FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
20 December 2006
As a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Al-Haq would like to draw your attention to the current dire situation of the inhabitants of al-Nu’man, a village located to the southeast of Jerusalem and northeast of Bethlehem.
In 1967, when Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and surrounding Palestinian areas, the land of the village was included in the expanded Jerusalem municipal boundaries. However, al-Nu’man’s inhabitants were registered as West Bank residents and issued West Bank IDs, thereby becoming illegal residents in their own houses. Since 1986, no new planning permission has been granted for the village and all construction has been prohibited. Access to the village has become increasingly difficult, and essential infrastructure, such as water pipes, have been repeatedly damaged by the Israeli authorities. Village lands have been seized by the Israeli authorities for the expansion of the settlement of Har Homa, and the construction of a trade terminal and military base.
In 2002 al-Nu’man residents were informed that the village was adjacent to the planned route of the Annexation Wall around Jerusalem, which in the area of the village takes the form of a fence. The Wall’s construction results in the severing of the village from both Jerusalem and the West Bank, and confiscates further village lands. In May 2006 a permanent checkpoint was established and became the only entrance to, and exit from, the village. Only al-Nu’man residents with West Bank IDs can cross the checkpoint. It must be noted that the village has no shops, schools or medical facilities, and is therefore dependent on access to surrounding villages for these services. The checkpoint has also prevented the delivery of gas to the village and refuse collection vehicles are no longer allowed to enter the village. Al-Nu’man is now bordered on three sides by the Wall.
Al-Nu’man counts approximately 220 residents, and presents an obstacle to Israeli development plans in the area of the village, such as the expansion of the illegal Har Homa settlement, and the construction of a trade terminal, a bypass road, a military base and the Annexation Wall. As a result of these plans the village and its residents have been subjected to systematic efforts by the Israel authorities to render living in the village intolerable, effectively forcing the villagers to abandon their homes and lands, and move elsewhere.
The isolation of the village and the confiscation and destruction of property violates both international human rights and humanitarian law. The severe movement restrictions placed on the village residents violates not only their right to freedom of movement, but also results in further violations such as routine harassment and degrading treatment at the checkpoint, and the denial of access to core social rights such as education. The pattern of violations is clearly aimed at removing the residents from the village. This is expressly prohibited by Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention which holds,
Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Forcible transfer, also constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, mandating universal jurisdiction and individual criminal responsibility.
In light of the severe hardships faced by the residents of al-Nu’man, and the clear illegality of Israeli actions with regard to the civilian population of the village, Al-Haq reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their obligation to ensure respect for the provisions of that convention. Concrete steps must be taken at the diplomatic level, both in relation to the Israeli government and in the capitals of third states, to ensure that the rights of the villagers of al-Nu’man, as enshrined in international law, are protected at all times. To allow sustained violations such as those committed against the inhabitants of al-Nu’man to go unchecked creates an atmosphere of impunity, and weakens the credibility of international law as a means of protection for Palestinian civilians, at a time when respect for human rights and international humanitarian law are of pivotal importance.