Tuesday, March 24, 2015

OPT: Palestinian conflict continues to destroy human life, dignity – UN rights official

Displaced Palestinians with their belongings, following Israeli authorities demolition of their structures in Ein al Hilwa (Tubas Governorate) in the Jordan Valley on 30 January 2014. Photo: OCHA oPt

UN - 23 March 2015 – Violations of human rights “fuel and shape the conflict” in the occupied Palestinian territories, a senior United Nations official reported to the Human Rights Council today.

“Human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are both cause and consequence of the military occupation and ongoing violence, in a bitter cyclical process with wider implications for peace and security in the region,” said Flavia Pansieri, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Pansieri presented a total of six documents to the Council, which is meeting in Geneva, including reports by the Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights on Israeli settlements and on the human rights situation in the territories occupied by Israel.

“Secretary-Generals and High Commissioners have over many years made numerous constructive recommendations to all duty-bearers to improve human rights and protect civilians from violence and insecurity,” she said. “Tragically, most of these recommendations have been ignored, and the conflict continues to destroy human life and dignity.”

The establishment and expansion of settlements in the context of the Israeli occupation are at the centre of many of the ongoing human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Ms. Pansieri said, adding that they “fragment the Palestinian landscape and limit freedom,” while undermining Palestinians’ right to self-determination, which is “at the heart” of the two-State solution.

Settler violence had not been adequately addressed and it fostered a climate of impunity, she continued. A dramatic increase in Palestinian deaths and injuries because of Israeli security forces’ operations led both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to reiterate concerns about excessive use of force in law enforcement operations.

The official said events in Gaza between 12 June and 26 August 2014 were part of an “alarming” third escalation of hostilities in seven years, with Palestinians across the Gaza Strip continuing to feel their devastating consequences.

“They also raised serious questions regarding respect by Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law,” she said, citing Israel’s obligations “to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and between civilian objects and military objectives; its obligation to ensure that attacks are proportionate; and its obligation to maintain the principles of distinction and precaution.”

Palestinian armed groups in Gaza were also involved in “clear violations” of international humanitarian and human rights law, she added.

With the ceasefire having ended the fighting but not the suffering of the people in Gaza, she pointed to the Secretary-General’s repeated calls on the international community to meet commitments and pledges on Gaza’s reconstruction made at the Cairo conference. Without reconstruction, violations of core economic, social and cultural rights would continue.

“The current stand-off serves no one’s interests,” she said, noting that both Israelis and Palestinians live in fear of another escalation.

She underlined the importance of accountability to breaking the cycle of violence, human rights violations and impunity and to prevent future violations.

“Investigations carried out by Israel are a positive step, but they should not be limited to a few selected incidents,” she said, stressing that they should address failures to ensure respect for international law at the policy level. “In light of persistent impunity regarding past operations, doubts persist about the Israeli authorities’ willingness to ensure accountability.”

She added that the prospect of International Criminal Court involvement could prompt improvements in domestic accountability mechanisms in accordance with the Rome Statute’s provisions on complementarity.

Ms. Pansieri also underlined her concerns about ill-treatment and arbitrary detention by Palestinian security agencies but added that Palestine’s accession to several international treaties offered an opportunity for Palestinian duty-bearers to address human rights concerns.