High Commissioner for Human Rights Notes Significant Increase in Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – Press Release

4 March 2022

High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet today noted a significant increase in violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory during an interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council on her report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice.

The High Commissioner said that during the reporting period, between 1 November 2020 and 31 October 2021, the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had further deteriorated.  This period was marked by a significant increase in violence, including the largest escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza since 2014.  Israeli forces killed 315 Palestinians and injured 17,597 Palestinians – an almost five-fold increase in comparison to the previous reporting period.  Fourteen Israelis were killed and 824 others were injured by Palestinians.

Ms. Bachelet said her Office had documented several incidents in which Israeli attacks may have violated international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and feasible precautions.  However, almost 10 months later, her Office was not aware of any criminal investigation of these incidents.  She also noted pervasive impunity afforded to members of the Israeli Security Forces for incidents of possible excessive use of force outside the context of hostilities.  Regarding the accountability of Palestinian authorities, she noted that the reporting period was marked by increased violence by Palestinian Security Forces, which may amount to violations of the right to life and to physical integrity.

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said the report had a lack of balance, as Israel was the occupying power, and Palestine was the victim of a colonialist occupation.  The violence had caused the loss of hundreds of lives.  These were flagrant violations of international law, and there was also medical negligence in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic.  There had been the demolition and destruction of houses in East Jerusalem, and barbaric aggressions by settlers against Palestinians, with the settlers taking public and private property.

In the debate, speakers condemned the intensification of settlers’ violence, and the blatant and brutal aggression and disproportionate use of force that had led to the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and urged the Council to put an end to impunity.  A timely investigation on all parties needed to be carried out and the importance of carrying multilateral negotiations was highlighted as the Quartet was the only current recognised mediator sanctioned by a Security Council resolution.  The international community was urged to hold Israel accountable, end the culture of impunity, and cooperate with the commission of inquiry.  The attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organizations within Israel were condemned by some speakers, saying that both sides needed to respect human rights. One speaker complained about Navi Pillay, head of the investigating body, as elements displayed showed that she had an anti-Israeli bias.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Bachelet said that it had been 18 months since Israel ceased to renew visas for staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, gravely impacting their work.  On the future updating of the database, the High Commissioner had previously flagged the issue of resource requirements, and that it was not possible for the Office to absorb this into the future endlessly.  Any further work in this area could only be discharged consistent with the budgetary process.

Speaking in the general debate were the European Union, Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Morocco (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Egypt, Qatar, UN Women, Mauritania, France, Luxembourg, Libya, Venezuela, Malaysia, Iraq, Cuba, China, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Algeria, Yemen, Chile, Lebanon, Ireland, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Turkey, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Iran, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Syria and Morocco.

Also speaking were the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Dialogue and Democracy, United Nations Watch, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Ingenieurs du Monde, Institute for NGO Research, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, International Bar Association, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Independent Commission for the Human Rights of Palestine.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

This afternoon, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker.  It will then consider the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka.

Documentation

The Council has before it (A/HRC/49/25), the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice.

Presentation of the Report

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting her report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice, said that during the reporting period, between 1 November 2020 and 31 October 2021, the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had further deteriorated.  This period was marked by a significant increase in violence, including the largest escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza since 2014.  Israeli forces killed 315 Palestinians and injured 17,597 Palestinians – an almost five-fold increase in comparison to the previous reporting period.  Fourteen Israelis were killed and 824 others were injured by Palestinians.  The High Commissioner said her Office had documented several incidents in which Israeli attacks may have violated international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and feasible precautions.  However, almost 10 months later, her Office was not aware of any criminal investigation of these incidents.

In relation to previous outbreaks of hostilities, serious concerns persisted over the lack of accountability for actual or potential violations of international humanitarian law, including alleged war crimes perpetrated by all parties to the conflict.  The High Commissioner also mentioned pervasive impunity afforded to members of the Israeli Security Forces for incidents of possible excessive use of force outside the context of hostilities.  Similarly, there was no notable progress in investigations into allegations of ill-treatment and torture of Palestinians in Israeli detention facilities.
Ms. Bachelet called on Israeli authorities to conduct prompt, independent, impartial, thorough, effective and transparent investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including allegations of international crimes, and to ensure effective remedies to victims.  Regarding the accountability of Palestinian authorities, she noted that the reporting period was marked by increased violence by Palestinian Security Forces, which may amount to violations of the right to life and to physical integrity.

On 19 October 2021, the Israeli Minister of Defence had designated six Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organizations as “terrorist organizations” under Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Law, and the Israeli military commander in the West Bank had declared these and one other organization ‘unlawful’.  These designation decisions were based on vague and unsubstantiated allegations and her Office remained unaware of any credible evidence to support the accusations.  The High Commissioner therefore called upon Israel to revoke the designations against Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organizations as terrorist or unlawful organizations, absent sufficient evidentiary basis for them.  Her Office would continue monitoring the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and she called for accountability for alleged violations by all relevant duty bearers.

Statement by Country Concerned

Israel was not present in the room to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said the report had a lack of balance, as Israel was the occupying power, and Palestine was the victim of a colonialist occupation.  The violence had caused the loss of hundreds of lives, including children, elderly, journalists and medical workers.  These were flagrant violations of international law, and there was also medical negligence in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic.  There had been the demolition and destruction of houses in East Jerusalem, and barbaric aggressions by settlers against Palestinians, with the settlers taking public and private property.  The blockade of the Gaza Strip had continued for more than 14 years, a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  There was complete destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and the aggression had cost lives. The international community needed to mobilise to put an end to this, and ensure the people who were suffering received aid.  The international community had not lived up to its responsibility to protect.  There should be prosecution of those culpable.

State of Palestine remained convinced that the principles of international law must be respected in order to defend its inalienable rights.  High-level interventions and remarks had continued, speaking of the suffering of children and the elderly, and calling for the protection by international organizations of civil society.  Palestinian women and children were no different from those in other countries.  There was an absence of justice the world over.  The occupying power violated international law and the rights of the Palestinian people.

Debate

In the debate, speakers said the suffering of the Palestinian people continued, that settlements were illegal, and that there should be accountability.  Freedom of expression should be upheld, including in areas under Palestinian control.  There could be no legitimacy for a colonising State that continued to violate international human rights law and deny the Palestinian people their inalienable right to self-determination.  United Nations agencies should take concrete steps to implement international law and end the racist Israeli occupation.  Unacceptable measures had been taken.  There had been loss of Palestinian lives, and there was a vital need to put an end to the repeated violations of human rights.  There had to be an end to the occupation and to colonisation.  Israel should meet its obligations and compensate and help the victims.  The High Commissioner should continue her work and mandate, and the international community should support her fully, allowing her to continue her essential work.

Women’s involvement across the entire humanitarian and peace-building nexus should be encouraged and supported.  Pressure should be put on Israel to respect international law within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The allegations of humanitarian crimes should be investigated and the families given redress. The solution of having two States with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and based on pre-1967 borders, was the only feasible solution, and given the violence and the settlements that had been built, the rights of the Palestinian people had to be met in the light of international law.  There had to be an end to the killings.  International law was vital in order to ensure that there was a viable Palestinian State.  Mechanisms needed to be set up in order to prosecute those guilty of human rights violations.  Israel must be held accountable and responsible for all of its actions, which were tantamount to apartheid.  State of Palestine had committed itself to abide by international resolutions, but the other side had not. The occupation had to come to an end in order to end human rights violations of the Palestinian people.

The attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organizations within Israel were condemned by some speakers, saying that both sides needed to respect human rights.  Civic space needed to be maintained in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The work of human rights defenders was absolutely essential and should not be penalised on either side.  Speakers welcomed the report and reiterated their concerns about the deterioration of the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  They condemned the intensification of settlers’ violence, and the blatant and brutal aggression and disproportionate use of force that had led to the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and urged the Council to put an end to impunity.  It was time for the Human Rights Council to take a clear position on the violations perpetrated by Israel.  Those violations were qualified as gross and amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Since Israel was not collaborating with this Council, speakers called for it to take a step, any step for the sake of building a safer world.  A timely investigation of all parties needed to be carried out and the importance of holding multilateral negotiations was highlighted as the Quartet was the only current recognised mediator sanctioned by a Security Council resolution.  The international community was urged to hold Israel accountable, end the culture of impunity, and cooperate with the commission of inquiry.  One speaker complained about Navi Pillay, head of the investigating body, as elements displayed showed that she had an anti-Israeli bias.

Concluding Remarks 

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it had been 18 months since Israel ceased to renew visas for staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, gravely impacting their work, as they had been mandated to do by the Council, namely to ensure that all those guilty of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law were brought to justice and there was redress for all victims, including reparations.  The Office undertook this work meticulously.  On the future updating of the database, the High Commissioner had previously flagged the issue of resource requirements, adding that it was not possible for the Office to absorb this into the future endlessly.  Any further work in this area could only be discharged consistent with the budgetary process.  With regard to the issue of settlers’ violence, lack of accountability by the Israeli security forces remained pervasive, despite the repeated announcements by the authorities that investigations had begun.  Lack of accountability had allowed the violence to become more severe.  She thanked the Council for its interest.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/midday-high-commissioner-human-rights-notes-significant-increase

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Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media; not an official record.


2022-03-15T13:15:42-04:00

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