UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Expresses Concern at Obstacles Faced by Palestinians Seeking Compensation for Cast-Lead Violations before Israeli Courts; Calls upon Israel to Lift Closure of the Gaza Strip

On 9 March 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) closed its 80th session in Geneva, Switzerland. CERD is mandated to review State Parties’ periodic reports in light of the treaty-based obligations arising from the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The case of Israel was reviewed by the Committee on 15-16 February 2012. Mr. Davide Tundo, a member of PCHR’s International Unit, participated as an observer. Mr. Tundo also participated in a series of informal briefings with members of the Committee, during which he conveyed PCHR’s belief that equal access to justice, and the protection of the law on a non-discriminatory basis are currently unattainable for Palestinians appealing to the Israeli legal system, in violation of Israel’s specific obligations under, inter alia, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Israel’s discriminatory practices and policies against Palestinians’ right to justice, enforced in the context of its occupation of the oPt, are evidenced in PCHR’s alternative report presented to the Committee ahead of Israel’s review. Specific instances include the blanket prohibition on claimants, witnesses and lawyers from Gaza appearing before Israeli courts, as result of Israel’s long standing illegal closure policy of the Gaza Strip, and the system of prohibitive court insurance fees, which constitute an insurmountable monetary barrier for Palestinians wishing to file a civil compensation claim with the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Upon conclusion of its works, the Committee has thus released its concluding observations and accepted PCHR’s principal arguments.

In particular, while condemning Israel’s persistent refusal to apply the Convention in the oPt, the Committee has expressed “concern at the monetary and physical obstacles faced by Palestinians seeking compensation before Israeli tribunals for loss suffered, in particular as a consequence of the IDF Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip (Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Convention).”

In this regard, PCHR believes that Israel’s discriminatory actions against Palestinians’ right to justice, considered in combination with other human rights violations committed in the context of the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, may constitute the crime against humanity of persecution, as stated by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

With respect to Israel’s illegal closure of Gaza, the Committee expressed concern regarding “the dramatic and disproportionate impact of the Israeli Defense Forces’ blockade and military operations on Palestinians’ right to housing and basic services in the Gaza Strip”. It therefore called upon Israel to “fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, rescind its blockade policy and urgently allow all construction materials necessary for rebuilding homes and civilian infrastructures into the Gaza Strip so as to ensure respect for Palestinians’ right to housing, education, health, water and sanitation in compliance with the Convention.”

PCHR reminds that all states are under a legal obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which includes an obligation to search for and prosecute before their courts individuals suspected of grave breaches of international humanitarian law (i.e., war crimes), in compliance with the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Overall, it is necessary that the international community, including UN bodies and member states, take all actions to enforce the rule of law in the oPt and bring to an end Israel’s longstanding violations of international law and Palestinians’ human rights.

The Committee’s concluding observations are available here. PCHR’s report to the Committee is available here.

For further information please contact:

Mr. Raji Sourani (Director, PCHR) pchr@pchrgaza.org

Mr. Daragh Murray (International Unit, PCHR) daragh@pchrgaza.org

Mr. Davide Tundo (International Unit, PCHR) davide@pchrgaza.org