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UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) Takes Action in Support of Palestinian Rights - BADIL Report from the 25th Session of the CESCR, Geneva, April-May 2001

BADIL Report from the 25th Session of the CESCR, Geneva, April-May 2001

At its spring 2001 session, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) -- the UN body meeting three times annually in order to monitor state compliance with obligations assumed under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- underlined its deep concern over Israel's gross violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians under its jurisdiction by taking action on two levels.

First, in a letter to the Israeli Mission in Geneva (11 May), the Committee stated its grave concern over Israel's violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and the expropriation and devastation of Palestinian lands. The Committee reiterated "the legal position shared by other treaty bodies that Israel's international treaty obligations as with this Covenant, apply to territories within its internationally recognized borders as well as other areas under its jurisdiction and effective control, including Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip." The Committee declared Israel's argument that jurisdiction, and thus obligations, have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority as "not valid from the perspective of the Covenant, particularly in view of Israel currently besieging all the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967." Israel was informed in this letter that its performance under the Covenant would be re-examined in the Committee's next session, scheduled for August 2001.

Second, in an unprecedented move, the CESCR also took the step of alerting the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the main UN supervisory body on human rights issues, of Israel's violations. In its letter to ECOSOC, also issued on 11 May, the Committee emphasizes that while it is effectively monitoring state performance with regard to social, economic and cultural rights, it "remains limited in the enforcement aspect required to maintain the integrity of the Covenant in such a situation." ECOSOC's attention was drawn to the fact that enforcement action by other bodies of the international system, including ECOSOC itself, is required. In this context, the Committee underscored the need for protection measures for the Palestinian population in the 1967 occupied territories along the lines of earlier recommendations issued in the framework of the various mechanisms of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The 54 member states of ECOSOC will address this communication in its upcoming session, scheduled to be held in Geneva between 2-27 July 2001.

BADIL Submissions to CESCR

BADIL's November 2000 submission to CESCR identified three main Israeli violations of Covenant protected rights of Palestinian refugees, i.e. obstruction of the right of return, obstruction of the right to restitution, and obstruction of the right of self-determination. It was argued that by violating these "core, foundational" rights of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced (i.e. private property ownership rights, the right to citizenship in one's country of origin, and the right to self-determination), Israel completely violates the remaining set of Covenant-enumerated social, economic and cultural rights of this large population group of over 5 million in their entirety. In its follow-up submission to the Committee's April-May 2001 session, BADIL requested the Committee:

1. To strengthen its 1998 Concluding Observations regarding Israel (observations 11, 13, 25, 39) by clearly identifying Israeli violations of the three "core, foundational" rights of the Palestinian refugees as BREACHES of the Covenant.

2. To identify appropriate remedies required for Israel to come into compliance with its Covenant obligations, namely: annulment/amendment of Israel's discriminatory Nationality Law (1952) in order to grant EFFECTIVE RIGHT OF RETURN and CITIZENSHIP STATUS to all Palestinians exiled from areas under Israel's sovereign control; annulment of all illegal Israeli land confiscation laws and RESTITUTION of properties to their rightful Palestinian owners; return and restitution, as well as the immediate cessation of Israel's military occupation in the 1967 occupied territories, as a condition for the exercise of the Palestinian people's right to SELF-DETERMINATION enshrined in Article 1 of the Covenant.

3. To identify specific Covenant mechanisms for implementing the above-mentioned remedies, namely: to inform other UN organs, especially ECOSOC and the Commission on Human Rights, about the graveness of Israel's Covenant breaches; and to request UN organs with an enforcement mandate to take action for the international protection of Palestinian rights enshrined in the Covenant.

For further detail see:

Letter by Virginia Bonoan Dandan, Chairperson, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to M. Yaakov Levy, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva (12 May 2001); and Letter by the Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the President of ECOSOC (11 May 2001); (pdf)

BADIL Follow-Up Information regarding the Committee's 1998 Concluding Observations; submitted to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 24th session, 13 November 2000; (pdf)

BADIL Report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regarding General Item: Follow-Up Procedure (Israel); 25th session, 23 April 2001. (pdf)