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WCC letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on West Bank and East Jerusalem

WCC letter to Ms. Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights on Human rights violations in West Bank, East Jerusalem

08 August 2019

To: Ms. Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights
SR Prof. Michael Lynk,  UN Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory

Dear High Commissioner, dear Special Rapporteur,

We are writing to express our concern over the high rates of human rights violations and violence currently taking place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

During the last few weeks, our Ecumenical Accompaniers on the ground have witnessed frequent and systematic human rights violations.

In East Jerusalem, they observed the house demolitions in Sur Bahir/Wadi al-Hummus on Monday 22 July. We are particularly concerned as those demolitions are setting a potential precedent of structure demolitions in Areas A and B, which are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Agreements. Despite international attention, ten structures were demolished including nine residential buildings, of which three were inhabited; this resulted in the displacement of four families, comprising 24 people, including 14 children. Moreover, during the first week of August, the use of excessive force by the Israeli forces linked with the demolitions and displacement, led to 18 persons hospitalized of whom 14 were Palestinians and 4 internationals.

In the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Al Isawiyah, Israeli forces have entered almost daily, harassing inhabitants, charging arbitrary fines, routinely arresting children, and using violence when carrying out operations. The situation in the area has been hostile for almost two months now and is escalating. During one of their last visits, the Israeli police arrested three children approximately 11 years of age. Children as young as four years old have received summons for questioning.

The construction of illegal settlements continued at an alarming pace throughout the occupied territory. In the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills, which are almost exclusively area C, we have witnessed continuous settlement expansion and establishment of new outposts. There are numerous shepherding communities experiencing daily settler harassment. There are also reports on several incidents of uprooting trees as well as demolitions of structures for shelter and water distribution, often affecting Bedouin families who already live on the bare minimum. In Area C, the latest demolitions have been based on the Military Order 1797 of 17 April 2018, which allows the demolition of unlicensed Palestinian structures deemed as “new” within 96 hours of a removal notice being issued, giving almost no time to appeal. In the past, the residents were given 30 days to object or find alternative ways of receiving a permit.

Accompaniers have also been present as settlers repeatedly try to remove local farmers from their land; aided by the military. In the northern West Bank, they have witnessed an increase in demolitions of family businesses and farm structures; depriving families of their livelihoods. The situation at the agricultural gates is particularly tense due to the denial and cancellation of permits. Farmers often have no legal means to challenge not being able to access their land. In towns such as Kifl Haris, Qaffin, Yasuf, Sabastiya, or even Nablus, hundreds of settlers arrive on regular bases, aided by hundreds of military personnel, and proceed to perform “rituals” which is often followed by harassment. In the case of Kifl Haris, this takes the form of drinking alcohol, loud singing, barbecues and  music blaring from a large sound system erected in the small town square. These “rituals” inevitably conclude with vandalism and the destruction of local property. All these are carried out under the surveillance of the Israeli military, while local Palestinians are essentially under house arrest and all entrances in and out of the village are closed to facilitate the rituals.

We are concerned by the lack of reaction and visible action of the international community towards those practices and the systematic violation of international laws and regulations by the Israeli authorities and by settlers. The forcible displacement of Palestinian population from their land is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and should be treated as such.

We would like to call your office and the Human Rights Council to take concrete and immediate steps to prevent the deteriorating situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and systematically protest against all human right violations taking place in the region.

We thank you for your consideration of our letter and remain at your service should you require further information.

 

Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
Acting General Secretary
World Council of Churches