This week, Al Mezan concluded its participation in the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Al Mezan and its partner organizations have once again brought to the attention of the Council and its Member States the urgent situation in Gaza, which in recent weeks has escalated, after Israel launched a series of additional punitive measures against the civilian population, in parallel to the spread of COVID-19.
In a joint written submission, Al Mezan and partners recalled that UN reports have repeatedly warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable by 2020 should Israel fail to lift the closure. Yet the Occupying Power continues to tighten the restrictions on the Gaza Strip, by inter alia closing Karam Abu Salem crossing in August 2020, as well as further restricting the fishing zone, thereby preventing Palestinian fishers from accessing 60 percent of their maritime areas.
Joined by other civil society organizations, Al Mezan emphasized that “the situation in Gaza is intentional, it is human-made, and it is carefully orchestrated by the Israeli government.” In particular, Al Mezan reported that the increased punitive measures “dramatically restricted the population’s access to water and electricity.” While welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Al Mezan called his attention to the fact that the water shortage in Gaza does not ensure its two million population access to the minimum essential amount of water necessary to prevent the spread of disease, first and foremost COVID-19.
In coordination with its partners, Al Mezan stressed that while Gaza struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Palestinian patients from the Strip are not receiving adequate medical treatment due to the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities as part of its closure policy. Given the state of Gaza’s healthcare system, the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Strip could have catastrophic effects on the population.
Al Mezan urged the Council and its Member States to publicly recognize and to collectively overcome the apartheid regime imposed by Israel over the Palestinian people, and supported the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ condemnation of Israel’s illegal policy of population transfer and demographic manipulation. Notably, during the General Debate for Item 9, both South Africa and Namibia exercised their Right of Reply to the Israeli delegation’s interruption to the statement to express their support for the use of the legal term ‘apartheid’ to qualify the situation imposed in the occupied Palestinian territory by the Occupying Power. The Namibian delegate underlined that the international community, and in particular the Human Rights Council, have “the responsibility to address the apartheid practices being perpetuated against the Palestinian people by Israel.”
Joining other civil society organizations, Al Mezan urged States to support the annual update of the UN database of business enterprises involved in illegal settlements activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), so to remind business actors of their responsibilities under both international human rights and humanitarian law in any operations carried out in the oPt.
Al Mezan welcomed the Secretary General’s report on reprisals and shrinking space, which addresses the attacks and repressive actions perpetrated against the Center by the Israeli government and its affiliated groups. Al Mezan called “on the Council and its Member States to proactively counter attempts to shrink the space in which the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people are pursued and to hold actors accountable for deliberate disinformation campaigns and other acts of reprisal.” This statement was part of a series in which civil society brought to the attention of the Council and its Member States the targeting of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders, who have endured – amongst a wide range of intimidating tactics – death threats, arbitrary arrests, travel ban, residency revocation, and deportation.
 See the statement of South Africa and Namibia at: http://webtv.un.org/search/item9-general-debate-contd-30th-meeting-45th-regular-session-human-rights-council-/6196464288001/#t=2h57m7s