Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Jerusalem, 9 December 2014
Dear Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein,
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ) and Adalah are deeply concerned about the circumstances which are undermining the ability of the Human Rights Council’s Investigation Commission to implement, fully and adequately, its mandate – as enshrined in UN Resolution S-21/1 – to “investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in particular in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014 …with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring those responsible are held accountable, and … protect[ing] civilians against any further assaults.”
Whereas the Commission is to present its final report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015, it has – as of end November 2014 – been severely restricted in carrying out its role and mandate, mainly due to the persistent non-cooperation of Israel. Denied entry into occupied Palestine by Israel, the Commission has been unable to inspect any of the sites in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where violations have occurred on a large-scale since June of this summer. Only a few select experts and victims have been able to give testimony to the Commission in Amman during a single short mission, and it is not clear whether any further missions to the region will take place. The Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as the UN agency charged with providing the team of independent experts with the necessary support, has a responsibility to make the strongest possible effort in order to overcome obstacles and safeguard the Commission’s work.
Adalah, PHROC, and CCPRJ call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to meet personally with Israel and to condemn in the strongest terms Israel’s renewed non-cooperation with the Human Rights Council and its Commission of Inquiry, which is a measure that contravenes the principle of international cooperation among UN member states. We call on OHCHR to urge states, members of the Human Rights Council, to the same.
Since access via Egypt has become necessary and a priority for the Commission’s success, we urge the High Commissioner for Human Rights to enquire personally about the delay in the Commission’s entry into the Gaza Strip, and on OHCHR to be in constant contact with the UN Department of Safety and Security in New York, in order to resolve rapidly all outstanding issues of security protection required for safe passage via Egypt into the Gaza Strip. We expect the members of the Commission of Inquiry to be in Egypt and ready to cross into the Gaza Strip as soon as clearance is given.
In the same vein, we also call on OHCHR to undertake strong and visible efforts to convince states to provide the diplomatic and financial support required for the success of the Commission’s work. We urge OHCHR to alert third parties, in particular European states that have so far withheld active support of the Commission’s work, that a failure of the Commission to undertake thorough investigations in the occupied Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, will aggravate the climate of violence and impunity, and further undermine the role and credibility of the international human rights system in the region.
In addition to the above, we call on OHCHR to enhance cooperation with Adalah, PHROC, CCPRJ and our members, and to use all available technical and financial resources, in order to protect the dignity of the victims. Palestinian victims, in particular in the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are informed, expect to be heard, and must be granted access to the Commission.
As a matter of urgency, we would like to officially enquire what OHCHR is doing in order to:
• Push for the Commission’s entry into the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, including by coordinating with the UN Department of Safety and Security and Egypt;
• Facilitate additional field missions for the Commission in Amman and Cairo;
• Provide facilitation, including travel support, for victims and experts from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to testify to the Commission during these additional field missions;
• Arrange for a series of video conferences for victims in various locations who wish to give testimony but are unable to travel and meet the Commission abroad.
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Rina Rosenberg (Jabareen), Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel;
Sahar Francis, Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association;
Khalil Abu Shammala, Aldameer Association for Human Rights;
Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq;
Issam Younis, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights;
Mohammad Zeidan, Arab Association for Human Rights;
Nidal Azza, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights;
Zakaria Odeh, The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem;
Rifat Kassis, Defence for Children International Palestine Section;
Hasib Nashashibi, Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy;
Helmi Al-araj, Hurryyat – Centre for Defense of Liberties and Human Rights;
Issam Aruri, Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights;
Iyad Barghouti, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies;
Maha Abu Dayyeh, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling;
Raji Sourani, The Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Cc: Prof. William Shabas, head, HRC Investigation Commission