Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
30 September 2019
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon heard from civil society organizations on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Switzerland, Israel and Ecuador, whose reports the Committee will review this week.
In Israel, in 2018, the World Health Organization had reported that 31 per cent of patients wishing to exit the Gaza Strip had not been able to. The Israeli authorities had taken measures that amounted to collective punishment. Israel was bound by the Convention, and should not raise any obstacles to the exercise of the rights enshrined in it.
Speaking on Israel were ASSAF-Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Geneva International Centre for Justice, Housing and Land Rights Network/Habitat International Coalition, Kayan Feminist Organization, Woman’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, and Coalition for Children and Families. Al Marsad/Al-Haq, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel spoke by videoconference.
Statements by Civil Society Organizations from Israel
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said in 2018, the World Health Organization had reported that 31 per cent of patients wishing to exit the Gaza Strip had not been able to. The Israeli authorities had also taken measures that amounted to collective punishment. Israel was bound by the Covenant, and should not raise any obstacles to the exercise of the rights enshrined in it. Israel should stop distinguishing between cases that were threatening and those that affected the quality of life.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel said two specific violations had significantly worsened since Israel’s last review in 2011: the denial of medical treatment to undocumented migrant children, and the denial of access to medical care for medical patients from Gaza, including particularly vulnerable communities, such as women and children. Israel should abolish the current medical exit permit mechanism. The impact of the blockade on Gaza women must be examined.
Al Marsad/Al-Haq highlighted Israel’s organized, systematic and illegal exploitation of natural energy resources in the occupied Golan, which violated the Covenant. Syrians living in the Golan had a right to self-determination and sovereignty over their natural resources. Israel’s exploitation of energy resources in the Golan restricted Syrians’ right to work; it was by nature exclusionary. The Committee should condemn Israel’s actions in advancing its own energy interests at the expense of indigenous Syrians’ rights under the Covenant.
ASSAF-Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel said there were about 30,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel. While the Israeli authorities had periodically announced various plans to reform services of refugees and asylum seekers, it usually amounted to little more than a bureaucratic smokescreen. Asylum seekers, many of them victims of torture, received no mental health related support. They were becoming poorer, more marginalized and more vulnerable. “The restriction of social and economic rights cannot be used as a way to push refugees out,” said the speaker.
The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said Bedouins formed 34 per cent of the population in the Naqab. A third of them lived in villages that Israel refused to recognize. Its policy was guided by the false depiction of the area as a vast empty space. Using different policies, laws and planning mechanisms, Israel was displacing the Bedouins to assert State control over the land. It had recently promoted huge infrastructure projects in Naqab. Evictions were also carried out to build Jewish-only towns.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights said Gaza’s fishermen continued to endure constant harassment, arrest and detention, inter alia, by the Israeli navy. The attacks were unwarranted and violated the fishermen’s rights. The Committee had failed to identify the closure of Gaza as the root cause of the violations in its 2011 concluding observations. In the absence of accountability and justice, there was no effective deterrent against the continued perpetration of violations.
Geneva International Centre for Justice said that while Israel maintained that it was not responsible for the application of the Covenant in the occupied Palestinian territories due to the armed conflict, whether or not such a conflict was taking place was immaterial to Israel’s responsibilities under the Covenant.
Housing and Land Rights Network/Habitat International Coalition highlighted the discrimination inflicted by institutions that operated under the Israeli State. They carried out development projects and controlled water resources with discriminatory purposes and effects. Since Israel’s latest review, State agencies had destroyed 540 homes in East Jerusalem, rendering Palestinians homeless. Over 8,000 homes in the southern Naqab had been destroyed according to the organizations’ own statistics.
Kayan Feminist Organization said Palestinian women could not exercise their full rights and this problem required immediate attention. In 2018 alone, 15 Arab women had been killed. Often, victims had sought the help of the police prior to their murder, to no avail. On sexual harassment, the State did not provide data about Arab women specifically, nor did it provide accurate data. Israel had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Covenant.
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling recalled that the Covenant applied in all territories under the effective control of the State party. Israel was using the occupied Palestinian territories as a dumping site for hazardous and industrial waste. Palestinian women living in polluted surroundings also suffered from psychological impacts. The Committee should ask Israel to stop illegal hazardous waste dumping; practices infringing on access to natural resources; and collective punishments, such as house demolitions. All of these had direct and indirect impacts on women.
Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality said Israel was denying the Bedouins’ historical rights. They faced constant harassment and fear of being relocated to urban areas against their will. The Bedouins found themselves in a situation where they had to ask the oppressor for permission to stay on their own ancestral lands. In 2018, the Bedouins had experienced over 2,000 house demolitions. The entire community was being criminalized and persecuted.
Al-Huq said Israel continued to restrict movement and demolish houses, and had, along with private actors, continued to illegally exploit resources. It had denied the occupied population the right to use it natural resources and its right to economic development. It had facilitated the unlawful exploitation of natural resources. It must stop all discriminatory policies and cease encouraging businesses to carry out activities that violated the rights of the population.
Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert noted that Israel was a complicated case. What had been the involvement of civil society organizations in the preparation of the report?
Another Expert asked about the “Basic Law” adopted in 2018. Did civil society organizations agree with the Government that it had not had any discriminatory effect?
An Expert, turning to the blockade of Gaza, asked what intermediary measures could be adopted to alleviate the situation.
For use of the information media; not an official record