17 December 2008
As a Palestinian human rights organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is deeply concerned
over Israel’s expulsion of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor Richard Falk.
Invoking Professor Falk’s “politicised views” and “methodic criticism of Israel,” the Israeli authorities denied the Special Rapporteur entry to Israel on his way to the OPT on 14 December 2008. He was expelled from Ben Gurion International Airport on 15 December 2008, and thus prevented from carrying out official functions in the context of his mandate as the UN’s independent reporter on the human rights situation in the OPT. The Special Rapporteur was scheduled to meet with officials from the Palestinian National Authority, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as human rights organisations and UN agencies working throughout the OPT. However, Israel’s disapproval of Falk’s presence was reflected in several statements by spokespersons of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as Yigal Palmor, who referred to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as “profoundly distorted and conceived as an anti-Israel initiative.”
Israel has repeatedly criticised the Human Rights Council for an alleged bias on evaluating Israel’s human rights performance. However, on 4 December 2008, Israel, like 47 other States this year, was reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review, a newly established UN monitoring mechanism that reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN member states. The review of Israel resulted in a total of 54 conclusions, most of which drew attention to the continued and systematic violations of international human rights law in the OPT (a draft report can be found here). The review also included several recommendations for Israel to better cooperate with UN Special Rapporteurs as a means of improving the human rights situation on the ground. While Israel’s response purported to demonstrate cooperation with the UN reporting mechanisms on the basis that it has allowed the entry of seven Special Rapporteurs into Israel and the OPT during the last three years, it belied the selective nature of this cooperation.
Several Special Rapporteurs who have requested a visit to Israel and the OPT have not been granted permission, such as the Special Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (requested in 2002 and follow up request in 2007); on violence against women, its causes and consequences (requested in 2001); and on adequate housing (requested in 2005). Further, the expulsion of Professor Falk marks the latest in a string of high profile human rights experts, scholars and observers denied entry to Israel and/or the OPT this year, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and his Human Rights Council mandated fact finding mission.
As a UN Member State, Israel is under an obligation not only to uphold international human rights law and standards, but also to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms which work to promote and protect universally acknowledged human rights, including the UN Special Rapporteurs. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the OPT has provided the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation with a unique means to alert the international community of the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that are committed by the Israeli Occupying Power in the OPT.
Israel’s duplicity and hypocrisy in dealing with the UN manifested itself once again on 16 December 2008 in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement in which, just a day after expelling the UN Special Rapporteur, Israel expressed its commitment to the “peace process” and the implementation of the so-called “Road Map,” of which the UN is a principle guardian.
In this light, and in light of the recommendations made during the recent Universal Periodic Review of Israel, it is deplorable for Israel to deny the UN Special Rapporteur entry to the OPT. This denial not only constitutes a blatant assault on democracy and on the proper functioning of UN mechanisms, but also violates Professor Falk’s freedom of expression and opinion, while deliberately undermining his ability to perform his duty to monitor and document the human rights situation in the OPT in any meaningful way. The very purpose of the UN as a guardian of universal human rights is forfeited if the functioning of its special procedures is contingent on approval by a given State.
In light of these concerns Al-Haq calls upon:
• the Human Rights Council to pass a resolution to formally condemn Israel’s expulsion of the UN Special Rapporteur on the OPT; and
• UN Member States to exert pressure on Israel to grant Professor Falk a visa to enter Israel and the OPT in his official capacity as Special Rapporteur.
- Ends -