22 March 2001
Members of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Ms. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Professor John Dugard
Professor Richard Falk
Dr. Kamal Hossein
Re: Remarks to the Report of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission – Palestinian Citizens of Israel
Dear Sirs and Madams:
On behalf of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, I want to thank the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission (“the UN Commission”) for meeting with representatives of the organization, as well as with other Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, in Jerusalem last month. It is very important to us that members of the UN Commission afforded time, despite all political obstacles and the exclusion of the Palestinian minority from the UN Commission on Human Rights 19 October 2000 resolution, to listen to the concerns of NGOs regarding Israel’s gross violation of human rights against Palestinian citizens during the “second Intifada”. We recently received and reviewed your report “Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.” We wish to convey our remarks concerning the report in order to clarify our position and enhance future cooperation between us.
Our meeting with you in February was one of a series of interactions Adalah has had with the UN Commission on Human Rights since the start of the crisis. We have used this opportunity to raise awareness about the events within Israel, which resulted in the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and the wounding of hundreds more by Israeli security forces. In October, an Adalah Board member presented our detailed report on human rights violations committed by the Israeli government against Palestinian citizens of Israel since 28 September to a Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the conflict in Israel/Palestine. In November, Adalah representatives attended a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli NGOs to discuss the current crisis with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, during which we presented her with a statement outlining our concerns about mass arrests, the mistreatment of detainees while in police custody, and the abuse of due process rights by the Israeli courts of Palestinian citizens of Israel. After carefully evaluating Ms. Robinson’s visit report, we sent her a letter in December presenting our remarks on her assessment of the situation. Although we welcomed Ms. Robinson’s inclusion of human rights abuses committed against Palestinian citizens in Israel generally and during the Intifada, she neglected to afford the matter due attention (dedicating only 1 page of 20) and failed to provide a specific call to the Israeli government to halt the continuing human rights violations against its Palestinian citizens.
We appreciate that while the concerns of the Palestinian minority in Israel go beyond the scope of your mandate, you met with us and other NGOs on 14 February, demonstrating consideration for the plight of Palestinians and the excessive and disproportional use of force used against them by Israeli forces in both the Occupied Territories and Israel. It is our view that the concerns of Palestinians in both areas are interconnected and inter-related, and cannot be viewed in isolation, especially given common violations of both military and police open-fire regulations and the use of force resulting in the killing and injury of so many Palestinians. Of course, this is not to say that Israel’s collective punishment policies including curfews and closures in the Occupied Territories are comparable to its actions in Israel. As you know from our previous submittal, Adalah is representing the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel before the Israeli Commission of Inquiry (‘COI’). After three weeks of hearings covering the Arab towns of Jatt, Umm al-Fahem, and Arrabe, testimonies and autopsy reports released by the COI have confirmed that police commanders ordered the use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrators, resulting in their deaths.
With that in mind, we were disappointed to discover that the report of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission makes no mention of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Consequently, there is no condemnation of the Israeli government’s gross human rights violations against Palestinian citizens, nor any recommendation that those responsible for these violations be brought to justice and that government officials be held responsible. It does not address the illegal police actions, the excessive use of lethal force, or the denial of due process rights of Palestinian citizen detainees brought before the Israeli courts. At our Jerusalem meeting, we submitted a package of materials to you highlighting these gross violations of the human rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel including: Adalah’s Summary Report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission Emergency Session on Israel/Palestine, 17-18 October 2000; Adalah’s Report of the Submission to the Commission of Inquiry 22 January 2001; Statement of the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel to the Commission; press releases; newspaper ads published by Adalah; and relevant news clippings. No reference to any of the issues raised in these documents was made in your report.
This matter is particularly alarming given that the UN Commission on Human Rights remains the foremost international arena in which to raise concerns of gross human rights violations perpetrated against civilians, particularly national minorities, by their governments. Thus, if the UN Commission on Human Rights neglects to mention the grave events that occurred in Arab towns and villages in Israel in October, the Palestinian community inside Israel is left with few alternative mechanisms for safeguarding the rights afforded to them under the UN Charter.
On a final note, we wish to reiterate our appreciation for the opportunity to meet with you and hope that your visit has opened a new channel of dialogue between us. It is in this spirit that we offer our remarks to the report, and urge the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights to consider appointing a special rapporteur with a clear mandate to examine and investigate the human rights violations of Palestinian citizens in order to hold the Israeli government to its commitments under international human rights law.
Hassan Jabareen, Advocate
CC: Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, Chief Technical Advisor, OHCHR, Gaza Office