Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Middle East: Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes ‘contrary to international law,’ UN experts warn

Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

The Israeli Government’s use of house demolition as a punitive measure in response to alleged acts of violence by Palestinians must end immediately, two United Nations experts urged today, adding that the practice – which targets Palestinian homes in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory – is a violation of human rights law.

“All acts of violence require a firm response from the Israeli authorities, and those responsible should be tried before a court of law and sentenced for their crimes,” Makarim Wibisono, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, affirmed in a press release, adding, however, that the State “cannot go beyond what is sanctioned by international law.”

Mr. Wibisono’s remarks follow the 19 November demolition of the East Jerusalem home of Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi, the Palestinian man accused of committing last month’s car attack in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of a 22 year-old woman and a three-month old child.

In addition to Mr. Al-Shaludi’s home, Israeli authorities have slated at least six other homes of Palestinian suspects located in East Jerusalem, Askar refugee camp, and Hebron, for demolition or sealing – the practice of completely or partially closing off the rooms of a home with concrete or metal sheeting, prohibiting family members from accessing their homes, at times indefinitely. Meanwhile, following a recent deadly attack against a Jerusalem synagogue, a number of other house demolitions are reportedly being prepared.

“In the case of Mr. Al-Shaludi, who was shot and killed by Israeli police at the scene of the attack, the demolition of his home in the middle of the night served no other purpose than to punish his innocent parents and five siblings, rendering them homeless,” Leilani Farha, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, explained.

“Simply put: the use of house demolition as a punitive measure is a form of collective punishment contrary to international law,” she continued. “Israel must immediately end its use of this devastating practice.”

The recent house demolitions come within a context of increasing tensions – marked by a number of fatal incidents – between Palestinians and Israelis.

However, the two Special Rapporteurs warned that an upsurge in demolitions would “only add to the frustration and despair felt by the people living under prolonged military occupation, and sow the seeds of more hatred and violence for the future.”

“The only means to stop this cycle of violence is for Israel to place human rights at the centre of its policy-making,” Mr. Wibisono concluded.