GICJ’s Written Statements
During the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, GICJ submitted 14 written statements with several co-signatories, addressing the most concerning cases of human rights violations and abuses occurring in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, South Sudan, and Myanmar. It also submitted thematic written statements on climate change, conflict and refuge as well as on human trafficking. Each statement concludes with a series of recommendations that GICJ, and the signing NGOs, wish to address to the UN bodies, and particularly to the Human Rights Council.
“The Suffering of Syrian Civilians in an Everlasting War”
The written statement sheds light on how the current conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continues to bring suffering for civilians as half of the country’s population has been forced to leave their homes. The statement stresses the deliberate denial of humanitarian aid to millions of people, and the aerial attacks that have killed untold numbers of civilians explaining how all warring parties are accountable for committing horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity. The written statement also describes the failed attempts the international community has made in the last years in order to reach peace and to put an end to the ongoing war; and it also highlights the breaches to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Finally, the statement lays down recommendations to the UN and its relevant bodies, which are aimed at ensuring aid, well-being, protection, and peace for surviving civilians of the protracted Syrian conflict.
“Mosul: Destruction not Liberation”
On 16 October 2016, the Iraqi government together with an international US-led Coalition launched a military campaign to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS. The campaign ended on 9 July, 2017 and was declared a victorious defeat over by Iraqi PM, Haider al-Abadi. However, due to heavy indiscriminate bombing and airstrikes the campaign resulted in the total destruction of Mosul leaving thousands dead and many more displaced. Post-conflict effects are yet to be felt and the prospects are extremely worrying considering the handling of the campaign by the Iraqi government.
In the aftermath of the heavy fighting, 839,118 individuals (out of a population of 1.4million) from Mosul city have been displaced according to the IOM and many remain buried under the rubble; moreover, unexploded ordinance such as mines from the warring parties linger behind. Additionally, pro-government militias who are not trained in international law or IHL continue to commit violations while rounding up suspects many of whom are innocent.
The Iraqi government blames the militia and does not take the decisive efforts to hold those in the government or those working for the government accountable for grave atrocities committed. GICJ has sent numerous letters of appeal to the OHCHR on the crimes of pro-governmental militias, sectarian violence, the destructive strategy of the military campaign, and justice for the civilians of Mosul among others. Currently the UN is not taking the necessary efforts to bring about justice for the innocent victims but is instead engaging in politics.
“Iraq: Towards Accountability and Justice”
The focus of this statement relates to the continued impunity enjoyed by Bush Administration officials for their crime of aggression against Iraq and the negative implications on international human rights as a result of such aggression, perpetuated by the decision in the United States of America court case Saleh, et al. v. Bush, et al. (Saleh)1. The Saleh case, decided February 10, 2017 by the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit (the “Ninth Circuit”), held that U.S. officials were immunized under domestic law from judicial scrutiny even where a party alleged that such officials had violated the jus cogens norm against aggression and international treaties prohibiting the crime of aggression.
GICJ and the co-signatories to the statement recommend the international community to ensure that the United States takes immediate steps to ensure that international customary law remains the law in the country, and that domestic law does not override nonderogable norms of international law, including the jus cogens norm against aggression. In this regard, the US must take immediate steps to amend its domestic law to ensure that government officials are not provided immunity against allegations that they have committed acts that violate jus cogens norms, including the norms against torture, genocide, or aggression. Moreover, the signatories call upon the HRC should urgently endorse an international independent investigation into allegations that the US committed aggression against Iraq when it invaded in March 2003. The UN should condemn illegal acts of aggression by member states, including the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by the United States and its allies; and the UN General Assembly should request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the legality of the U.S. led invasion against Iraq in March 2003.
“Yemen: A Case for the International Criminal Court”
The written statement gives an overview of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and analyses grave breaches of international humanitarian law. The statement affirms the commitment of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all parties to the conflict. The Yemeni government is either unable or incapable to ensure cessation of hostilities and accountability. Furthermore, the statement alarms about the failure of the international community to ensure protection of civilians and resolution of the political crisis as ineffective. Finally, the written statement concludes that even though the Yemeni has primary responsibility to try perpetrators of massive crimes, its criminal justice system does not conduct investigations and trials of the alleged perpetrators for grave violations of 1948 Geneva conventions. Therefore, the written statement analyses the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over international crimes committed in Yemen and recommends the international community to take bolder actions under the Chapter VII of the UN Charter and the UN Security Council to refer the situation of Yemen to the ICC Office of Prosecution.
“Depriving Prisoners of Human Dignity: The Israeli Detention System”
This statement observers that Israel’s system of occupation and institutionalized discrimination of the Palestinian people is buttressed by divergent legal systems and courts that apply discriminatory standards of evidence and procedure to Palestinians as compared to Jewish Israelis, which implicate severe, disproportionate and often baseless penalties for Palestinians while Jewish Israeli perpetrators emerge unscathed.
The inhumane conditions and injustice reigning in Israel’s prison system expose its longstanding blatant disregard of international law and human rights. Administrative detention and unfair trial are rampant. Systematic ill-treatment and torture, including against women and children, strip Palestinian prisoners of their human dignity and often cause permanent harm. GICJ therefore calls upon the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure that Israel, inter alia, release immediately all political prisoners and administrative detainees and ensure fair and speedy trials for those charged with an offense; and ensure that prisoners are treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
“Israeli Restrictions of Freedom of Religion and Worship”
This statement outlines that Israel’s intensification of security installations around the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem in July 2017 rekindled attention to the perennial question of freedom of religion and worship. The developments since 1967 evidence that Israel has failed to fulfill its obligations to protect Muslim and Christian holy sites and worshippers but instead seeks to “Judaize” the area. Israel’s regulations and designation regarding Muslim and Christian holy sites remained to be discriminatory, thereby jeopardizing equal protection and preservation of religious sites. The State’s policies and practices that violate Palestinian freedom of religion and worship as well as the sanctity of holy sites include: Movement and access restrictions, proclamations and acts of provocation by Israeli officials, “archeological excavations” and interference with internal affairs, provocation or failure to prevent violent incidents, and restrictions on religious expression. GICJ reiterates that rather than fueling national-religious strife in the region in the region, Israel must cease its violations against Palestinians’ freedom of religion and places of worship and fully guarantee freedom of religion and worship in accordance with the fundamental principles of non-discrimination.
“Lives in Debris and Scarcity”
In this statement, it is discussed that fulfillment of the right to an adequate standard of living depends on a number of other economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to property, the right to work, the right to education and the right to social security. Israel has failed to ensure equal enjoyment of such fundamental rights between Jewish and non-Jewish populations in all areas under its effective control.
The submission shows that Israel continues to violate the rights fundamental to an adequate standard of living by, inter alia, perpetuating a deeply discriminatory territorial development model; controlling Palestinian land, movement, and all economic activity; and by actively destroying or obstructing Palestinian agricultural land, means of subsistence, and vital services and infrastructure. Israeli activities have systematically violated Palestinians’ right to health and impaired the PA’s ability to fulfill it. GICJ and its co-signatories called on the UN and especially the HRC to take all necessary measures to finally bring an end to the half-a-century-old Israeli occupation of Palestine and fulfill Palestinians’ right to national self-determination, which involves the end of all annexationist and settlement activity and the destructive blockade on Gaza.
“The Debilitation of Palestinian Socioeconomic Development”
This statement outlines that Israel’s policies and practices impede a solid economic environment and sustainable development in occupied Palestine and violate Palestinians’ economic and social rights. Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the discriminatory zoning and planning regime, deinstitutionalization of Palestinian economic, exploitation of Palestinian natural resources, rigorous sanctions, military actions and the blockade on Gaza have devastated Palestinian economy and caused lasting socioeconomic hardship and a protracted humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel in the job market again shows that the Israeli apartheid system traverses the Green Line. GICJ recommends to the relevant UN bodies to pressure Israel to end its policies of illegal appropriation and exploitation of Palestinian natural resources; and to halt all restrictions on Palestinian economic development. In the light of Gaza’s devastating humanitarian and energy crisis, GICJ calls on the Israeli government and the Egyptian and Palestinian Authorities to allow for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip. It is clear, however, that the self-generating social and economic development of Occupied Palestine can only be achieved with the end of Israeli occupation.
“Undermining the Last Remnants of Palestinian Sovereignty in Jerusalem”
This statement examines why the unilateral measures taken by Israel in response to the deadly shoot-out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, 14 July 2017, not only represented further barriers to Palestinians’ freedom of religion; they also constituted a further step by the Occupying Power to impose sovereignty at the site and “Judaize” Jerusalem. While the new “security” measures have been rescinded following Palestinians’ peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience, they constitute a dangerous precedent that the Israeli government and extreme entities seem poised to act upon. GICJ emphasized that to finally reach a just peace, Israel must disassemble its occupying system and make way for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as capital. Particularly, it must immediately cease settlement and annexation policies and practices aimed at altering the character, status, and demography of occupied Palestine, particularly East Jerusalem.
“The Socioeconomic Situation of Palestinian Women”
In this statement, it is shown that the Israeli occupation leaves its marks on the entire Palestinian population – regardless of residence, gender, religion, political opinion, age or other status. However, its impact on women is compounded due to its interaction with patriarchal social structures. This becomes manifest in two ways: First, in discriminatory legislation, institutions, and practices by the Occupying Power that disproportionately affect Palestinian women. Second, it is reflected in the perpetuation of intra-societal and intra-family discrimination and violence against women. This submission focuses on the grave impact of this twofold oppression on women’s economic, social and cultural rights. GICJ is convinced that only an end to the occupation and the realization of Palestinians’ inalienable rights, including self-determination in their independent State of Palestine, can bring about an end to the violations and substantive change towards gender equality and women’s rights.
“The Plight of Rohingya in Myanmar is Ignored”
The written statement describes the grave violations of international law in Myanmar with particular emphasis on mass atrocities against Rohingya. It affirms that widespread, systemic and organised abuse of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar with an obvious intent to destroy this group amounts to the international crime of genocide. The persecution of this ethnic group since 1982 in combination with the widespread criminal acts committed against them since 2012 includes all elements of genocide as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention. Moreover, the statement underlines that Myanmar government failed to provide adequate response to situation, address the violations and ensure investigation and accountability of perpetrators.
Furthermore, it gives an overview of international response through United Nations and states its inefficiency. Finally, the statement calls for the UN action on the basis of Chapter VII of the Charter to restore peace and security in Myanmar and to protect Rohingya from genocide, for the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar to analyse the genocidal intent and alarm the GA members and the government of Myanmar to grant full access to the UN fact-finding mission and international humanitarian aid workers, observers and journalists to conflict areas, especially in the Rakhine State.
“South Sudan: Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis”
Since the outbreak of violence in December 2013 between rival forces SPLA and SPLA-IO there have been many efforts to cease violence. However, peace agreements have been issued and signed and promises by the government have been made without keeping. Despite these endeavours the situation has worsened in all aspects. While violence persists, other catastrophes have ensued as a result of the ongoing conflict that continues to spread towards unaffected areas. Moreover, efforts to protect and secure civilians are minimal and face challenges. In addition to the violence, starvation is another serious issue many South Sudanese face. In February 2017 three UN agencies declared famine in parts of Unity State with fears that it may spread to other food insecure areas. Ensuing armed-conflict further complicates improving the situation as it endangers and restricts humanitarian aid from reaching people in need, particularly in terms of food, water, and health . Humanitarian assistance and workers are facing major challenges.
While famine ensues in many parts of the country the government of South Sudan is using its oil revenues to proliferate the conflict . Together with food insecurity and encroaching famine, malnutrition has become a serious problem that approximately 1 million South Sudanese children face.
Further, access to emergency public health is nil let alone regular health and sanitation facilities. Three years of conflict have already devastated the people of South Sudan and put the country’s future into serious risk. All areas that amount to peace and security have either been destroyed or are in peril. Rural livelihoods, crop and food production, the economy and agriculture of the country, health and nutrition, water and sanitation and more have all been adversely affected due to the armed-conflict.
“The Crime of Trafficking in Persons Prevails”
The written statement describes the implications of the crime of human trafficking, as a serious violation to international human rights law. Today, 21 million people are affected by forced labour, trafficking and slavery around the world. The written statement explains how international human rights law forbids forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sexual exploitation of children and women. It makes an especial emphasis on human trafficking in times of conflict as this practice is more prevalent during these times and networks operate more easily given the vulnerability of people fleeing and the lack of access to legal migration alternatives.
The statement mentions the system set up in countries like Iraq and Syria where the selling of human organs is a common source of income and the forced marriage is a widespread practice. It explains that trafficking networks target impoverished communities with the purpose of prostitution, forced labour and domestic servitude and it describes the patterns of these practices. Lastly, the statement presents recommendations to the UN and its relevant bodies, which are aimed at establishing national procedures for protection of victims of trafficking of persons and to ensuring all persons have a dignified and fulfilling life, enforcing international law and international human rights law for all people.
“Climate Change, Conflict, and Refuge in East Africa”
Approximately 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia have been affected by climate change and the El Niño effect leaving many in desperate need of food aid and humanitarian assistance . Since 2013, food shortages, particularly amongst pastoralists and nomads, have been the result of poor rains, unpredictable weather, and increased temperatures that brought about extensive droughts making it impossible to have stable and abundant crop production. Climate change and variability, meaning increased weather extremities and unpredictability can have serious adverse effects on a number of on-going crises, phenomena, and people’s lives. In some cases, it may be the cause and in others it may intensify or worsen the situation but nonetheless it has some relevant degree of effect. This is currently the case in East Africa, especially in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and to some degree South Sudan and has already resulted in internal and cross-border movement.