedure mandate holders.  The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd appreciated the attention given by the Special Rapporteur to the right to water, natural resources and the environment, reminding that in Gaza almost all water was unfit for human consumption, causing a health crisis.  The current Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip was only enhancing that crisis and power shortages were freezing the construction of Gaza’s desalination plant. 

Concluding Remarks

MICHEAL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the
Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, responding to the questions posed by non-governmental organizations, reminded that the international community needed to ensure that Israel lifted the siege of the Gaza Strip.  Gaza needed a sort of a Marshal Plan to ensure that the people there had sufficient supplies and enough drinking water.  That aid would be fruitless unless the Israeli blockade was lifted.  As for the comment that he had never spoken of the human rights abuses committed against the Israelis and those committed against Palestinians by Hamas, Mr. Lynk stressed that any human right violation had to be condemned.  When it came to the scope of his mandate, Mr. Lynk reminded that the scope was defined by the Human Rights Council.  On comments that the language of his report was anti-Semitic, he asked who could deny the facts on the ground and that the Israeli settlements were growing.  That would be defiance of the English language.    

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/HRC/40/74).  (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/74)

Presentation of Report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

SANTIAGO CANTON, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, said this Commission was mandated by the Council to investigate the large-scale protests in the Gaza Strip starting 30 March last year.  He confirmed that these were not military operations, but civilian protests and were overwhelmingly unarmed, if not always peaceful.  He regretted that the Israeli Government had not cooperated with the Commission or allowed entry into Israel or occupied Palestinian territory.  The Commission therefore had relied on media recordings, 325 interviews with witnesses and other documentation to create a solid body of over 8,000 supporting documents to the report.

The Commission found that Israeli Security Forces had committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which warranted criminal investigation and prosecution.  One hundred and eighty-nine Palestinians were killed, of which 183 with live ammunition, including 35 children, persons with disabilities, two journalists and three paramedics.  There were two occasions in north and central Gaza which may have constituted an “imminent threat of life or serious injury” to Israeli Security Forces, but in all other cases, the use of live ammunition was unlawful.  The Commission found that the targeting of an unarmed demonstrator based solely on political affiliation or membership in an armed group was unlawful.

The Commission called on the Government of Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, ensure that those injured during the protests were granted prompt exit permits to seek medical attention, ensure timely access for medical and humanitarian workers, and ensure efficient coordination for the entry of medical supplies.  He recommended that United Nations Member States support the health system in Gaza with necessary resources.  The Israeli Security Forces’ Rules of Engagement should permit lethal force only as a last resort when the person targeted posed an imminent threat to life, not to be used indiscriminately in an unarmed crowd.  The de facto authorities in Gaza should stop the use of incendiary kites and balloons and together with the Palestinian Authority should uphold the right to peaceful assembly.  The international community needed to take stronger action to stop the loss of lives, and more needed to be done than setting up a commission of enquiry.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as the concerned country.

State of Palestine, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Commission for its efforts in compiling the report and all who helped the Commission in its work, and appreciated the efforts of non-governmental organizations that provided information.  State of Palestine welcomed the report.  This was the third Commission of Inquiry since 2009 to investigate violations and Israel, the occupying force, had refused to cooperate with any of them, accused the Commissions of being partial, and rejected their conclusions.  Israel considered itself above the law and rejected resolutions of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.  Atrocities and murder of civilians had been committed by Israel, killing many civilians, medical teams and journalists.  The Commission documented those figures.  Bloodshed was a dominant technique of the occupying force.  The Commission had documented violence until end of December last year and more people had been injured and four children had been killed this year as Israel continued to target protesters indiscriminately.  The report drew on facts, covered with testimonies and photographs, strengthening the credibility of its conclusions that Israeli soldiers had violated international human rights law.  Some of the crimes amounted to crimes against humanity.  The High Commissioner was called on to refer the cases to international justice bodies so that remedies could be provided to victims.  If not, Israel would be encouraged to continue with its repression.

Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine reiterated that arbitrary Israeli practices, policies and violations of Palestinian human rights and international humanitarian law had been committed on a daily basis since the Israeli occupation had begun in 1967.  It called on the Council to adopt and approve the report of the Commission of Inquiry, and on Member States to adopt a resolution on the extension of the Commission’s mandate.  The Great March of Return demonstrations had continued and human rights violations had continued to be committed by Israel.  The Commission called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit the report to the International Criminal Court, and it urged the Prosecutor of the court to open a formal investigation into the Israeli crimes, to hold Israel to account for the war crimes it had perpetrated, and to prosecute all those involved in them.  War crimes were not subject to any statute of limitations.  Israel’s persistent violations and aggressions were a result of impunity, which encouraged Israeli forces to perpetrate more crimes against Palestinian civilians. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the ongoing barbaric aggression by the Israeli occupation forces against civilian protesters in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, which until last week had killed 256 Palestinians and wounded more than 29,000 others, including children, health workers, journalists and persons with disabilities.  European Union was deeply alarmed by the sharp escalation of violence and loss of human lives in 2018 in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly Gaza.  It called on all parties to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and encouraged the Commission to work with impartiality and to investigate violations and abuses of human rights by all parties.  Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, believed that the full implementation by both parties of the report’s recommendations would help to ensure the realization of the human rights of civilians on both sides, prevent further violations during demonstrations, ensure access to medical services and the fulfilment of the right to health of injured persons, and ensure accountability and reparations for committed violations.

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf expressed deep regret that the Commission of Inquiry had not been allowed access to the occupied Palestinian territory.  The report had outlined unjust aggressive actions by Israel, such as the oppression of peaceful demonstrators, and attacks on protected groups, such as children and persons with disabilities.  Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, condemned Israel’s refusal to allow the Commission of Inquiry access to the occupied Palestinian territory.  The report reiterated the importance of accountability for the crimes committed against peaceful demonstrators, and the Arab Group asked the occupying power to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission.     

Pakistan said it was deplorable that more than 256 persons had lost their lives and over 29,000 had been wounded, including children, medical workers, journalists and persons with disabilities.  The international community was urged to bring lasting peace to the region, including by implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.  Belgium said that the conclusions of the report were serious and substantial, including that there were reasonable grounds to believe that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law had been committed, and that some may constitute international crimes.  Accountability was a crucial principle to reach the path of dialogue.   Slovenia was working closely with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to implement capacity-building programmes for rehabilitation and psycho-social well-being of children affected by the lack of quality health services.  How could the international community provide support to the health care system in Gaza in order to ensure the necessary treatment for those injured and affected. 

Iraq deplored the non-cooperation of the occupying power.  This was proof of Israel’s total disregard of international instruments and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The Council had a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure just remedy to victims.  Tunisia said that Israel’s disregard of international instruments continued.  The Commission had documented violations that amounted to crimes against humanity, and the international community had to end Israel’s impunity.  Qatar stigmatized the lack of cooperation of the occupying power with the Commission.  Targeting protesters and excessively targeting children, persons with disabilities and rescue officers was a serious violation of international conventions and a shame on humanity.

Cuba lamented that the report came late and only in English and highlighted the importance of multilingualism in the Human Rights Council.  The violation of international humanitarian law and human rights laws continued with impunity in the Palestinian occupied territories and the only possible solution was two States defined along the pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.  Syrian Arab Republic said that the lack of access granted by Israel to the Commission of Inquiry was a political policy to hide its cold blooded crimes against the Palestinian people from the international community.  It called for the end of the siege on Gaza and for the perpetrators to be held to account.  Russian Federation regretted Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.  It reminded that the protests were caused by the closure of the United States’ embassy in Tel Aviv and its reopening in Jerusalem on Nakba Day, seriously jeopardizing the process of peace in the region.  Russia condemned the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli forces.

Saudi Arabia firmly condemned the aggression at the hands of the Israeli forces and called on the international community to bring an end to decades of violence against the Palestinian people, which the forces of occupation continued to carry out in full impunity.  It called upon all countries to live up to their responsibilities to guarantee human rights worldwide.  Namibia strongly condemned the senseless killing of Palestinian civilians and endorsed the call for Israeli forces to thoroughly investigate the response of their soldiers and hold all perpetrators accountable.  It also highlighted that although it agreed with the recommended actions to be taken by relevant actors in the report, it was important not to equate the responsibilities and accountability of the victims with those of the occupying power.  Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) condemned the massacres of innocent Palestinians in the occupied territories in the wake of the unlawful move of the Embassy of the United States to Jerusalem.  It reiterated its support for the noble and heroic cause of the Palestinian people for a two State solution along pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

Costa Rica was deeply concerned over findings that indicated that 189 Palestinians had lost their lives during protests, 183 out of which from live ammunition.  The Commission indicated the killings were a violation of the right to life and were against the principle of proportionality under international humanitarian law.   Maldives reiterated the call of the Commission to Israel to refrain from using lethal force against civilians, including children, health workers and journalists.  The Council was urged to step up efforts to ensure Palestinians lived a life in dignity with access to basic services, including healthcare, food and water. 

Interim Remarks by the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

SANTIAGO CANTON, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, recommended that the Government of Israel review its “rules of engagements” and ensure they were in line with international standards.  He said there was no dialogue between the three duty bearers in Gaza.  The international community had an important role in ensuring these three duty bearers accepted and coordinated the different health supplies needed.

SARA HOSSAIN, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, said that in order to implement the recommendations there needed to be an end to the shootings and the presence of protective monitoring, especially in the lead up to the anniversary of the protests.  She stressed that under the existing Israeli law, reparations could not be made to victims of these crimes.  She reiterated the need to ensure access out of the Gaza Strip for those needing lifesaving treatments, and access in for medical equipment and personnel.

Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry

Egypt reaffirmed that the prime responsibility of care in this situation lay with the occupying force, as established in international law.  They called for an end to action against peaceful protestors, and stressed upon the Commission to tackle the root causes of the conflict.  Algeria called on the international community to implement the recommendations in the report, requiring those responsible to put an end to the policy of impunity.  They called for the Commission to be granted access to the occupied territories.  Spain expressed their concern at the high numbers of victims in the conflict, and that many belonging to vulnerable groups had been affected.  Spain recognized Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence and the right of Palestinians to a State, and called for the cessation of all activity that could lead to violent events. 

Luxembourg regretted the lack of cooperation on behalf of the Israeli authorities and expressed concern at the intentional and disproportionate use of violence against demonstrators.  Whilst accepting Israel’s right to exist, the decade-long blockade on Gaza had led to very serious humanitarian conditions, which Luxembourg condemned.  Bangladesh regretted that Israel had not cooperated with the Commission of Inquiry.  Despite this lack of access, the Commission had used a robust methodology, and had found horrifying conclusions of the state of human rights in Gaza.  China welcomed the report submitted by the Commission of Inquiry, and had followed closely the human rights situation in the occupied territories, strongly opposing the violence against civilians and the arbitrary use of force.  China called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but especially Israel, to show restraint.

Oman said that the actions of the Israeli Government in the occupied Palestinian territories had been detailed in many reports.  The international community had failed to protect the Palestinian people and to call on Israeli to exercise restraint.  Oman called for the enforcement of the two-State solution, which was the only way to peace.  Lebanon called for accountability for the crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry undermined the values of this Council.  The Council should send a clear message to Israel to uphold international human rights law.  Malaysia condemned the actions of Israel and supported urgent follow-up action by the Human Rights Council to respond to the findings of the Commission and to take action against those who had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Malaysia called on the double standards and biases against the Palestinians by some members of the international community to end.

Turkey said that Israel continued to enjoy full impunity on everything that was happening in Gaza, while imposing collective punishment.  Israel had to refrain from measures seeking to change the character and legal status of Jerusalem.   Indonesia acknowledged the urgency for the Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Palestine, including East Jerusalem.  It was regretful that the right of Gazan victims to equal access to reparation was currently hampered.  Ireland was profoundly shocked by the events in Gaza last May and the scale of casualties inflicted by the Israeli forces on Palestinian demonstrators.  What follow up would the Commission like to see from the Council to the recommendations from the report?

Switzerland asked in what way could follow up of work be ensured of the Commission, once its mandate was over, and what the international community could do to support it.  All parties were urged to demonstrate restraint and prevent future violations of international law.

Libya stated that as a result of the shortage of medicine caused by the blockade, the suffering of the Palestinian people constituted crimes against humanity.  The Israeli occupying forces were violating international humanitarian law, and these violations must be investigated by the International Criminal Court.  South Africa was shocked at the wanton disregard of the suffering of ordinary people in the occupied Palestinian territories, and shocked at plans to annex some areas outright.  South Africa accepted the findings of the Commission, and called on the Israeli authorities to abide by the Commission of Inquiry.  Jordan stated it was the responsibility of the international community to provide protection for civilians everywhere, and to live up to the requirements of the Geneva Convention.  The Palestinian question lay at the heart of all wars in the Middle-East, and Jordan called for the establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

United Nations Watch said the march for peace was an outrageous attempt to break through the border fence and slaughter Israelis.  They accused the Commission of misrepresenting the actions of Hamas and appealed to every Member State of the Commission to repudiate its findings.  Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights said that no amount of politicizing could mask the act of killing innocent protestors, and the illegal use of live ammunition against protestors.  The Israeli justice system had demonstrated time and again its failure to intervene to uphold the law, and they called on Member States to support the Commission’s conclusions.  Institute for NGO Research criticized many aspects of the Commission of Inquiry’s work, including its incoherent legal analysis and its failure to take into account the role of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  They called on the Commission and the Council to engage with its many criticisms.

The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd welcomed the report’s assessment that the Israeli Government had consistently failed to meaningfully investigate or prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes against Palestinians.  It called on the Council to urgently implement all the report’s recommendations.  World Jewish Congress said that Hamas had staged the march as a propaganda stunt to create causalities with which to indict Israel as it knew that this Council would libellously condemn Israelis for protecting their families.  Palestinians living under Palestinian rule were not refugees as Gaza had been bereft of any Israeli presence since 2005.  BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights called for the expansion of the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate and for the lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, ensuring that Palestinians under Israel’s effective control were able to enjoy their full rights. 

Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately refer the file on alleged perpetrators to the International Criminal Court and establish an effective mechanism with a clear timeframe to follow up on the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.  Defence for Children International said Israeli authorities had systematically failed to investigate alleged violations in accordance with international standards.  It called on Member States to take urgent action to ensure accountability for violations by supporting efforts by the International Criminal Court to hold perpetrators accountable.

Concluding Remarks by the Commission of Inquiry

SANTIAGO CANTON, Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, noted that members of the Commission of Inquiry were vivid examples of the failure of the international community, reminding that the first Commission of Inquiry had been created by the League of Nations.  That was why members insisted that the solution needed to be found by the international community.  What was needed was a peace process.  Accountability was another important aspect; Israel should investigate and prosecute those responsible.  The rules of engagement were another critical aspect identified by the Commission of Inquiry.  The Supreme Court of Israel should use the internationally accepted standards for the rules of engagement of the Israeli military.  It was very important for the Council to have some sort of monitoring of the situation on the ground in order to prevent more violence.  Finally, Mr. Canton reminded that much of the criticism directed at the Commission had already been responded to in the full version of the Commission’s report.   

KAARI BETTY MURUNGI, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, reminded that the Gaza healthcare system had no capacities to deal with the scale and nature of injuries.  Many persons had suffered complicated injuries that required operations.  The international community should continue to support the healthcare system in Gaza and place diplomatic pressure on Israel to permit patients to exit Gaza.  The international community should also ensure that medical supplies and equipment were allowed entry into Gaza’s hospitals.  That was the responsibility of all the duty bearers that had anything to do with exit, entry and access permits.

SARA HOSSAIN, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory, urged the Council’s Member States and the international community to consider the issue of assistance to those whose lives had been affected by the ongoing shootings.  There should be protective monitoring as the protests continued and the issue of accountability needed to be addressed.  Instead of stating ad hominem accusations, Member States should submit substantive criticism.  Ms. Hossain called for information regarding the investigations started by Israel.   



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/19/45E