Palestinian Centre for Human Rights LTD (non profit)
Date: 15 December 2008
Israeli Occupation Authorities Denies Entry of UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories
PCHR strongly condemns the decision taken by Israeli occupation authorities to prevent Professor Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), from entering the OPT on Sunday, 14 December 2008, and departing him from Ben Gurion Airport on Monday morning. PCHR calls upon the international community, including the UN Secretary-General, to denounce the position taken by Israeli occupation authorities, to stop dealing with Israel as a state above law, and to immediately take necessary steps than can ensure Israel’s compliance to international humanitarian law and human rights law.
According to information available to PCHR from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the OPT, Professor Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the OPT, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport coming from Geneva in the context of a scheduled visit to observe the human rights situation in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. However, Israeli occupation authorities informed him in the airport that his visit was banned for security and other considerations. Professor Falk was forced to spend the night at the airport, and he departed on a plane traveling to Geneva in Switzerland at approximately 05:30 on Monday. It is worth noting that Professor Falk was scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip on 18 December 2008 to observe the deterioration in the human rights situation caused by the policy of collective punishment imposed by Israeli occupation authorities on the Gaza Strip. He was supposed to hold a series of meetings with international human rights organizations; civil society organizations, including human rights ones; and UN agencies, in addition to field tours in the Gaza Strip.
Professor Richard Falk was appointed on 26 March 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to a six-year term as the UN Special Rapporteur for the OPT. He assumed responsibilities of the post on 1 May 2008. Since then, he had not been able to visit Israel and the OPT to observe and report on the human rights situation due to the refusal of Israeli occupation authorities to cooperate with him. On 25 August 2008, he submitted his first report on the human rights situation in the OPT covering the period from January to mid 2008 to the UN Secretary-General. In his report, he criticized the continuous deterioration in the human rights situation in the OPT. The report described human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli occupation authorities as grave, including the total siege imposed on the Gaza Strip; policies; violations of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It described such violations as grave breaches of international humanitarian law, especially the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
This is not the first time that Israeli occupation authorities deny entry of the UN envoys into the OPT. This latest measure is part of efforts made by Israeli occupation authorities to escalate the policy of economic and social stranglehold against the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT, especially in the Gaza Strip, and it represents another one in a series of steps that Israeli occupation authorities have taken to prevent international missions from observing grave breaches of international humanitarian law in the OPT. In this context, Israeli occupation authorities prevented a mission headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu, delegated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the massacre committed by Israeli occupation force against the al-'Athamna clan in Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip on 8 November 2006, from entering the Gaza Strip through Israel. The mission was forced to enter the Gaza Strip through Rafah International Crossing Point on the Egyptian border in late May 2008.
In the same context, Israeli occupation authorities have imposed additional restrictions on the movement of international delegations and have prevented them from entering the Gaza Strip since last November. These measures have included diplomats, international humanitarian workers and journalists who intended to visit the Gaza Strip to report on the catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinian civilian population and to meet their urgent needs, which are the outcome of the insistence of Israeli occupation authorities to perpetrate a crime against humanity through the closure of all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, and the prohibition of free and secure movement of persons, food, medicines and fuels. Last November, Israeli occupation authorities prevented a European Union diplomatic delegation and another delegation of 20 representatives of international organizations working in the OPT from entering the Gaza Strip. PCHR strongly condemns the decision taken by Israeli occupation authorities to prevent Professor Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), from entering the OPT. PCHR calls upon the international community, including the UN Secretary-General, to immediately act to stop serious violations of human rights in the OPT. PCHR calls also upon the High Contracting Parties to international humanitarian law treaties:
1) Immediately intervene to ensure respect for human rights in all circumstances in accordance with common article 1 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
2) Take necessary steps to stop serious violations of human rights in the OPT mentioned by the UN Special Rapporteur in his report.
3) Force Israeli occupation authorities to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and to reopen its border crossings.
4) Allow immediate and continuous flow of medicines, food and other needs, including fuels and energy into the Gaza Strip.
5) Provide food and medical assistance to the Palestinian civilian population to end the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.