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WCC CCIA statement to the UN Human Rights Council 41st Session (Item 7: Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories)

The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches expressed its grave concern about the high rate of evictions and demolitions in East-Jerusalem.

24 July 2019

Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
World Council of Churches

UN Human Rights Council 41stSession
Item 7: Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
General Debate

8 July 2019

Thank you, Mr. President,

The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches would like to express its grave concern about the high rate of evictions and demolitions in East-Jerusalem.

April 2019 saw the highest rate of demolitions in a single month (since those have started being recorded in 2009), with 60 homes and structures demolished. 200 persons have been displaced in East Jerusalem since January 2019[1]. This worrying trend seems to be continuing with further demolition orders being approved by the High Court of Justice.

We would like to highlight the case of Wadi-Al-Hummus in southeast Jerusalem, just outside the boundaries of Jerusalem municipality, on the Israeli side of the wall.  It is mostly in area A, under the control of Palestinian Authority as per Oslo agreements. 16 large buildings sheltering about 500 people have been given demolition orders with request to self-demolish by 18thJuly. Beyond this date the demolition will be executed by the military and the residents will have to pay for the demolitions cost. There is a fear that it will set a precedent of demolition in area A and lead to mass demolition near the separation barrier throughout the West Bank.

We would like to underline that Israel as an occupying power is bound by International Humanitarian Law to protect the Palestinian civilian population. The 4thGeneva Convention clearly states that the occupier cannot destroy or seize property on territory it is occupying, and that forcible transfer of residents of an occupied territory, unless for imperative military reasons[2], constitutes a grave breach of international law.

Therefore, Mr. President, we call on:

1.         The Government of Israel:

a) to immediately cease to demolish Palestinian homes and structures.

2.         The Human Rights Council and the international community to:

a) take concrete and immediate steps to prevent the demolition of Wadi-Al Hummus and hold Israel accountable for violations of international law;

b) systematically protest against demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian property

Thank you, Mr. President.



[1]Source: UNOCHA, https://www.ochaopt.org/

[2]Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 Article 49: “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.
Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.”

Article 53: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

Article 147:“Grave breaches […] shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: […] unlawful deportation or transfer, […]extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

and Article 53:“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”