From 21 of January to 1 of February 2013, the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold Israel’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Through the UPR, the Human Rights Council reviews, on a periodic basis, the fulfilment by each of the 193 United Nations Member States of their human rights obligations and commitments.
A review of a State is based on three documents: a national report prepared by the State under review; a compilation of United Nations information on the State under review prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and a summary of information submitted by other stakeholders (including NGOs) also prepared by OHCHR.
The review itself takes place in Geneva in a session of the Working Group on the UPR, which is composed of the 47 member States of the Human Rights Council. The review takes the form of a three-and-a-half-hour interactive dialogue between the State under review and the member and observer States of the Council. A few days after the interactive dialogue, the Working Group adopts the report of the proceedings.
In particular, the Council will review Israel’s compliance, in the period between 2008 and 2012, with its obligations under the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international human rights treaties and conventions to which Israel is a Party and applicable international humanitarian law in relation, inter alia, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). To complement the review process, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) has submitted a joint written submission to the Council highlighting Israel’s failure to adhere to its obligations under international law in the OPT.
The submission focuses on a number of substantive issues that illustrate how the combined effect of Israel’s policies in the OPT aims at denying the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, a peremptory norm of international law that, as such, cannot be derogated at any time by any actor if international law. These policies include:
- The effects of a forty-five-year-long military occupation, which has progressively institutionalised a regime of discrimination and racial segregation against the Palestinian occupied population.
- The gradual and systematic forcible transfer of the occupied population and the annexation of Palestinian land by use of force through various measures such as the construction of the Annexation Wall, the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements, land confiscation, home demolitions, revocation of residency rights, denial of family unification and freedom of movement.
- The unlawful treatment of prisoners as a result of practices such as administrative detention, torture, and other inhuman and degrading conditions of detention, trial by military courts and abuses against human rights defenders.
- Israel’s manifest failure to ensure accountability for grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law perpetrated during Operation ‘Cast Lead’ and in relation to the widespread and systematic attacks of Israeli settlers against the Palestinian civilian population.
- Israel’s five-year-long closure and enforcement of a Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip that have negatively impacted the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.
As Palestinian organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the OPT, the PHROC made several recommendations to the Council. Amongst others, the PHROC asks the Council to condemn Israel’s policies of racial segregation by ensuring that the Palestinian occupied population in the West Bank is granted full protection from settler violence and effective legal remedies when victims of settler attacks; and to urge Israel to put to an end to its direct and indirect policies of forcible population transfer of the Palestinian people. The PHROC furthermore recommends the Council to urge Israel to halt all use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, as it is unequivocally required under peremptory norms of international law, and to declare the policy of prolonged administrative detention as amounting to a form of torture. Other recommendations include a condemnation of Israel’s failure to ensure accountability for international crimes committed during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ the lifting of the illegal regime of closure of the Gaza Strip and the repeal of the Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002.