Report of the 30th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the grave human rights situation in the OPT, including East Jerusalem
11 June 2021
By: Irene Sacchetti / GICJ
Following the escalation of tensions between Israel and Palestine, erupted on 10 May 2021, the Human Rights Council convened the 30th Special Session to urgently address the current situation and discuss the grave human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The meeting was held in Geneva on Thursday, 27 May 2021, from 10 a.m.
The special session was jointly requested via official letter on 19 May by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan, Coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues, and the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, following the recent human rights abuses in the OPT. Pakistan, on 25 May 2021, submitted to the Council a draft resolution A/HRC/S-30/L.1 “Ensuring respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law” , proposing the establishment of an ongoing, independent international Commission of Inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council.
The meeting began with keynote statements by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Bachelet, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT, Mr. Lynk. They both called on accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by all parties to the conflict and demanded for Israel’s respect for its international obligations under military occupation. Mr. Lynk further called for accountability to rise to the top of the international agenda and urged for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Then, Palestinian representatives of the situation in Gaza and East Jerusalem took the floor, recounting various violations and abuses against people of Palestine, including force evictions and displacement, restriction of movement, violent repression of protests, indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes on Gaza, targeting civilian buildings and objects, with hundrends killed, including children, and thousands injured.
During the following debate, five high-level speakers such as representatives on behalf of Namibia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Libya, delivered statements in support of Palestinians’’ right to self-determination. They also condemned Israeli attacks of civilians in Gaza thereby calling for accountability for war crimes committed and remarking the need to end the occupation of Palestinian territory.
Additionally, several countries, including the countries concerned, and regional groups delivered statements, along with Non-Governmental Organizations. Overall, regional groups, Member States as well as Observer States seemed quite divided on supporting the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and few of them justified Israel’s right to self-defence in response of Hamas attacks from Gaza, as remarked by Portugal on behalf of the European Union. On the contrary, the majority of States and regional groups such as the African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement as well as China and the Russian Federation endorsed the establishment of the COI to investigate into war crimes committed, underlying that accountability is a priority to enable a peaceful negotiation process. They also condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza, as disproportionate and indiscriminate, thereby violating international humanitarian law.
At the end of the second meeting, resolution A/HRC/S-30/L.1 submitted by Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) was adopted -with 24 votes in favour- by the Council, as orally revised by vote and titled “Ensuring respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel”.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) together with International-Lawyers.org, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), and Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration (AMHRI), believe that recent atrocities add up to decades of discrimination, intimidation, and violence demonstrated by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians on their own land. Once again, while the entire world was looking powerless at images of flaming rockets that flooded the media, the international community did not take swift action to halt the massacre in Gaza and the Israeli endless disregard for human rights and humanitarian law. Moreover, some key international actors continue to defend Israeli grave violations.
Thereby, we call upon the international community to preasure Israel to respect the ceasefire and to immediately stop its occupation and its prolonged violations of international law and human rights law. Israel attacks on Gaza should be condemned, as its narrative of self-defence cannot stand. The international community must recognize and support Palestine as a victim of inhumane war crimes that must be prosecuted urgently and impartially.
Finally we look forward to the investigation by the International Criminal Court and call the Prosecutor to start taking action with regards to the serious crimes committed for years in the occupied territories of Palestine.