MAP Campaigns Digest: Speaking out in UK and at the UN for the protection of Palestinian health workers

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) had a busy fortnight in the UK and Geneva spotlighting dangers faced by healthcare workers in the occupied Palestinian territory. The period coincided with the lead up to the anniversary of the one-year anniversary of the "Great March of Return" demonstrations in Gaza, a series of widespread civil society-organised protests demanding the realisation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the lifting of Israel’s unlawful closure.

Amid Israel’s shocking use of force against protesters, more than 260 Palestinians have been killed and more than 29,000 injured. Over 7,000 have been shot with live ammunition, many of them suffering devastating limb injuries that have further stretched Gaza’s collapsing healthcare system. Among the casualties, three health workers have been killed and more than 600 injured while working to save lives.

MAP has been campaigning for the protection of health workers in Gaza, and for international action to support the many thousands of people injured at the protests. The need for urgent action from the UK and other influential states was sadly underlined this week after another Palestinian health volunteer, 17-year-old Sajid Muzher, was shot and killed by Israeli forces, this time in the West Bank.

Below is a digest of MAP’s campaigning work over the last two weeks in the UK and at the UN Human Rights Council.

MAP delivers 7,000-signature petition to UK Government calling for protection of health workers

On Tuesday 19 March, MAP CEO Aimee Shalan delivered a petition with more than 7,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street, calling on the UK Government to support Palestinian healthcare and the protection of health workers.

Thank you to all who signed and shared our campaign.

Doctors share Gaza testimony at UN Human Rights Council

While the petition was delivered in London, MAP’s Advocacy and Campaigns Team was in Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council session, where the UN Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza protests reported its alarming findings to member states. We were joined by Dr Mahmoud Matar, a senior orthopaedic surgeon treating protestors’ complex limb injuries at Gaza’s largest hospital, and Dr Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician who was shot in the legs while working to save lives at the protests.

The doctors travelled to Geneva from London, where they had spent the week speaking about their experiences delivering healthcare in Gaza at a series of meetings and events with MPs, government officials, students, fellow medics and MAP supporters.

In Geneva, they spoke to representatives of states at two side events co-organised by MAP, and Dr Loubani addressed the Council during the General Debate session:

“When I return to my work in Gaza, I should not worry that next year I will have to speak to you again about what I saw. I should not worry that my name will be added to the list of dead health workers doing their jobs. When you here do not act meaningfully, it is more likely that injuries and deaths to medics occur – more likely that I will be injured or killed.” ­– Dr Tarek Loubani

You can read their full testimonies below.

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UK abstains on key accountability vote

The UN Human Rights Council last week passed a resolution supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry and calling for its recommendations – relating to accountability for violations of international law and the need to support healthcare in Gaza – to be implemented. The UK, however, abstained on this resolution.

MAP joined with 10 other UK-based charities to express our alarm over this decision, calling it a “regrettable dereliction of its responsibility to uphold respect for the rule of international law and human rights”:

“We now urge the UK to consider whether it is doing all it can to ensure that impunity no longer persists for recurrent and serious alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). This should include urgently outlining what meaningful steps it is taking to protect civilians and uphold the rule of international law within the oPt.”

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MPs question government’s Human Rights Council vote in Commons debate

In the UK, 84 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed an Early Day Motion which “condemns the prevailing impunity for the killing and injuring of medics” and “calls on the Government to support the Commission's report at the Human Rights Council and do its part in implementing the report's recommendations relating to preventing future violations, ensuring accountability, and lifting the blockade and closure of Gaza.”

Following the UK’s abstention on the accountability resolution at the Human Rights Council, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry raised an ‘Urgent Question’ debate to interrogate the UK’s position. Referring to her meeting with Dr Tarek Loubani earlier in the week, she said:

“If Dr Loubani cannot be given justice for the injuries he has suffered and the killing of his colleagues, surely he deserves at least to hear the world, including our country, unequivocally condemn it.”

Richard Burden MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, asked:

“Does the Minister accept that Tarek Loubani is one of 600 health workers who were wounded last year, three of whom were killed? In what other situation would the Government refuse to vote to hold accountable those who flagrantly breach international humanitarian law?”

You can read the debate in full here, and watch the recording here (starting at 11:49). The Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu), MAP’s partner in supporting delegations of MPs to the West Bank, have a digest of the debate, linked below.

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