Roadmap needs rights component

Wednesday’s summit among U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Ministers Mahmud Abbas and Ariel Sharon should insert human rights protection into the “roadmap,” Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch urged the three leaders to learn from successful conflict resolution formulas in former Yugoslavia, East Timor, and elsewhere by establishing a mechanism to monitor compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law standards as part of the roadmap process.

“Every serious effort at conflict resolution has a human rights component,” said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “There’s no reason why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be any different.” Since the roadmap’s release in early May, more than fifty Israelis and Palestinians have been killed, humanitarian access to Gaza has been severely restricted, and Israel’s continued construction of a “separation barrier” in the West Bank has further limited Palestinian access to jobs, crops, and essential services.

The roadmap, a “performance-based and goal-driven” plan drafted by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia (the “Quartet”), envisages a three-phased process and a set of goals that include the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to Palestinian violence and Israeli occupation, and a final resolution to the conflict. But the roadmap repeats the failure of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements to address basic human rights and international humanitarian law protections. Instead, all parties let abuses proliferate to the point where they fatally damaged the entire negotiating process.

“Leaving rights out of the equation might look expedient now, but it will have terrible consequences as abuses on both sides undermine the process,” said Megally.

Human Rights Watch urged that a separate human rights mechanism be made part of the roadmap monitoring process. If no separate human rights mechanism is established, Human Rights Watch said, at the very least all monitoring committees established under the roadmap should include people trained in international humanitarian law and human rights standards.

Human Rights Watch said that basic human rights and humanitarian law obligations mentioned in the roadmap, such as those relating to medical and humanitarian access, could be undermined if they are treated as options subject to negotiation and reciprocity. Human Rights Watch also pointed out that other key responsibilities are entirely missing, such as the obligation on all sides to investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit serious abuses such as unlawful killings or deliberate attacks against civilians.

Related Links:

  • Roadmap fails rights test, HRW, 9 May 2003
  • More on the roadmap, see related links.