BADIL Submission to: Mrs. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at her Meeting with Palestinian NGOs, Al-Bireh Municipality (13 November 2000)

The following letter was presented by BADIL to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, yesterday during her meeting with Palestinian human rights organizations at the Al-Bireh Municipality, Ramallah.

Bethlehem, 11 November 2000.

Dear Mrs. Robinson,

BADIL Resource Center welcomes your current mission to Palestine based on Resolution E/CN.4/S-5/1 issued by the Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on 19 October 2000.

I. Summary: Development and Consequences of Israeli Repression

Your visit to Palestine is taking place while the situation of the Palestinian people in the 1967 Israeli occupied lands continues to deteriorate as a result of new policies of repression and violations of Palestinian rights, delineated in International Humanitarian, Human Rights, and Refugee Law, by the  Israeli political and military authorities as well as armed Israeli settlers. 
Since the outbreak of the current violence on 29 September 2000, we have witnessed a transition of Israeli occupation policies from overt and massive repression of the popular Palestinian protests characterized by excessive and indiscriminate use of military force against the civilian population (live ammunition against unarmed civilian demonstrators; LAU and TOW missiles fired from gunship helicopters and tanks at residential areas) towards a new stage of low-intensity warfare at minimal cost to Israel, which aims to strangle the civil and economic life of the Palestinian community on the one hand (e.g. restrictions on movement of persons and goods, exclusion of the Palestinian labor force from the Israeli labor market, withholding of tax-refunds to the Palestinian Authority), and to liquidate organized Palestinian resistance to the occupation on the other (operation of Israeli undercover units and spies in Palestinian controlled areas in order to assassinate/arrest activists of the organized resistance movement). 
By 9 November 2000, Israel's occupation policies have resulted in 185 Palestinian deaths (14 of them inside the Israeli state territory), among them 64 minors below the age of 18, and in some 7,000 injuries, many of which will cause permanent disabilities. (For more details on developments and consequences of the current crisis, see BADIL press releases attached.)

II. Based on findings and analysis of BADIL and our partner organizations in the Palestinian community, the current violent crisis in 1967 occupied Palestine is mainly the result of two factors:

a) The use of excessive and indiscriminate force by the Israeli occupation forces (military and settlers) against Palestinian civilians since the Palestinian protests against the provocative visit of Israeli MK Ariel Sharon, accompanied by some 3,000 police and special forces, to the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem on 28 September 2000. Israel's excessive and indiscriminate use of force has since been examined, documented and condemned by numerous NGO investigators (e.g. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights), by United Nations organs (Security Council Resolution 1322 of 7 October 2000; General Assembly Resolution A/ES-10/L.6 of 20 October 2000; Special Session of the UN Human Rights Commission, Resolution  E/CN.4/Res/S-5/1 of 27 October 2000), and by the final statement of the Special Summit of the Arab League issued in Cairo on 22 October 2000.

b) Long-standing Israeli disregard and violation of international law standards as defined in UN Resolutions (181, 194, 242, 338), as well as international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law. Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, documented in resolutions of the UN Human Rights Commission since 1968, reached an unprecedented scope during the "interim period" of the Oslo peace process (1993 - 2000), which has excluded international mechanisms for enforcement of universal standards delineated in the three bodies of international law mentioned above. Popular Palestinian protests in the wake of the failed Camp David summit in July 2000 must be understood also as a broad Palestinian outcry against the deplorable situation of Palestinian human rights, particularly among vulnerable and unprotected sectors of the Palestinian people, such as refugees and internally displaced persons and the Palestinian community in occupied and unilaterally Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

III. Recommendations

Both levels of causes outlined above must be addressed immediately in order to create conditions for the resumption of the political efforts for a durable solution of the historical Israeli-Palestinian conflict. BADIL calls upon the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights to contribute to such effort by:

1. Making use of her mandate to prepare, based on this visit, an INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF INQUIRY into serious human rights violations and war crimes during the current crisis which have resulted in the killing of civilians, particularly children. Such Commission must be truly independent, its members not appointed by states but comprising, among others, international lawyers well-versed in human rights and humanitarian law. The Commission must be established as soon as possible, before information and evidence disappears, and IT MUST BE EMPOWERED TO ESTABLISH A TRIBUNAL FOR WAR CRIMES.

2. To set up a SPECIAL HUMAN RIGHTS TASK FORCE to examine the lack of protection of the Palestinian people in the 1967 Israeli occupied territories and in exile. Special attention should be given to the protection needs of vulnerable groups, particularly Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons and the Palestinian community in 1967 occupied Jerusalem. The task force should work in liaison with all UN agencies (potentially) involved (including UNCHR, UNRWA, UNHCR, UNCCP) and the ICRC. It should examine all possible ways of for IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION BY APPROPRIATELY MANDATED UN-BODIES FOR PROTECTION OF PALESTINAINS in the various categories, including the re-activation of UNRWA's ROA program and international peacekeeping troupes.

3. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights should take a PRINCIPLED POSITION towards STRICT APPLICATION of INTERNATIONAL LAW and the UN set out over the past 52 years in the resumption of the political negotiations between the respective parties. Your office should launch an initiative for drafting a formula for a durable peace with justice based on the UN framework which should be put forward for international involvement in resolving the historical conflict. Non-political international experts should be invited to assist in this process.

4. The MANDATE of the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be UPGRADED to include, in addition to the current role as assistant to civil and human rights development in Palestinian society, an active role in: i) documenting, reporting, and publicizing human rights violations as they occur; devising and implementing - in cooperation with other UN organs and ICRC - mechanisms of immediate protection of civilians during crisis; and, iii) monitoring the implementation of Human Rights standards during implementation of durable solutions.

Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, Director, BADIL Resource Center
Salem Abu Hawwash, Head of Board, BADIL Resource Center

For additional information on the Palestinian protection needs and international standards and mechanisms, see: Intifada2000