On Friday, 24 June 2020, the Palestinian Disability Coalition (PDC), Al-Haq, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and the Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights “Hurryyat” submitted a joint parallel report to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for its list of issues on Israel’s initial report. The joint report examines the Israeli occupying authorities’ widespread and systematic human rights violations targeting the Palestinian people, including Palestinians with disabilities, in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Recalling the broader context of Israel’s institutionalised oppression and domination over the indigenous Palestinian people as a whole, on both sides of the Green Line, and as refugees and exiles denied their right of return since the Nakba of 1948, the joint parallel report highlights Israel’s violation of its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of all Palestinians, including Palestinian persons with disabilities subject to its effective control, as Occupying Power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, focusing on violations of the right to life, health, and freedom from arbitrary detention as well as torture and other ill-treatment against Palestinians with disabilities in Israeli prisons and detention centres.
In particular, the joint parallel report highlights Israeli occupying authorities’ failure to fulfil the rights of Palestinians under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the occupied Palestinian territory and their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law applicable to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Notably, the joint report highlights efforts to erase Palestinians, who are not mentioned once in Israel’s State report, as an attempt by the Israeli occupying authorities to absolve themselves of their legal obligations towards the Palestinian people. As such, the organisations call on the Committee to recognise the applicability of the CRPD in areas under Israel’s effective control, as Occupying Power.
In addition, the joint parallel report details Israel’s widespread and systematic policy of deliberate resort to lethal and other excessive force as part of a shoot-to-kill policy targeting the Palestinian people, including Palestinians with disabilities, with impunity. Recalling that 465 Palestinians, including 14 persons with disabilities have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces in the occupied Palestinian territory since the start of 2018, the organisations highlighted an escalation in the use of lethal force against Palestinians by the Israeli occupying forces, which systematically resort to rules of engagement for the use of live fire violating international human rights law.
Notably, 217 Palestinians, including 48 children, eight persons with disabilities, four health workers, and two journalists have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces during the Great Return March demonstrations in the occupied Gaza Strip. More recently, the Israeli occupying forces extrajudicially executed 31-year-old Palestinian person with disability Iyad Al-Hallaq in occupied East Jerusalem, in what amounts to a war crime. As the organisations note in their joint report, “Now, nearly two months since Iyad’s killing, the Israeli occupying authorities claim that none of surveillance cameras were working in the area at the time. This follows the imposition of a gag order on Iyad’s lawyer to conceal the truth surrounding the killing and to prevent Iyad’s lawyer from sharing information about court proceedings with the public.”
In February 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory found“reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.” In the joint parallel report on the CRPD, the organisations further highlight the Israeli occupying forces’ practice of permanently disabling Palestinians through excessive use of force, including through its “kneecapping” policy particularly targeting Palestinian youth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 31 August 2019, 149 Palestinians, including 30 children, have faced amputations due to injuries sustained during the Great Return March demonstrations.
In addition, the parallel report highlights Israel’s illegal closure of the Gaza Strip since 2007, which constitutes unlawful collective punishment over two million Palestinians and undermines a wide spectrum of rights owed to Palestinian persons with disabilities under the CRPD, in particular the right to equality and non-discrimination (Article 5), life (Article 10), access to justice (Article 13), freedom from torture and other ill-treatment (Article 15), liberty of movement (Article 18), education (Article 24), health (Article 25), work and employment (Article 27), and the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 28), amongst other rights enshrined under the Convention.
Highlighting the dire situation Palestinian patients from Gaza denied access to treatment, the organisations urged the Committee to request information on steps taken by the Israeli occupying authorities to fulfil the right to health of Palestinians, including access to healthcare, and to implement the recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry, amongst other international bodies and experts, to lift the Gaza closure with immediate effect and to realise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and return. The organisations also urged the Committee to examine the Israeli occupying forces’ deliberate policy to permanently disable Palestinians, including through “kneecapping”, in violation of Palestinians’ right to physical and mental health and to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment.
Finally, the report examines Israel’s long-term policy of medical negligence in Israeli prisons and detention centres, which has led to permanent disabilities and, in the most severe cases, death amongst Palestinian detainees. With Palestinians frequently injured by the Israeli occupying forces during arrest, they face additional health risks due to harsh Israeli detention conditions as well as systematic torture and ill-treatment sanctioned by Israeli courts. Acknowledging the inappropriate facilities in Israeli detention for Palestinian detainees and prisoners with disabilities, the organisations underlined Israel’s practice of delaying the delivery or provision of assistive devices to Palestinian persons with disabilities in detention, to an extent that jeopardizes their safety, health, and independence, in violation of Articles 20 and 26 of the CRPD.
Overall, the organisations, which will be engaging with the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during the Committee’s pre-sessional working group in September 2020 as well as the subsequent review of the Israeli occupying authorities, urged the Committee to call on Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of all persons with disabilities under its effective control as well as to report to the Committee on its compliance with the Convention therein. The organisations also urged the Committee to recognise Israeli judicial mechanisms as unwilling to genuinely prosecute international crimes committed against the Palestinian people, including Palestinians with disabilities, and to call for international justice and accountability at the International Criminal Court to bring an end to Israeli impunity and guarantee justice for Palestinian victims.
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