Palestinians still deprived of their fundamental rights

The following press release was issued on 9 December 2009:

On 10 December, the world observes the 61st International Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly. This year, International Human Rights Day will focus on non-discrimination, a right enshrined in, inter alia, Article 1 of the UDHR:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

However, 61 years after the adoption of the UDHR, Israel continues to pursue clearly discriminatory policies and practices and the violation of Palestinians’ human rights have persisted, and escalated.

Israel’s persistent human rights violations would not be possible without the complicity or support of the international community. As recently illustrated by the events surrounding the Goldstone report, states’ tacit consent or active efforts serve to undermine the fundamental premise of the UDHR: that human rights apply equally and universally. Influential states — who claim to promote and safeguard human rights — either grant Israel impunity or prioritize a “peace process” based on political considerations, while disregarding justice, accountability and the rule of law. The UDHR itself recalls that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

This year began with Israel’s devastating 23-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, (“Operation Cast Lead”). This military offensive resulted in the killing of over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilian, and the devastation of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure. To date, Gaza continues to suffer a humanitarian crisis due to Israel’s unrelenting illegal blockade, which has, inter alia, rendered reconstruction — and thus recovery — impossible. This collective punishment indiscriminately affects all of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants, compounding an already dire human rights situation. Those most vulnerable include refugees, women, children and the elderly.

Over the course of 2009 existing illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land have expanded and new settlements have been established. The confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land has continued unabated, and intensified in East Jerusalem. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Annexation Wall is a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. However, construction continues, and approximately 58 percent of the Annexation Wall has been completed to date. When finished, 85 percent of the 723km long Wall will stand on Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

Forcible transfers of Palestinians and an increase of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are a consequence of the aforementioned Israeli policies and practices in the OPT. Almost 70 percent of the Palestinian people are forcibly displaced persons who have remained without access to durable solutions and reparations.

As a result of Israel’s systematic discrimination, occupation and colonization, the Palestinian people have faced increased violations of, inter alia, their right to life, their right to housing and property, their right not to be subjected to torture or cruel and inhuman punishment or treatment, their right to free movement, their right to return, and their right to an effective judicial remedy. At the core of these violations is the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

The systematic violation of Palestinians’ human rights cannot be allowed to continue any longer. As the international community celebrates International Human Rights Day, we as Palestinian non-governmental organizations remind the Member States of the United Nations to uphold their pledge “to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” as enshrined in the UDHR.

Human rights violations will continue as long as Israel is granted the ability to act as a state above the law. The international community must make tangible efforts to combat impunity, and uphold victims’ rights, this includes implementation of the Goldstone report’s recommendations, and the 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Wall by the International Court of Justice. International pressure must also be put on Israel to respect the territorial integrity of the OPT, including East Jerusalem, end illegal confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land, dismantle illegal Israeli settlements, and provide reparation to Palestinian victims, including refugees and IDPs. Ultimately, Israel’s occupation, which is the root cause of Israel’s human rights violations, must cease as demanded by international law.

Without human rights and the rule of law there can be no justice, without justice there can be no peace.

Undersigned organizations: Al-Haq, DCI - Palestine Section, Al-Dameer, Arab Association for Human Rights, Badil, Addameer, ENSAN Cente, Jerusalem Legal Aid Center, Palestine Solidarity Committee - South Africa, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies and the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling