Mr. Issam Younis, General Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Vice Chairman of the Deputy Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, opened a conference organized by the Commission entitled “The Right to Housing and the Rebuilding of the Gaza Strip”.
In his speech, Mr. Younis reflected on some of the questions raised to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during his visit to the Gaza Strip after Israel’s 2009 aggression. Mr. Younis considered how the destruction by Israeli forces could be mended without the perpetrators being brought to justice and without accountability principles being implemented; what would the guarantees be for non-repetition of the crimes? The 2008/9 acts of aggression were considered shortly after within the Goldstone report to be war crimes and crimes against humanity. Then, only a few years later, in the summer of 2014, the crimes were repeated and escalated in their severity in many ways. According to Al Mezan’s joint submissions of information to the International Criminal Court, the Israeli forces policies and practices in the 2014 aggression and in the closure/blockade of Gaza amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr. Younis recalled another question directed to Mr. Ki Moon at that time, being how—considering that Gaza is kept under a stifling, illegal closure and blockade by the Israeli authorities—Gaza could be rebuilt at all? Only illusions of justice are sold to victims of Israel’s aggressions and occupation policies, while the status quo remains impunity and perpetuation of the restrictions maintained by Israeli authorities for the closure policy. Al Mezan documented the Israeli forces’ full or partial destruction of over 30,000 housing units in the summer of 2014. More than two years later, tens of thousands of Gaza residents remain homeless or displaced due to the closure and blockade stifling reconstruction efforts.
Mr. Younis expressed his deep regret at the years of siege that continue to undermine all reconstruction efforts in the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. After each Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip the international community faithfully states commitment to rebuild the Strip according to Israel’s policies to maintain the closure and occupation and to prevent meaningful easing of restrictions. The Gaza reconstruction mechanism, which cements Israeli authorities’ control and surveillance over Gaza, is an example of this response.
Mr. Younis emphasized that according to customary international law, the perpetrators of international crimes must provide reparations for the victims as a moral and legal obligation, and must be held to account. The international community is equally obligated, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to ensure accountability where grave breaches have been committed.
Mr. Younis added that the UN agreed to contribute to and be part of the reconstruction mechanism, which legitimizes the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. At the end of his speech, Mr. Younis called for abolishing the current reconstruction mechanism, to lift the Israeli siege, and to immediately work towards rebuilding the destroyed homes.
 See Al Mezan, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Al Haq, and Aldameer’s joint submission to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, here: http://mezan.org/en/post/21630
 According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, 75,000 Palestinians, including an estimated 44,000 children remain displaced (as of April 2016). See, http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/idps_report_april_2016_english.pdf
 According to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on 18 November, UNRWA had secured funding to reconstruct only 1,900 totally destroyed homes, all of which are currently either completed, ongoing or awaiting clearance in the Gaza reconstruction mechanism (GRM) by Israeli authorities. Other actors are supporting the reconstruction of 2,100 refugee homes. But there is no funding for the rest of Gaza’s residents whose homes were reduced to rubble. See, http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/emergency-reports/gaza-situation-report-170