UN reviews Israel’s human right record

Many contentious issues were raised regarding Israel’s human rights record on October 20, as the UN Human Rights Committee considered Israel’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In presenting the report, the Israeli delegation noted that despite constant security challenges, Israel had taken significant steps in the implementation of the Covenant. Operation “Protective Edge” was further acknowledged with mention of Hamas’s actions necessitating a military response. Nevertheless, “Israel remained committed to the realization of a peaceful future and was willing to make painful compromises to see the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state living side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel,” said Eviator Manor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

Further, the promotion of Israeli civil and political rights were examined with emphasis placed on initiatives aimed to advance the Arab population living within Israel. These included the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs initiative to enhance cooperation between State authorities, scholars and civil society organizations in the reporting process and in the implementation of human rights conventions; in conjunction with the establishment of a joint inter-ministerial team which primarily functions to review the concluding observations of the human rights committees.

Following the introduction, committee experts were given the opportunity to question Israeli actions in a multitude of areas. These included: lack of proportionality regarding Israeli military actions, operation “Protective Edge,” and the settlement policy and subsequent expansion plans as well as the prohibition of torture. There were further reports that a disparity existed between the treatment of Jewish Israeli citizens and the “rest.” This predominantly manifested itself regarding the treatment of the Bedouin people and asylum seekers, specifically those from Eritrea and South Sudan. Additional topics of discussion included: Arab juvenile justice, access to water and sanitation, punitive housing demolitions, Holocaust education and curriculum, and the use of administrative detentions.

The Israeli delegation responded to the majority of the questions which were raised, albeit the limited time. With regard to operation “Protective Edge,” the delegation stated that more than 600 Palestinians were treated in Israeli field hospitals.  Israel ensured the continuous supply of food, medical supplies, fuel and animal feed, facilitating the passage of over 5,600 trucks through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Moreover, a fact finding mission was underway and a complete assessment would be provided as soon as completed.

Regarding the contentious issue of asylum seekers, an Israeli delegate reiterated that Israel did not remove, and send people to countries if their lives were at risk. For instance, if an asylum seeker from Eritrea was rejected, similar to many European countries, the individual could still remain in Israel under temporary protection measures. Concerning administrative detention, any individual detained was informed of his rights and was given the opportunity to seek legal council in addition to family notification. Further, there were no women, or minors in administrative detention in the West Bank.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, in his concluding remarks acknowledged outstanding issues of concern, which include the use of 15-day detention (that has been significantly reduced from 1 year), interrogation techniques, punitive housing demolitions, and continued settlement development. Nevertheless, Sir. Rodley, as well as Ambassador Manor acknowledged the positive advancements Israel had made. Additionally, Amb. Manor recognized Israel’s unique task in navigating between the frequently polarized tasks of perpetuating national security while simultaneously ensuring the wellbeing, safety and human rights of its citizens.

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