Israel undergoes Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record

This week Israel underwent the third Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the interactive dialogue, states had the opportunity to raise issues of concern and make recommendations for action to ensure that the State of Israel promotes and protects human rights both inside its borders and in the Palestinian territory which it occupies.

During the session, a number of states raised concerns relating to violations against Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity. Costa Rica, Australia, Canada and Switzerland all highlighted Israel’s restrictions on freedom of movement, which frequently prevent Palestinians from accessing healthcare. This is of particular concern in Gaza, where last year 45% of patients applying to exit for medical care elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) or abroad were either denied permits by Israel or their applications were delayed, leading to missed appointments. This was the lowest rate of permit approvals since records began in 2006, and is well below the 92% approval rate six years ago, in 2012.

Sweden raised the issue of access to healthcare in Area C, where Israel’s restrictions on building permits prevent Palestinians from building permanent healthcare infrastructure. Due to this lack of local health centres, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) supports a mobile clinic which visits isolated Bedouin communities to provide regular primary healthcare.

Spain recommended that Israel ensure a system for accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the oPt. MAP has highlighted the need to address impunity for such violations, particularly attacks on health infrastructure and personnel, in order to protect Palestinian healthcare and ensure non-recurrence of such incidents. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) recorded several violations against them in 2017, including 25 paramedics and volunteers injured and 18 PRCS ambulances damaged. 

Germany called on Israel to end "practices of collective punishment such as the demolition of homes, revocation of residency permits in East Jerusalem, and the closure of entire areas." The International Committee of the Red Cross has previously declared the closure and blockade of Gaza, which has devastated the local economy and hindered the development of healthcare, a “collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law”

Other themes discussed at the session included Israel’s use of administrative detention; restrictions to civil society space and attacks on human rights defenders; illegal settlements in the West Bank and the detention of children. In total, 240 recommendations were made to Israel.

The United States did not speak during the session or make recommendations. The United Kingdom raised concerns about the detention of children in Israel, and made the following recommendations:

1) Taking action to protect child detainees, ensuring the mandatory use of audio-visual recording in interrogations with all child detainees, ending the use of painful restraints, and consistently fully informing detainees of their legal rights.

2) Taking immediate action to reverse policy on settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which is illegal under international humanitarian law.

3) Taking immediate action to cease the policy of demolitions of Palestinian properties and buildings, and provide a clearly defined and transparent process for construction of properties and buildings for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In December, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s Programme Assistant in Gaza, Haitham Al Saqqa, travelled to Geneva to speak with representatives of Member States about the right to health of Palestinians and the rights of Palestinians with disabilities.

Thank you to all our supporters who joined our social media action to encourage the UK Government to engage productively in Israel’s UPR. To keep up to date with our advocacy and campaigns work supporting the rights of Palestinians, please sign-up to our e-newsletter.

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