A new UN Report Finds Closure of Gaza Illegal and Calls for its Complete Lifting (PCHR, 31 October 2011)

The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories has submitted its 43rd report to the UN General Assembly during the 66th session opened in New York last September.[1]

Established in 1968 by the UN General Assembly with resolution 2443[2] following the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Syrian Golan Heights, the Committee has been requested by General Assembly resolution 65/102 “pending complete termination of Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices” in said territories, “especially Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949”.[3]

The report, focused upon the humanitarian impact on civilians of the Israeli-enforced closure of Gaza and related restrictions on movements of people and goods[4], is based on first-hand information collected during the first-ever field mission in Gaza since 1968, including testimony of twenty-four civilian victims and witnesses of recent Israeli violations. The Committee also met with NGOs[5] and officials of Gaza-based UN agencies, including UNRWA.[6]

PCHR testified before the Committee in Gaza City on 24 July, 2011.

The report has widely acknowledged that the Israeli-imposed closure, and its wide range of practices and policies, neglects education, health, housing, work and human development in the Gaza Strip. For instance, as stated by the Committee, “the situation of children in Gaza is alarming and is attributable to Israel’s siege” (§ 64).

“Having familiarized itself with the situation in Gaza, the Special Committee is convinced that Israel’s oppressive policies constitute a form of collective punishment of civilians. Israel’s regime of closures and the practices by which this regime is enforced are having a disproportionate impact on civilians. It is in this light that Israel’s siege must be adjudged to be in violation of international humanitarian law and to result in the violation of a wide range of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law “ (§ 73).

Accordingly, the Committee has called upon Israel “to lift its illegal siege of Gaza..[..]..and to ensure a regular, sufficient supply of food, medicines and other basic supplies and services, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009)” (§ 74).

Moreover, in regard to the Israeli-imposed 3 nautical mile limit for fishing activities within Gaza’s territorial waters, the Committee has called Israel “to bring its policy into line with what it agreed as part of the Oslo Accords, namely a 20 nautical mile limit for Gaza’s fishermen” (§ 75).

PCHR welcomes the Committee’s call for sanctions by the UN Security Council and General Assembly against Israel’s persistent refusal to cooperate with UN bodies and abide by UN resolutions (§ 63), and particularly notes that sanctions must address, with no further delay, Israel’s longstanding violation of Palestinians’ human rights, including self-determination.

PCHR calls upon the international community to uphold the rule of law in Gaza and the oPt by ensuring Israel’s compliance with international law, including ending of the state of belligerent occupation. This also includes an immediate and complete lifting of Israel’s illegal closure, in place for over 4 years. Protection of Gaza’s civilians, the protected persons under binding international humanitarian law, is a precise and underogable responsibility of the international community.

[1] The report (A/66/370) is available at http://www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp?m=A/66/370.

[2] A/RES/2443, of 19 December, 1968 is available at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/1FE2116573C8CFBE852560DF004ED05D.

[3] A/RES/65/102, of 20 January, 2011, is available at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N10/518/66/PDF/N1051866.pdf?OpenElement.

[4] Moreover, the report has also focused on the situation of children and of Palestinian detainees in Israel, including women and children, as well as on the Israeli policies of demolition of Palestinians’ houses and confiscation of Palestinian land, and expansion of settlements in West Bank.

[6] No access to the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights has been granted by Israel to the Committee.


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