On 20 August 2020, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) sent a joint written submission concerning the occupied Gaza Strip to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council ahead of its 45th regular session, which will begin on 14 September 2020. The joint written submission highlighted the root causes of the deteriorating situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, the prolonged occupation and illegal closure, and called on the Council to put an end to all forms of collective punishment imposed on Palestinians, including Israel’s illegal closure of Gaza.
Addressing the fragmentation and de-development of Gaza’s healthcare system due to the 13-year-long illegal closure, and Israel’s complex and arbitrary permit regime, the joint written submission underlined Palestinian patients’ inability to access healthcare. Acknowledging the cessation of coordination and given the current deadlock in the system, the joint submission observed that it is incumbent upon the Israeli occupying authorities to provide a safe and expeditious alternative to the permit system—one that fulfils the fundamental rights of Palestinian patients and lives up to international standards concerning the right to health under occupation, rather than maintaining one that violates Palestinians’ right to the highest attainable standard of health, and in the most extreme cases, their right to life.
The submission further highlighted recent restrictions that Israel has implemented on two million Palestinians living in Gaza. These restrictions, including the closure of Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) checkpoint, the only commercial crossing that connects the Gaza Strip with Israel, restricts access to vital humanitarian goods and supplies, and suspends the entry of fuel into Gaza, deepening the already existing crisis. Prior to the suspension decision, Gaza had a 64 percent power deficit. Since 18 August 2020, following the new restrictions, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are being forced to live on 3-4 hours of electricity a day.
In the same week, the Israeli occupying authorities announced a complete and immediate closure of the Gaza sea, until further notice, severely affecting the livelihoods of Palestinian fishermen and their families. Israel’s policy of denying Palestinian fishermen access to Palestinian territorial waters violates Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources and undermines what would otherwise be a viable sector in the Palestinian economy.
Within the context of Israel’s pervasive impunity for widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, third States have a responsibility to ensure international justice and accountability. The joint submission stressed that States must end all forms of collective punishment imposed on Palestinians, including Israel’s illegal closure of Gaza, and called on the Council and all UN Member States to:
- Adopt effective measures to lift Israel’s illegal closure of Gaza with immediate effect, as recommended by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory and Human Rights Council resolution 40/13;
- Recognize and end all forms of unlawful collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian people, ensure access to healthcare for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, and support Gaza’s infrastructure, including to develop the healthcare system and other essential services; and
- Pursue international justice and accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, including suspected crimes, and uphold their third State responsibility with regard to penal sanctions for grave breaches of international law committed against the Palestinian people.
Read the full written submission sent to Human Rights Council ahead of its 45th regular session here.