24 February 2011
Madame High Commissioner,
We, the undersigned Palestinian organisations, are writing to thank you for the strong and principled statement you delivered on the final day of your mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel. Your assertion that international human rights law and international humanitarian law are not negotiable and that no individual or state can be considered exempt if they violate the law, is particularly welcome. Your words provide us with renewed hope in the international legal system and your continued support will help us in ensuring that the politics of conflict, peace and security will no longer be prioritised over human rights and international law.
Your visit was particularly important for Palestinian victims. By bearing witness to the multitude of serious human rights violations affecting daily life in the OPT and confirming to Israeli officials that these are not minor matters but large-scale abuses, you have reaffirmed that Palestinians are deserving of dignity and justice. The clear and unequivocal message you have conveyed will have a positive impact in the region, and is especially reassuring for Palestinians, strengthening our resolve and reviving our hopes.
Given the deteriorating human rights situation in the OPT, your call to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and to completely stop to settlement construction exemplifies the strong stance we would like your Office to disseminate to other United Nations agencies. We believe that highlighting these issues, alongside the forcible displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the failure by all parties to address accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed during “Operation Cast Lead”, indicates a strong will to monitor and follow-up on these matters and we are confident you will provide your Office with the support to do so.
Your recognition of the culture of impunity that exists because of the lack of accountability on multiple fronts is an important assessment that must be followed up with action. The recent veto by the United States of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the illegality of settlements and calling for an end to their construction is a testament to the difficulties that Palestinians continue to face in having international law enforced: instead of calling for justice, the Security Council’s message to the weaker and disadvantaged party is that international law serves the interests of power. Meanwhile, Palestinians are forced back to fruitless negotiations with an Occupying Power that has no incentive to work towards a just peace. The only way to effectively end the perpetual justice crisis in the OPT is to strongly condemn the failure to investigate international crimes so as to move the process of international justice mechanisms forward.
In light of the bleak situation for Palestinian victims, we also wish to highlight the important role your Office can play in facilitating the provision of some means of reparations. To this end, we request that you urgently seek clarification from the Office of Legal Affairs concerning any pending issues regarding the establishment of an escrow fund for Palestinian victims of the offensive, and to promptly advance its development.
We trust that your visit to the OPT has left you with a vivid picture of the human rights situation and will
inspire you to continue to call upon Israel, the Occupying Power, to halt its illegal policies with a view to
ending the occupation, the root cause of the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian
people. Additionally, we urge you to strongly address the inaction of the international community of
States, which verges on complicity, with regard to Israeli violations of international law.
Your voice is one that brings hope to the people of Palestine and we trust that it will remain strong as
you speak up on behalf of our rights. We deeply appreciate your visit and the genuine commitment you
have expressed to upholding respect for universal human rights in the OPT. Should you or your Office
require any further information, we will be glad to offer our assistance.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling