Israel: The Human Rights Committee criticizes the non-application of the Covenant in the OPT
Published on 25 Mar 2022, 05:00 PM
On the fifth review was raised (again) the question of applicability of the Covenant in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Review of Israel by the Human Rights Committee with an impressive State delegation attending the meeting
On 2 and 3 March 2022, the fifth periodic review of the State of Israel before the Human Rights Committee took place. The overarching issue discussed during this review is the position of Israel regarding the non-applicability of the Covenant in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While the Covenant has extra-territorial application in cases of occupation and effective control, Israel denies having effective control over these territories. Additionally, Israel does not agree that the Covenant can apply even in situations where international humanitarian law is applicable, declaring that these two systems apply in different circumstances. As a result of Israel maintaining this position, the Committee was not provided with satisfying answers to questions on the cessation of construction and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the excessive use of force against Palestinians by the Israel Defence Forces, the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 and the collective punitive demolition of houses and schools in the West Bank.
Revocation of permanent resident status and freedom of movement
Amongst the issues related to discrimination that did lead to a discussion are the practice of revocation of permanent resident status and the freedom of movement of Palestinians. The Minister of the Interior has the authority to revoke the permanent residency status of residents who are found to have committed a breach of allegiance to the state. Civil society indicates that an alarming number of Palestinian citizens have been subjected to this practice. According to the delegation, these revocations are only applied where a terrorist act, an act of treason or severe espionage took place. This practice, as stated by the delegation, does not harm Palestinians in Western Jerusalem and from 2019 till 2021, only four people would have had their permanent residence permits revoked.
On the current restrictions on freedom of movement imposed on Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel declared to make the utmost effort to speed the process when requirements are met to enter into Israel and denied the Israeli army ever having the intention to hurt anyone who crosses the fence. This is contrary to civil society reporting that these restrictions are part of the strategic fragmentation resulting from the government of Israel.
Administrative detention, detention of minors and solitary confinement
Another topic that rose to the discussion several times was the arbitrary and administrative detention of Palestinians and minors and the practice of solitary confinement. The delegation states that administrative detention is used as a preventive measure of last resort where there is credible information that the persons poses a security threat. The detention order is subject to judicial review, yet the detention relies on classified information that cannot be disclosed to the lawyer. According to civil society reports, 150 children are currently held in solitary confinement on Israeli territory, so there is no argument for the Covenant not to be applicable to these cases. Nonetheless, as a response Israel again referred to the non-application of the Covenant in the Occupied Territories. The delegation further declared that solitary confinement is a punitive measure, its use extremely restricted and for a maximum period of twelve days. For minors, solitary confinement is only applied in extreme cases and as a last resort.
Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee
Concluding Observations on Israel’s 5th periodic report were released on March 30 2022. The State party is requested to provide, by 25 March 2025, information on the implementation of the following recommendations made by the Committee:
National human rights institutions
- The State party should step up its efforts to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, including through promoting pluralism and diversity of its composition, and allow civil society organizations to participate in this process.
Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- Bearing in mind the Committee’s previous recommendations, the State party should place an absolute ban on torture, including by incorporating into its legislation, such as the draft Basic Law on the rights of suspects and defendants, a definition of torture that is fully in line with article 7 of the Covenant, and removing the notion of “necessity” as a possible justification for the crime of torture. It should also establish an independent and effective monitoring mechanism over all detention facilities within its territory and occupied territories, keep audio and visual documentation of all interrogations taking place in the ISA facilities and ensure that such documentation can be used as evidence in courts.
Demolition and forced eviction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
- The Committee strongly reiterates its previous recommendations that the State party refrain from implementing evictions and demolition orders based on discriminatory planning policies, laws and practices affecting Palestinians, including Bedouins, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The State party should review and reform its planning and zoning regime and construction permit system in order to prevent forced evictions and demolitions owing to the impossibility for Palestinians to obtain construction permits and ensure that affected populations are allowed to participate in the planning process. It should also ensure that procedural protection and due process guarantees are provided against forced evictions and demolitions.
The follow-up report is due to be submitted to the Human Rights Committee by March 2025
The next periodic report (second) will be reviewed in Geneva in 2030.