The 48th regular session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, which opened on 13 September 2021, concluded its work on 8 October—when it historically recognized for the first time the human right to a clean, health, and sustainable environment. Ahead of the session, Al Mezan and partner organization Al Haq submitted five joint written statements focused on pressing human rights issues in the oPt, including Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners, forced eviction and dispossession in East Jerusalem, illegal settlements expansion, and the crackdown on Palestinian civil society.
In a joint written submission, Al Mezan and Al Haq addressed Israel’s increase in prohibited restrictions following its 11-day full-scale military offensive against the Gaza Strip last May. In particular, the submission urges members of the Council and the UN to “[c]all on Israel to urgently open both humanitarian crossings into Gaza as a first step to the full and unconditional lifting of its illegal closure and blockade policy” and to “[e]nsure accountability, redress and the rights of Palestinian victims, in particular of Israel’s latest full-scale military assault, including by supporting international accountability mechanisms, namely the work and mandate of the incoming Commission of Inquiry.”
During the session, Al Mezan and partners delivered six oral statements under various Agenda Items. In a statement under Item 3 addressing the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, attention was drawn on the arbitrary detention and collective punishment of over 4,700 Palestinian prisoners and detainees under Israeli custody. In their statement under Item 4, Al Mezan and partners gave the floor to Said Hamayal, a resident of Beita whose 16-year-old son Mohammad Hamayel was killed by the Israeli occupying forces on 11 June 2021 in the context of a peaceful protest against settlement expansion.
This sessions’ General Debate under Item 7 mainly focused on addressing the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the allocation of water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. In addressing the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner, Al Mezan’s Director Issam Younis reminded them that “[s]afe, clean drinking water is essential to life. But its access is by no means a given for Palestinians living under Israeli control” and that “Israel’s asymmetrical distribution of water between Israelis and Palestinians clearly denotes Israel's intent to discriminate against the latter group to favor the former, thus representing water apartheid.”
In parallel to the session, Al Mezan co-sponsored two side events organized by partner organizations on the expansion of Israeli illegal settlements, featuring resident of Palestinian town Beita, and on the shrinking space of Palestinian civil society, focusing on Israel’s escalation of attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders. Along with 19 Palestinian and African partners, Al Mezan sent a letter to the representatives of the African Union in Geneva expressing our grave concerns regarding the recent accreditation of apartheid Israel as an observer state to the African Union.
Notably, while debating Agenda Item 7, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided an oral update on the implementation of resolution S-30/1 establishing an independent Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. In particular, it has been announced that individuals, groups and organizations are invited to submit information and documentation relevant to the Commission’s mandate as of 22 September, with a view to the Commission issuing its first report in the summer of 2022. Al Mezan and partners look forward to the opportunity to submit documentation and first-hand monitoring and information to the Commission, as well as to continue its advocacy work at future sessions of the Human Rights Council.