State of Israel
1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Israel is a democracy with well-established and independent institutions, free media and “basic laws” enumerating fundamental rights. Following the adoption of the so-called “Jewish Nation State Law”, a wide internal debate continued about its potential effects on equality and minority rights, and about the balance between the self-defining characters of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic. The gap between Jewish and Arab communities remained despite simultaneous effective efforts to raise the Arab sector’s socio-economic status. During the municipal elections some local branches of political parties used stigmatising language against the Arab minority. Human rights NGOs continue to raise concerns over shrinking space for civil society, including laws and proposals deemed to further tighten rules governing the operations of NGOs and denials of entry of individuals alleged to support boycotting Israel or settlements.
In the occupied Palestinian territory, where Israel has obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, the human rights situation remained difficult, including a rise in incidents of violence and vandalism by settlers, and concerns over the use of force and inadequate law enforcement by Israeli security forces.
2. EU action – key focus areas: Similarly to previous years, the EU focused on five priority areas set out in the EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy for Israel (HRDCS) (2016-2020): Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power; children and armed conflict; upholding democratic values; situation of Arab minority; asylums seekers, migrants and foreign workers.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: EU actions in 2018 have focused on implementation of the five priorities of the HRDCS. The EU was actively following specific draft legislative initiatives. The EU Delegation together with EU Member States marked Human Rights Day and 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The EU visited a shelter for victims of trafficking in human beings, had discussions with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and civil society organisations (CSOs) on the impact of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law as well as a roundtable discussion with families of missing Israeli soldiers and civilians in Gaza.
The EU Delegation actively presented the EU position against the death penalty when draft legislation on this topic was submitted in Israeli Knesset.
The EU remained active on the issue of shrinking space for civil society. The EU took a clear position on unfounded accusations by the Israeli government against EU funding of CSOs. The EU closely followed the situation of human rights activists and hosted a briefing by Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch who had received a deportation order, which was later overturned. The EU Delegation attended his trial in the Jerusalem District Court and the EEAS issued a statement.
In the framework of the Children and Armed Conflict working group, the EU engaged in the dialogue with the Ministry of Welfare’s probation officers dealing with Palestinian children in East Jerusalem as well as visited a youth facility for Arab minority and East Jerusalem Palestinian youth in Northern Israel. The EU remained engaged in information exchange and attendance of Palestinian minors’ trials.
The EU was active on the topic of migration and asylum and discussed with the authorities Israel’s policies with regard to Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. On World Refugee Day, the EU organised a tour of a migrants’ clinic (run by NGOs) and a briefing on health issues.
The EU engaged in activities regarding human rights of the Arab minority in Israel. The EEAS issued a statement calling for an investigation into circumstances that appeared to have led to the injury of Jafar Farah, Director of the NGO Mossawa (the Israeli police subsequently announced it expected to indict a police officer in relation to this event), and the EU Head of Delegation visited Mr Farah. The EU continued its work on the rights of Bedouin in the Negev and followed Israeli municipality elections also from the Arab population’s point of view. The EU has been holding numerous dialogues with representatives of religious minorities, including the Bahai community and Jewish ultra-Orthodox religious communities.
4. EU financial engagement: The EU supports a number of human rights projects in 2018 in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), covering respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law, advancing the human rights of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel in the Naqab/Negev, creating safer communities in Arab towns, or decreasing the isolation of vulnerable minorities, including those with disabilities. Through this programme, the EU also supported the production of several policy reports disseminated through political briefings and/or submission to relevant UN bodies, including for example a report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, submitted in February 2018 by the Rackman Centre of Bar Ilan University. In addition, through an EIDHR project, implemented by the Minerva Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, many civil society actors received capacity building support in understanding and interacting with the various UN Monitoring Bodies.
5. Multilateral context: Israel’s human rights record was addressed in the context of the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in January 2018 when Israel was reviewed for the third time. The EU continued its cooperation with Israeli NGOs which submitted contributions to the HRC ahead of Israel’s UPR. The main issues raised by civil society included: excessive use of administration detention, freedom of movement, definition of torture, the situation of the Bedouin minority, asylum seekers, children and armed conflict and marriage and divorce issues. The EU was also in contact with Israeli ministries regarding the UPR.
Palestinian Authority (occupied Palestinian territory — oPt)
1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation – Preliminary remark: A distinction needs to be drawn between the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and those of Israel as occupying power. The focus of this report lies primarily on the PA’s responsibilities in the West Bank and the responsibilities of the de facto authorities in Gaza (although, formally, the government in Ramallah bears responsibility for Gaza too).
Fundamental freedoms, freedoms of expression, assembly and association, media and civil society have faced challenges in both the West Bank and Gaza. Local elections were held in 2017 in the West Bank (with the exception of East Jerusalem), but national elections have not been held for over ten years. Consequently, laws are adopted by Presidential decrees and civil society organisations (CSOs) frequently report a lack of transparency in the process. In December 2018, President Abbas dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council and announced that legislative elections would be held within six months. In late 2018, recommendations of reforms of the justice sector were published, but remain unimplemented. While still able to operate rather freely in the West Bank, space for civil society has been shrinking, and a draft law would, if adopted, further tighten control by the PA. Human rights defenders work in a challenging environment, mostly due to the Israeli occupation, but in recent years there has also been an increased level of violations by the PA. The Independent Commission for Human Rights observed deterioration with regards to arbitrary detention and fair trial standards with an increase in the number of violations of the right to liberty and security of persons in both the West Bank and Gaza. Further challenges remain in the field of gender equality, discrimination against LGBTI persons and (domestic) violence against women, despite the welcome development of family protection and gender units in the police and General Attorney’s office, as well as the appointment of specialised judges. Accusations of corruption remain frequent.
2. EU action — key focus areas: The EU prioritises continued capacity building of the PA and awareness-raising amongst the population. This includes governance reforms in the security and justice institutions. Another priority is the strengthening of CSOs and greater civic participation in political life. The European Joint Strategy on (financial) support to Palestine12, which was adopted at the end of 2017, reflects those objectives for the period until 2020. Advisory assistance on security and justice has also come from the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS).
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the PA (not with the de facto authorities in Gaza). In this regard, the EU continued its structured dialogue with the PA on human rights issues through European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) mechanisms, including the EU-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Joint Committee meeting in September, preceded by the meeting of the Subcommittee on human rights, good governance and rule of law in July. These meetings are usually preceded by consultation sessions with CSOs in the West Bank and Gaza as well as in Brussels.
The Office of the EU Representative in Jerusalem (EUREP) carried out a large number of actions at local level, such as local statements, including on death sentences in Gaza, site visits and attendance at court hearings, and formal and informal steps. Issues of concern were raised at regular meetings with the Palestinian counterparts. EUREP engaged with CSOs to obtain information and to explain and promote the EU’s position. These measures have contributed to upholding human rights and democracy issues in the public arena and have thus helped raise awareness among Palestinians. The EU has supported the creation of human rights and gender units in key ministries, such as the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Justice.
Support for Human Right Defenders (HRDs) was granted by the EU, in particular at local level, and including in cases of arrest or administrative detention by Israeli forces, including of minors, and also with regard to Bedouin communities. Numerous meetings took place both in Brussels and in the West Bank to support human rights CSOs. EUPOL COPPS held meetings with a variety of human rights CSOs.
4. EU financial engagement: In 2018, the EU continued to provide financial support for human rights and democracy-related programmes and projects through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Through the ENI, the EU funds specific programmes in support of Rule of Law and justice sector reform. The EU also supports capacity building for the PA in its implementation of International Human Rights’ treaties to which Palestine acceded in April 2014. In this context, the EU works in close partnership with OHCHR and other UN agencies. The various projects under the EIDHR cover fundamental rights such as the prevention of torture, legal defence of detainees, the right to health, Housing-Land-Property rights, the right to association, freedom of expression and assembly and the protection of HRDs especially those who promote and defend the rights of vulnerable groups including women, children and persons with disability. Although this support has helped to create awareness of sensitive fundamental rights’ issues, its multiplier effects have been relatively low due to the political impasse and the ongoing conflict. Impact has been achieved in terms of collective resilience, new legislation, empowerment of communities on human rights, legal remedies to stop/delay forced displacement by Israel and better protection of vulnerable groups.
5. Multilateral context: Palestine is a “non-member observer state” in the UN General Assembly. Several UN agencies cover human rights issues in the oPt. Palestine has ratified more than 50 conventions including the seven most important Human Rights Conventions. A recent decision by the High Court raised concerns as it can be interpreted as retrospectively placing reservations based on culture and religion on the human rights treaties Palestine has signed and acceded to.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified and in some areas there has been improvement. While child labour continues to represent a problem, steps have been taken to address this issue. In the area of Juvenile Justice, progress has been made and a national plan is currently being implemented.
The UN Convention against Torture was signed in March 2014 but regular complaints of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres, in both Gaza and the West Bank continue. While torture is not considered to be systematic in the West Bank, the UN, civil society and the ICHR have repeatedly expressed concern about the use of torture. In 2018, 13 death sentences were handed down in Gaza but none in the West Bank.
While freedom of religion or belief is generally well observed without discrimination, discrimination against women remains a concern even though the Basic law of Palestine clearly states that women have the same rights as men. The PA has undertaken initiatives that aim to address these problems in the long-term, including ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
12 This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
Document Sources: European Union (EU)
Subject: Human rights and international humanitarian law
Publication Date: 22/05/2019
URL source: https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/complete_eu_country_updates_on_human_rights_and_democracy_in_the_world_2018.pdf