36th Human Rights Council – Human rights and Women’s rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

NEWS RELEASES – the International Centre for Peace and Human Rights (CIPADH) attended the following side events at the Human Rights Council’s 36th Session: Human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (on the 25th of September) organized by BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and Women’s rights in Palestine – the struggles of the Occupation (on the 26th of September) organized by the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling. These meetings covered the general topic of the application of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian territory as well as specific human rights violations such as forced displacements and collective punishments.  This report will start by enumerating a few general facts about the occupation and the human rights situation. It will then enumerate the different violations of specific human rights before concluding and proposing recommendations. 


General facts

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory has been an issue for several decades now. The conflict has not yet been resolved even though most of the international community agrees on the fact that the situation should end. Instead of the situation being improved, it has become worse recently due to several important human rights violations that will be detailed in the following points.


Specific violations of human rights

The question of forcible transfer of Palestinians is one of the most serious and actual human rights issue. The Oslo accords of 1993 divide the occupied territory into 3 parts: A (fully under Palestinian control), B (under Palestinian and Israeli control) and C (fully under Israeli control). The area C constitutes 60% of the whole territory. There are only 5% of Palestinians left in this area due to their forcible transfer initiated by the Israeli government.

Forced displacement can be defined as such: lawful residents that are forced, against their will, to leave their land because of different reasons. The use of force is not necessary in order to fall into the definition. It can also be initiated by the creation of a coercive environment making an area practically impossible to live in. Forced displacement is prohibited by international law (article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention and Rule 129 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law).

Each of the following policies can create a coercive environment (but Israel unfortunately is imposing several of them):

- Installation of a permit regime that can lead to house demolitions: Palestinians can build on their own territory only if they receive an authorization from Israel. This policy is mainly carried out in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These authorisations are only given in 1% of the cases. If houses are still built on the territory, they will be demolished. According to international law (article 53 of the fourth Geneva Convention), these demolitions are lawful only if they are executed for absolute military necessity, which is mostly not the case. Without a house, people are forced to leave and find a new place to live.

- Land confiscation: the example of the Jordan Valley illustrates what is actually happening. This valley is located in the area C and has good fertility and a favourable climate for agriculture. Israel has confiscated 94% of the land and the other 6% are submitted to policies making it practically impossible for Palestinians to work and live from these lands and thus forcing them lo leave or work for Israelis.

- Denial of residency, which results in some families being apart. Sometimes women are separated from their children and are forced to leave in order to live with them.

There are many other policies building a coercive environment leading to the forced displacement of Palestinians, such as: discriminatory zoning or planning, suppression of resistance (punitive practices), denial of reparations and no right of return.

These forced displacements are making the lives of the people concerned very difficult. Some people with medical problems do not have access to appropriate medical care, some children cannot go to school and some areas are deprived from water or electricity. This is especially the case in the Gaza area (often referred as the “open prison” during the meeting), where the situation is really alarming. These violations also concern other human rights, such as the freedom of movement.

Arrests and collective punishments: last July only, almost 900 Palestinians were arrested. It is the highest number of arrests per month since October 2015. Most of these arrests do not have a concrete motive or real prosecution claims. Important politicians, human rights defenders and journalists have also been sent to prisons recently, which leaves them only two choices: either they give up their work promoting human rights, or they end up in prison. These arrests are a direct violation of article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention.

All of these violations are even qualified as a grave breach of all the Geneva Conventions according to article 147. Some people are even of the advice that this general situation results in the perpetration of crimes against humanity (article 7 of the Rome Statute) or war crimes (article 8 of the Rome Statute), which are part of the most serious crimes that can be committed.


Conclusion and recommendations:

As a conclusion, the situation in the Palestinian occupied territory is alarming and has to improve in a near future. Some important international organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and the UN are also alarmed by the situation. Accountability should be given to Israel for all of these violations and the international community needs to take relevant action. As an occupying power, Israel has to cope with its international obligations and has to make the environment of the occupied territory liveable, which is clearly not the case now.

There are a few recommendations that can be taken into account to help improve this situation:

  • Applying the right terminology: if we call a forced displacement by its legal name it creates an obligation to stop violating these rules.
  • Calling upon third parties to cope with all obligations.

It was mentioned in the meeting that the word occupation is used a lot to qualify the actual situation, but maybe the word “colonization” would me more appropriate. It has been several decades, how can the international community let this situation persevere, or even get worse?


Taline Bodart - Research Assitant for CIPADH