On 24 March, the UN Human Rights Council (hereinafter the Council) appointed a new Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and adopted four resolutions under agenda item 7 of the 31st session of the Council. In an unprecedented operative paragraph, resolution A/HRC/31/L.39 on the unlawfulness of Israeli settlements requires the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in close consultation with the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, to create a database listing all corporations operating in Israeli settlements. Operative paragraph 17 marks a significant development in the engagement of the Council on issues related to corporate accountability.
In resolution A/HRC/31/L.38 on ensuring accountability, the Council has also requested that OHCHR conduct a comprehensive review of the lack of implementation of Council recommendations addressed to the Israeli Occupying Power since 2009 to include "fact-finding missions, the commission of inquiry and special procedures, as well as by United Nations treaty bodies, by the Office of the High Commissioner and by the Secretary-General in his reports to the Human Rights Council, and to identify patterns of non-compliance, non-implementation and non-cooperation, to propose follow-up measures to ensure implementation, and to present a report to the Council at its thirty-fifth session."
The Council also elected Mr. Stanley Michael Lynk from Canada, as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The election came in spite of intimidation campaigns conducted to smear the reputation of the candidates that had been shortlisted. The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council wrote a letter to President of the Council, Ambassador Choi Kyonglim encouraging him to carry out the mandate-holders selection process in accordance with UN rules of procedure so as to minimize to the extent possible the protection gap that may exist following the resignation of former Special Rapporteur Makarim Wibisono.
Throughout the 31st session of the Council, Al-Haq had been engaged in a week-long mission with civil society organisations under agenda item 7 of the Council. As part of our mission in Geneva, Al-Haq attended meetings with EU representatives, South American representatives, OHCHR representatives, and other stakeholders. Al-Haq further participated in a side-event on 18 March organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies joined by Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. In the side-event, Al-Haq highlighted the change in open-fire regulations following Israeli government decisions and raised concerns regarding several cases of killing by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) that may amount to extrajudicial executions. Al-Haq spoke about a de facto shoot-to-kill policy being implemented against Palestinians by the IOF who continue to enjoy impunity within the Israeli judicial system. Al-Haq had previously highlighted unlawful Israeli policies and practices of excessive use of force, as well as, collective punishment in a written statement submitted to the Council prior to the 31st session.
On 21 March, Al-Haq moderated a side-event organised by Badil that brought together Palestinian organisations from the ground. The side-event with Al-Haq, Badil, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights discussed the failures of the Israeli judicial system and reaffirmed efforts by Palestinian civil society to engage with international justice mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). During the side-event, Al-Haq spoke specifically about attacks against its own staff members and said that we remain adamant at pursing justice through the ICC and international justice mechanisms.
On the same day, Al-Haq also participated in both the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the OPT and general debate under agenda item 7 of the 31st Council session. In the interactive dialogue, Al-Haq delivered a joint statement endorsed by Badil, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Diakonia and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. The statement highlighted shrinking civil society space in light of attacks on Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations. It further highlighted Israeli non-cooperation with the UN as part of its attempt at evading accountability. The EU intervened as well during the interactive dialogue citing concerns regarding attacks on human rights defenders working on the OPT.
Al-Haq also delivered an oral statement jointly with Badil and Diakonia under the general debate of agenda item 7. The statement highlighted excessive use of force by Israeli forces, as well as home demolitions, forcible transfer and displacement in the OPT over the past five months. Despite efforts of advocacy in Brussels by Al-Haq to encourage the EU to participate fully under agenda item 7 (see Al-Haq position paper on EU participation under agenda item 7 of the Human Rights Council), the EU did not speak in the general debate under the agenda item and had reiterated its position against agenda item 7.
Al-Haq affirms the need for focused and consistent attention to prolonged occupation and systematic violations under agenda item 7 of the Council. The unique nature of the occupation itself - including the accompanied systematic and gross violations of international law, the specific role of the UN and individual States in the devolution of the current situation, and the inability of Palestinians to resort to domestic remedies to enjoy their inalienable rights - demands international scrutiny. The Council is one of the appropriate fora to ensure the required attention and to pursue action that include recommendations for concrete measures towards accountability, including sanctions.
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