Gaza “Unliveable”, UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the OPT Tells Third Committee – Press Release (Excerpts)

24 OCTOBER 2018



With an economy in free fall, 70 per cent youth unemployment, widely contaminated drinking water and a collapsed health care system, Gaza has become “unliveable”, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, insisting that all parties — particularly Israel — bring an end to “this disaster”.

One of six country-specific mandate holders to present their findings, Michael Lynk recalled that cooperation is at the heart of his work.  Yet, Israel continued to block his visits to the occupied territories.  He painted a pessimistic state of affairs, noting that 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s security forces — 40 of them children — during peaceful protests each Friday along the Gaza frontier for the past seven months.

An observer for the State of Palestine, during the interactive dialogue, likewise rejected Israel’s use of deadly force against peaceful demonstrators and called “wilful killing” a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions.


Interactive Dialogues — Palestinian Territories

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, drew attention to Israel’s persistent non-cooperation with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.  As with his two predecessors, Israel has not granted him entry to visit the country, nor the Occupied Palestinian territory.  He recalled that cooperation is a fundamental obligation of the Charter of the United Nations.  The World Bank described Gaza’s economy in free fall, contracting by 6 per cent during the first quarter of 2018.  In fact, the United Nations has stated that Gaza may well be unliveable by 2020:  safe drinking water has almost disappeared, the economy is cratering and “the state of unlive-ability is upon us”, he said, urging the international community to insist that all parties bring an immediate end to this disaster.

In response to this inflicted misery, Gazans organized the “Great March of Return”, he recalled.  To date, in the context of these demonstrations, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, including 40 children.  Almost 23,000 Palestinians have been injured, with half of them requiring hospitalization.  In addition, the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar is being threatened with complete demolition by Israel, which plans to build new settlements and annex the area.  The settlements are a grave breach of international law.  Israel’s Knesset has adopted a number of laws that are a flashing green light for more formal annexation steps.  For the past 50 years, “the international community has been playing checkers while Israel plays chess,” he said, stressing that a deep-rooted problem at the heart of this conflict is the lack of clarity of international law.

Mr. MANSOUR, observer from the State of Palestine, said the humanitarian crisis outlined in the report is the bleakest yet.  Describing Israel’s violations, such as the transfer of more settlers to the occupied territories, he said Israel creates a coercive environment to forcibly displace people.  The annexation of the territories must end.  The deterioration of all aspects of the living situation is the result of 10 years of immoral blockade, he said, rejecting Israel’s practice of using deadly force against peaceful demonstrators and calling “wilful killing” a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions. He asked about Israel’s increasingly aggressive attempts to turn de facto annexation into de jure annexation.  He also condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with mandate holders, calling on the Secretary-General and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to ensure that Special Rapporteur’s mandate is not obstructed and that Israel is to brought into compliance.

The representative of Turkey, noting that the “Jewish nation-state law” disregards the rights of Palestinians, asked for guidance on the 13,000 pending demolition orders in Area C.

The representative of Venezuela, expressing deep concern about the 2 million people who are isolated and besieged, said Israel’s blockade amounts to collective punishment and should be completely lifted.  Israel must uphold its international law obligations, he said, appealing for urgent efforts to strengthen Palestinian institutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said continued settlement building is draining the patience of Palestinians.  Citing recent events at the borders, he said the use of force must be appropriate; any inappropriate such use must be investigated.  He advocated an end to the occupation which would improve the human rights situation.

The representative of Norway recalling plans for new settlements in the West Bank, as well as the water crisis, called on all parties to act with restraint.  She asked whether there had been any changes in the use of administrative detention for children.  Turning to the torture of Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, she asked about any improvements in the human rights situation over the past year.

The representative of South Africa said the right to housing is linked to the rights to water, food and dignity, which are interdependent and indivisible.  She asked about the links between humanitarian assistance and the right to work.

The representative of Cuba condemned the continued ignorance of Israel and the United States.  Rejecting the United States’ unilateral establishment of its embassy in Jerusalem, he called for a fair, peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict ‑ an impossible goal if justice continues to be denied and impunity prevails.

The representative of Nicaragua asked how the international community can ensure that Israel acts responsibly.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea condemned the killings of women and children by Israel’s military forces, as well as the illegal action by the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem and undermine the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The representative of Egypt, noting that the report provided an accurate picture, asked for recommendations on how to end the “colonization” and encourage Israel to abide by its legal obligations.

The representative of Brazil expressed concern about the lack of respect for the rights to health and health care service.  He expressed support for the freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to peaceful protest.  He asked about measures Israel can take to address the right to health without security concerns.

The representative of Syria condemned Israel’s criminal practices, systematic human rights violations and failure to respect hundreds of resolutions adopted by the United Nations for decades.  He also condemned States that exert pressure on the United Nations, attempting to force it to change its attitude by withholding funding.

The representative of China said it will be impossible to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East without resolving the Palestinian question.  He opposed all acts of violence, expressing support for the peace process and Palestinians’ just calls for an independent, sovereign State with Jerusalem as capital.

The representative of the European Union noted that unilateral actions undermine efforts to reach peace.  The two-state solution, based on 1967-borders, is the only reliable way to end the conflict, he said, asking about the Special Rapporteur’s priorities.

The representative of Senegal pointing to the lack of decent housing and health care, called for redoubled efforts to improve cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.

The representative of Indonesia expressed deep concern over the denial of access for the Special Rapporteur to the occupied territories, calling on Israel to honour its obligations.  For over 60 years, Israel has made the region a showground for tensions and violations, she said, condemning recent excessive use of armed force on civilians.  Calling the expansion of illegal settlements a threat to peace within the context of the two-State solution, she asked about the United Nations study on the legality of Israel’s occupying territories.

Also speaking in the dialogue was the representative of Iran.

Mr. LYNK, to questions about the volume of legislation by the Knesset regarding annexation, replied that the Basic Law amendments have made it more difficult for Israel to achieve parliamentary consent.  In addition, membership in the Knesset has increased from 60 to 80 members, essentially making it impossible to give East Jerusalem back to the Palestinian Authority.  The report details annexation legislation, notably the regularization bill that “regularizes” settlements.  He cited other proposals to quiet disputes around land titles by offering compensation to Palestinians, rather than return the land.  All these actions are illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

Regarding demolition orders in West Bank Area C, he said it is almost impossible for the 180,000 to 300,000 people living there to receive a legal permit to renovate or build, noting more broadly that 40 children died during the Great March of Return.  While characterizing the report as “overwhelmingly gloomy”, he pointed to one piece of good news:  a Palestinian Bedouin village still stands despite orders to demolish it.  Israel’s high court has let it stand, thanks to the activism of human rights defenders and determined European “missions” that have repeatedly stated their opposition to the demolition.  Indeed, with unified action and activism, ominous human rights trends can be reversed, even if not immediately.

His recommendations are endless, he said.  On Gaza, the international community must insist on an end to the 11-year old blockade, as Palestinians cannot trade with the outside world.  Other issues concern the prohibition of settlement goods.  He called for an end to activities that would deepen the occupation, such as relationships with banks that finance them, as well as for United Nations support for a study into whether Israel is still the legal occupant of the Occupied Territories after 50 years.


For information media. Not an official record.


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