Al-Haq takes the occasion of International Women’s Day, under the theme of ‘Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls,’ to highlight the alarming situation of Palestinian women who not only live under the yoke of an oppressive military occupation that denies them the fundamental protections of international human rights and humanitarian law, but who, like women in countries across the globe, also suffer the denial of their basic rights within their own society.
This year International Women’s Day is commemorated as Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank; including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, enters its 40th year. Over these 40 years, the Israeli authorities have consistently violated the rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined under international law. Like all Palestinians, Palestinian women and girls are regularly subjected to harassment, intimidation and even violence at Israeli checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank, as well as being the victims of arbitrary arrest and detention, and having severe restrictions placed on their freedom of movement. Furthermore, Palestinian women have not been exempt from extreme violence at the hands of Israel, the Occupying Power. Since the outbreak of the secondintifada in September 2000, the Israeli military has killed 264 Palestinian women, including 100 girls.
The few military investigations into these killings, and judicial proceedings that take place, are not pursued in a prompt, effective and impartial manner and are accordingly plagued by severe shortcomings in the execution of justice. The infamous example of 13-year-old Iman al-Hams, wilfully killed when she unwittingly entered an Israeli military zone in Gazain October 2004, is a case in point. The Israeli soldier concerned was acquitted of all charges against him by a military court, despite clear evidence that he had “confirmed the kill” by repeatedly firing at the already wounded girl from close range.
On International Women’s Day, Al-Haq is equally mindful of failures by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in respect of protecting and promoting women’s rights. The legislative and institutional framework recognising and enforcing the equal status of women in the enjoyment of all rights must integrate all relevant international human rights standards, especially those relating to non-discrimination.
One of the most deplorable forms of violence that continues to be perpetrated against Palestinian women and girls is violence within the family, which is not effectively punished by Palestinian societal or judicial bodies. The steep decline in the Palestinian economic situation over the past year has further increased the pressures within Palestinian households, rendering female members of the family more vulnerable. Of massive concern is the apparent impunity from which the perpetrators of so called ‘honour-killings,’ more appropriately described as femicide, benefit as a result of inadequate procedures law enforcement and judicial procedures.
Upon this day Al-Haq therefore calls for:
The international community to compel Israel to cease all acts that violate the fundamental protections guaranteed to women and girls under international human rights and humanitarian law. Te international community to shoulder its legal responsibilities and prosecute those who have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law, such as the wilful killing of Palestinian women or girls. The PNA to ensure that all legislation contains provisions for the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights of women and girls. The PNA to effectively investigate and, where necessary, prosecute and implement appropriate penalties for individuals found to have committed acts of harassment, violence and/or femicide against women or girls. The PNA to adopt a formal declaration stating that it will adhere to all provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and be held accountable for breaches thereof.