On Monday, 2 June 2014, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights presented its testimony, which covered the period between the committee’s last two meetings, before the UN Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs in the occupied territories.
The committee held its meeting in Jordan and Al Mezan presented its testimony via Skype at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza.
Al Mezan was represented by Mr.
Samir Zaqout, Director of Awareness and Monitoring at Al Mezan, who presented in the testimony the most significant developments in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) between 1 June 2013 and 1 July 2013.
Zaqout highlighted the ongoing, grave and systematic Israeli violations of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the Gaza Strip particularly manifested in the ongoing Israeli closure.
The closure, currently being imposed for the eighth consecutive year, has had a grave humanitarian impact on the civilian population of Gaza; the situation is compounded by the closure of the tunnels and of the Rafah border.
Further outlining the effects of the closure of Gaza, Mr.
Zaqout spoke on the increased restrictions on movement whereby Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza are unable to reach each other, Gaza students are prevented from pursuing degrees and courses of choice, and critically, Gaza patients are prevented or delayed in receiving medical treatment in hospitals with the necessary services and equipment.
Zaqout pointed towards the Israeli-enforced separation as a policy aimed at preventing unity within Palestine and further de-developing the Gaza Strip and Palestine overall.
With unemployment and poverty levels remaining critical, Mr.
Zaqout reminded the panel that the crisis is political and man-made with humanitarian issues remaining a circumstance of the stifling Israeli closure of Gaza implemented within broader Israeli political aims.
The silence of the international community, Mr.
Zaqout stated, allows the Israeli occupation of Gaza to continue in full force.
Al Mezan underlined the critical nature of the situation of Gaza patients whereby, just between the two meetings, Israeli forces arrested nine patients and their escorts and ignored 125 requests to travel via Erez crossing to reach hospitals in the West Bank and Israel.
The Israeli authorities kept 297 requests to travel via Erez crossing under consideration, while refusing 78 requests; in 146 cases patients were asked to change their escorts.
The Israeli forces also asked 123 patients to obtain new appointments with their doctors at the hospitals.
All of these practices aim to hinder the patients’ access to hospitals and contribute to deteriorating the conditions of healthin the Gaza Strip.
Zaqout continued to speak on the conditions of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails with continued mistreatment constituting a violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted in 1955.
The policies that constitute mistreatment include the various usages of solitary confinement, medical negligence, strip searching, and administrative detention, among other activities.
Al Mezan mentioned that around 140 Palestinian detainees have been on hunger strike for 40 consecutive days.
Al Mezan added that hundreds of detainees joined their colleagues in their hunger strike to support their calls for change and the total number is now approximately 1500 detainees.
The Israeli authorities have not addressed the concerns of the hunger strikers, namely the excessive and prolonged use of administrative detention, but have pursued the enactment of laws that allow the authorities to forcibly feed the detainees on hunger strike.
Al Mezan’stestimony also covered violations in the access-restricted (ARA) areas on land and by sea and explained their impact on the lives of fishermen and their families who now make up the poorest community in Gaza.
Zaqout stated that the Israeli forces have continued their attacks against Palestinians in the occupied territory.
As a result, 15 people were killed.
According to Al Mezan’s documentations, the Israeli forces opened fire in the ARA by land 120 times, resulting in the killing of 8 people including 1 child and 1 woman, while 122 people were injured including 21 children and 1 woman.
Al Mezan stated that Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen 118 times resulted in the injury of 9.
The Israeli forces arrested 38 fishermen and confiscated 21 boats along with fishing equipment.
Al Mezan asserts that the international community’s grant of immunity has encouraged Israel to commit further crimes against the Palestinian population.
Al Mezan mentioned cases that were filed at Israeli courts that were dismissed due to amendments of the Israeli civil (tort) laws, which is strategic in preventing Palestinian victims from accessing their right to justice within Israeli courts.
Bringing Israeli impunity full circle, the complaints that Al Mezan filed with the Israeli Military General calling for criminal investigations to be opened into several incidents where war crimes were suspected to have taken place were rejected.
One of Al Mezan’s prominent cases currently within the Israeli courts was mentioned as an example where justice has not been served four years after the incident.
At the end of the testimony, Al Mezan wished the best of luck to the committee in its mission to ensure respect for and protection of human rights and IHL for the civilians in the oPt until the end of the Israeli occupation.