On Friday 22 July 2011, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights testified before the United Nations Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories as the Committee held its meeting in Gaza City.
Samir Zaqout, who represented Al Mezan, provided information and statistics, based on Al Mezan's documentation of Israeli violations of human rights and international humanitarian law during the period from 20 August 2010 to 22 July 2011, the interval between the two most recent meetings held by the Committee.
Zaqout presented figures about Palestinians killed, houses destroyed, agricultural lands leveled, and industrial workshops destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
He also spoke about the escalating abuses against Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.
In addition, Mr.
Zaqout reminded the Committee of the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive (Operation Cast Lead) and its results, which continue to affect human rights and the humanitarian situation until today.
He also noted the severe siege which was imposed on the Gaza Strip before this aggression and has continued since.
The siege has contributed in its turn to the deteriorated humanitarian situation, for example in the ongoing deprivation it imposes on persons subjected to displacement who cannot rebuild their homes.
Ongoing Israeli policy is designed to keep Gaza on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe by restricting the movement of people and goods, including humanitarian supplies.
Zaqout pointed out that the international community and the United Nations have been unable to play an effective role in lifting the Israeli siege, imposed on Gaza for four years now.
He criticized international complicity which paved the way for Israeli practices; especially international community’s economic sanctions imposed on Gaza and the more recent prevention of the flotilla ships from sailing to Gaza to challenge the collective punishment imposed on its population.
In his testimony, Mr.
Zaqout covered Israeli violations perpetrated in the restricted-access area (the “security buffer zone”), reviewing many cases that highlight the systematic targeting of houses and population in neighborhoods near the eastern and northern Gaza borders with Israel, such as the bombing of houses belonging to the Abu Is’ayid and Abu Shareb families.
Zaqout also focused on the ongoing situation in which fishermen are prevented from carrying out their work and are shot at while sailing inside the non-restricted area, which extends no more than three nautical miles from shore.
Zaqout discussed the suffering of Palestinian patients referred to hospitals in the West Bank, Jordan, and Israel to receive treatment, the denial of access to these hospitals for hundreds of Palestinians, and the efforts to arrest and extort patients in an attempt to recruit them as quislings.
Zaqout commented on the role of the United Nations in ensuring humanitarian access via so-called “lawful channels,” stating that even in cases where projects are approved by Israel, the United Nations is unable to ensure the entry of materials needed to complete programs to build schools and relief operations such as building houses.
He pointed out that people who have been subjected to displacement are protesting the slow process of rebuilding their houses.
Accordingly, devoting efforts to allowing some materials to enter the Gaza Strip, instead of devoting efforts to put an end to the unlawful collective punishment imposed on Gaza, is an attempt to conceal the failure to put pressure on Israel; the Occupying Power, to respect the international law.
With respect to questions raised by the Committee about the high number of patients referred to hospitals outside Gaza to receive treatment, Mr.
Zaqout responded that the deteriorated state of the health sector, particularly in the case of an emergency as a result of the ongoing Israeli attacks which cause high numbers of casualties and injuries.
The siege prevents the Ministry of Health from developing its resources and denies medical staff the opportunity to exchange experiences and train with foreign colleagues, or with peers in the West bank.
He also described the perennial shortfalls in medicines and medical disposables suffered by Gaza’s hospitals.
Zaqout called on the Committee to relay the message of the Palestinian victims under siege and occupation, hoping that the United Nations and its competent organizations can play an important role which will restore confidence in the U.
as protector and promoter of human rights and dignity.
He also handed factsheets, statistics, and reports over to the UN Committee.
Among these is a report composed by Al Mezan but yet published about the violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the Gaza Strip.