Under Prolonged Israeli Occupation, Children's Development 'Deformed by Pervasive Deprivations' affecting Health, Education, Security, UN Expert tells Committee

from UN General Assembly
Published on 20 Oct 2011 View Original


Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Third Committee
25th & 26th Meetings (AM & PM)

Also Hears from Experts on Human Rights While Countering Terrorism,
Religious Freedom, Foreign Debt, Extrajudicial Executions, Internally Displaced

The prolonged Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories had placed a tremendous burden on civilians, and had an even heavier impact on children, “whose development is deformed by pervasive deprivations affecting health, education and overall security,” a top UN Official told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Richard Falk, the Human Right’s Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, said evidence suggested a pattern of increasing abuse through specific policies that systematically violated the rights of children under international humanitarian law. Further, experts on child development agreed that children suffered more from violations than adults and “the protection of their rights should be of urgent concern to the international community”.

Mr. Falk, who was presenting his annual report, said that Israel had again this year refused to cooperate with his mandate and allow him access to the Territories. But, he noted that many children arrested for stone-throwing were subject to Israeli military law. That process, as documented by United Nations agencies, included arrests in the middle of the night, removal of the child from the parent for questioning and abundant anecdotal evidence of abusive treatment in detention.

Related to that had been an alarming increase in settler violence in 2011, he said, with 178 documented injuries to Palestinians during the first half of this year compared to 176 for all of 2010 and with almost daily accounts of vandalism against Palestinian agricultural land and villages.

A further dimension to those activities was frequent settler harassment of Palestinian children on their way to school, which had reportedly discouraged many children and their families from even attending. “Overall, the failure to prevent and punish settler violence remains a serious and on-going violation of Israel’s most fundamental obligation under international humanitarian law to protect a civilian population living under occupation,” he said.

He recommended that the Government of Israel immediately adopt the non-governmental organization B’Tselem’s guidelines to protect Palestinian children who were arrested or detained, as a minimum basis for compliance with international humanitarian law. Further, Israel also needed to develop and implement appropriate detention and imprisonment policies for all Palestinians.

The Special Rapporteur also recommended allowing entry into Gaza urgently needed materials to repair water and electricity infrastructure and an immediate lifting of the unlawful blockade of Gaza. Finally, he recommended that a request be made to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legal status of prolonged occupation.

During the question-and-answer session following his presentation, Mr. Falk expressed support for Palestine’s recent request to be admitted as a Member State of the United Nations. In the new political atmosphere of revolutions in the Middle East, Palestinian statehood should be supported as an ingredient of self-determination that should not be tied to the resolution of final status issues.

“There is no credible reason to defer Palestinian statehood and membership in the United Nations, given these realities,” he argued, stressing that to deny the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people was just to express the failure of the international community, and the United Nations system, to act in accordance with the global rule of law.

Also today, the Committee heard from Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, who called for the international community to take stock of the ramifications from the growing practice of targeted killings, particularly through use of unmanned drones. “Drone warfare, in particular, challenges the assumptions of international humanitarian law and holds the potential of doing deep structural damage to a system that has been built up over many years, and that will be a central ingredient in dealing with the potential conflicts of the future,” he said.

“The problems caused by terrorism and asymmetrical warfare are real and cannot be ignored. However, part of the concern about a State killing its opponents in other countries halfway around the world, far from any armed conflict, is the precedent it sets for all States to act in this way,” he said. “The practice of such killings should be subjected to a comprehensive overview by the international community.”

During the question-and-answer session following the Special Rapporteur’s statement, the delegate of the United States said her country fully acknowledged there was disagreement on the use of force against Al-Qaeda outside of “hot” battlefields. Nevertheless, it did not consider its authority to use force in such cases as unbounded. It was, instead, subject to the rules of international law that must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said.

Also during today’s session, the Committee heard from Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism; Heiner Bielefeldt, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Cephas Lumina, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on human rights; and Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. Each held a question-and-answer session with delegates after delivering their statements.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 21 October, to continue its discussion on human rights with presentations by the Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.