Palestinian Civil Society Concerned over the Working of the United Nations Register of Damage on the Wall and its Associated Regime
For Immediate Release
No. (E/28/06) 14 December 2006
“Civil society welcomes the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a step towards the implementation of the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, but serious concerns remain over the working of the Register. [...] Unless these concerns are addressed in a transparent and consultative manner, Palestinian civil society will publicly denounce and actively boycott the Register of Damage.” (1)
This is the unanimous message conveyed in a series of letters sent to the UN Secretary General, the UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process, the Palestinian Observer Mission to the United Nations, and UN member states by civil society networks and organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the Palestinian NGO Network “PNGO”, the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative “OPGAI”, the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), Al-Haq, WCLAC, Diakonia and BADIL Resource Center.
The UN General Assembly is expected to table a new proposal for the establishment of the over-due UN Register on 15 December 2006. Civil society organizations urge the Secretary-General, UN members states and the PLO to ensure that the Register is conceived as a step against impunity and adheres to the requirements of international law and best practice:
Purpose of the Register
Although the Register of Damage as envisaged by the Secretary-General is not a claims mechanism, the establishment of a register that does not foresee reparation as a form of redress would be useless for the victims whose rights have been violated. It would also contradict the Court's conclusion that "Israel has the obligation to make reparation for the damage caused to all the natural or legal persons concerned." Hence, the inherent purpose of the Register is to lay the foundation for redress.
Registration of claims
The Register, as currently envisaged by the report of the Secretary-General, remains vague on the procedure for approval of claims because decision about eligibility criteria and scope of damages is deferred to the Board. Palestinian civil society is concerned that excessive power to shape the Register is left to the Board, whose composition is yet to be determined. Moreover, the claims registered will not be evaluated or verified by the Board, a procedure which diminishes the relevance of this Register as an official record for future claims.
Equally important is the participation of Palestinian victims, civil society and leaders in the determination of eligibility criteria and the scope of damages as the terms of reference of the Register will directly affect potential beneficiaries. The eligibility criteria need to be flexible and inclusive, considering all available standards of evidence as developed by reparation mechanisms and international law.
Scope of damages
The register, as it is currently envisaged, however, omits collective damage claims, such as damage to public lands and natural resources, civil infrastructure, commonly held properties, environmental harm and the destruction of regional economies. It also omits non-material damages such as effects on mental health and family life. As it is currently conceived, the most significant part of damages caused by the Wall would escape the Register's purview. It is important, therefore, that the Register includes all material and non-material damages as well as collective damages, as human rights standards and international guidelines on reparation have established.
Field presence and participation
Lastly, the Register must maintain a fully functional operation in the occupied Palestinian territories, regardless of where the Board members convene. Furthermore, the UN General Assembly and Secretary General must ensure that, consistent with the Privileges and Immunities Convention, the Register's Board members and functionaries have protected access to the field and the affected persons, without the interference of any third parties. Without such access, the participation of Palestinian victims and civil society will be seriously impeded.
(1) Response to the Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution ES-10/15 on the establishment of the UN Register of Damage in connection with paragraphs 152 and 153 of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004. For the Secretary General's Report dated 17 October 2006, see: