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Al-Haq Highlights Israel’s Apartheid Regime and Calls for Accountability at the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council
12، Apr 2021

In March 2021, Al-Haq participated in the 46th Regular Session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, which was virtually held between 22 February 2021 and 24 March 2021. In collaboration with Palestinian, regional, and international civil society, Al-Haq highlighted Israel’s systemic oppression and racism, inherent in its settler colonial and apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, including those living on both sides of the Green Line, and as refugees and exiles denied their right of return. Al-Haq further urged the Council and its Member States to take effective measures to ensure justice and accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations, including suspected international crimes, committed against the Palestinian people. Al-Haq accordingly called for the establishment of a fact-finding mission into Israel’s apartheid regime and full international cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure an end to Israel’s unlawfully-enjoyed culture of impunity. 

During this session, Namibia became the first Member State to echo calls by civil society for the reconstitution of South African apartheid-era UN anti-apartheid mechanisms in order “to ensure the implementation of the Apartheid Convention to the Palestinian situation.” In addition, South AfricaPalestine, and Pakistan, recognised Israeli apartheid in the UN Human Rights Council. 

Engagement Ahead of the Session 

Ahead of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, on 1 February 2021, Al-Haq and partners, including Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Aldameer Association for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) , Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Community Action Center, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO), sent seven written submissions on the human rights of the Palestinian people to the Council. 

Addressing the Council under different agenda items, the organisations highlighted Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, including suspected international crimes, which necessitate genuine and meaningful steps towards international justice and accountability. The seven submissions addressed the pervasive culture of impunity enjoyed by Israel, which decisively illustrates the State as categorically unwilling to hold itself accountable, Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civil space and policies of silencing opposition, and Israel’s continuation of its forcible transfer policies, including through systematic house demolitions and forced evictions. Similarly, the organisations brought attention to the continuation of Israel’s systematic campaign of medical negligence directed against Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres amidst a global pandemic, Israel’s illegal closure of Gaza and its responsibilities, as Occupying Power, to the two million Palestinians in Gaza, Israel’s entrenchment of its institutionalised regime of racial domination and oppression, amounting to the crime of apartheid, over the Palestinian people as a whole, which was exemplified in its discriminatory roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, and the need for an increased transparency with regards to the annual update of the UN database of businesses operating in Israeli settlements.

In their statements, the organisations further called for justice and accountability, including by fully cooperating with the ICC and through ensuring the implementation of the Council’s existing mandates, including the recommendations of all previous UN investigatory mechanisms, in particular the 2018 UN Commission of Inquiry on the Great Return March in Gaza, and its call for an immediate end to Israel’s illegal closure, which has made Gaza uninhabitable. Further, the organisations urged the Council and its Member States to take meaningful and effective measures to ensure that all necessary steps are taken at the national and international levels to combat corporate complicity in the apartheid system imposed over the Palestinian people as a whole, and in the occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including by ensuring the annual update of the UN database to provide a measure of transparency for Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.

Read the joint written submissions submitted jointly by Al-Haq and partners to the UN Human Rights Council at its 46th Regular Session here:

  1. Written submission on “Ensuring Accountability and an End to Impunity in Palestine” under Items 2 and 7.
  2. Written submission on “Silencing Opposition and Shrinking Civil Society Space in Palestine” under Item 3.
  3. Written submission on “The Ongoing Nakba: Israel’s Forcible Transfer Policies Continue Amidst COVID-19”under Items 2 and 3.
  4. Written submission on “Israel’s Medical Negligence Targeting Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees During COVID-19” under Items 2 and 7.
  5. Written submission titled “Israel must uphold responsibilities as Occupying Power vis-à-vis the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip” under Item 7.
  6. Written submission on “Racism and Institutionalized Discrimination in Israel’s COVID-19 Response” under Items 2 and 9.
  7. Written submission titled “Civil Society Calls for Increased Transparency and a Clear Timeline for the 2021 Annual Update of the United Nations Database of Businesses Engaged with the Israeli Settlement Enterprise” under Items 2 and 7.

Engagement During the Session 

During this session, Al-Haq delivered and joined 12 oral interventions, including under Item 2 on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, under Item 7 on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and under Item 9 on racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance.

On 22 February 2021, the 46th session of the Council opened with the Annual High-Level Panel Discussion on Human Rights Mainstreaming, focusing on the state of play in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. Al-Haq, along with Al Mezan, Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), and MIFTAH, joined CIHRS in the joint statement, which stressed that “Israel has, [for decades,] institutionalized racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people through its laws, policies and practices,” at a time when “Third States have systematically failed to put an end to Israeli impunity and to uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” and called “for the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid.”

Item 2: accountability and justice

On 24 February 2021, during an interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Al-Haq deliveredstatement on behalf of 14 Palestinian organisations highlighting the importance of the recent decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC in ending Israel’s impunity and achieving justice. Stressing that Israel, for decades, “has shown that it is unable and unwilling to hold itself accountable for human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people,” the statement stressed that “Third States must adhere to their legal obligations and take meaningful and effective steps to ensure that Israel’s impunity is brought to an end and international justice and accountability are achieved without any further delay.”  

Al-Haq further joined CIHRS, Al Mezan, WCLAC, and MIFTAH in urging “third States to act upon their obligation to not recognize, render aid or assistance to the apartheid system established by Israel, and cooperate to bring the illegal situation to an end in order to realize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to return.” The statement further expressed concern and regret of how the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s recent report on accountability “does not address the root causes of the structural oppression in Palestine resulting from Israel’s ongoing colonization and apartheid and addresses the situation as one of a conflict with parties on equal footing.”

Item 3: food, environment 

On 26 February 2021, under Item 3, Al-Haq, together with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, CIHRS, Habitat International Coalition and WCLAC, joined a statement delivered by Al Mezan during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. The statement addressed the situation of food insecurity in the occupied Gaza Strip, where Israel’s illegal closure, military occupation, and apartheid system have prevented two million Palestinians from enjoying their right to food. Highlighting the dire conditions, as over 68 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza were food insecure, even before the pandemic, the statement further underlined that the situation is “expected to worsen due to the pandemic, as Israel continues to implement its unlawful policies amounting to collective punishment of the Palestinians.”

On 10 March 2021, under Item 3, Al-Haq, along with over 20 civil society organisations, joined a statement deliveredby Earthjustice. The statement urged the Council to recognise the right of all to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and stressed that “human rights must be fully protected in the face of increasing and intersecting environmental crises.”

On the same day and under the same agenda Item, Al-Haq joined more than 50 civil society organisations, in a statement delivered by International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, in calling upon the Council “to take a stance against the further proliferation of a neocolonial, neoliberal world order where profits are prioritised over people,” while underlining how Israel is attempting to “extort political gains through the provision of excess stockpiled vaccines.”

Item 7: healthcare, demolitions, UN Database

On 18 March 2021, Al-Haq and partners addressed the Council, highlighting the root causes of the prolonged denial of Palestinian rights inherent in Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid regime. Al-Haq and partners further called upon the Council to establish a fact-finding mission into Israel’s apartheid regime and stressed that Third States must take effective steps to ensure justice for Palestinian victims of Israel’s crimes, including by fully cooperating with the ICC. Finally, the delivered-statement urged the OHCHR to ensure the annual update of the UN database on business enterprises involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and include JCB, CAT and Volvo, three companies whose bulldozers were used to demolish Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa.

Along with CIHRS, Al-Haq further joined a statement delivered by Al Mezan, which highlighted how the 13-year-long closure over the occupied Gaza Strip have undermined all aspects of Palestinian life, including healthcare. While Israel is leading the global vaccine roll-out per capita, the statement pointed that Israel, as Occupying Power, “is failing to meet its legal obligations to supply vaccines to the entire occupied Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” and called for equal and non-discriminatory access to COVID-19 vaccines for the entire occupied Palestinian population, and for the unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip to be fully, immediately, and unconditionally lifted. 

Under the same agenda Item, Al-Haq joined a statement delivered by CIHRS on behalf of 42 civil society organisations from Palestine and around the world. Noting that Israel’s systematic demolitions have continued during COVID-19 pandemic, and that businesses continue to play a critical role in sustaining Israel’s illegal settlements and are contributing to and benefiting from Israel’s persistent and systemic violations against the Palestinian people, the organisations stressed that the annual update of the database, as mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, is essential to deter business engagement with Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. The statement further urged the OHCHR to increase transparency regarding the annual update process for the database and to provide a clear timeline for the publication of the 2021 update.

Item 9: racism and apartheid

On 19 March 2021, Al-Haq and partners addressed the Human Rights Council, highlighting Israel’s institutionalised domination and oppression of the Palestinian people and the colonisation of Palestine. The statement stressed how Israel’s oppression and domination has manifested in the form of its unlawful and racially discriminatory roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines during the current ongoing global pandemic, while acknowledging the decades of fragmentation and de-development suffered by the healthcare system of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Finally, the joint oral intervention underlined the crucial role ICC’s criminal investigation into the Situation in Palestine in ending Israel’s impunity and apartheid and achieving the long-awaited justice for the Palestinian people, stressing that “Palestine can no longer be treated as an exception to the application of the international rule of law.”

Al-Haq further joined two oral interventions delivered under Item 9 on Israel’s racial discrimination and apartheid. Al-Haq joined CIHRS’s statement delivered by Ms. Ilham Shaheen, a Palestinian from Jerusalem’s African-Palestinian community, who underlined that her community, as an integral part of the Palestinian people, “continues to face Israel’s laws, policies and practices of racial domination and oppression.” Ms. Shaheen further gave a stark example of Israel’s fragmentation of the Palestinian people and apartheid policies, underscoring that as a Palestinian in Jerusalem, she has “access to the vaccine while Israel denies lifesaving vaccine to millions of Palestinian in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.” Ms. Shaheen reiterated “the interconnectedness of anti-colonial struggles and the fight against systemic racism around the world,” recognised the importance of the Durban declaration in addressing these issues, and called on the Council and its Member States to recognise the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime, and take effective measures to put an end to this crime against humanity. 

Addressing the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, Al-Haq, along Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, CIHRS, and WCLAC, joined Al Mezan in highlighting how “Israel’s water domination, selective vaccine application, and movement restrictions, that limit food supply, deny adequate healthcare, and destroy family life, are also manifestations of the discriminatory policies employed throughout its prolonged occupation.” The organisations further emphasised that apartheid is prohibited under international law as a peremptory norm and called on the Council and UN Member States to fulfil their duty to cooperate to bring these violations to an end. 

Finally, on 16 March 2021, in parallel to the Council, Al-Haq and partners held a joint webinar on “Israeli Health Apartheid during COVID-19,” with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng. Co-sponsored by 15 organisations,[1] the webinar represents a continuation of civil society’s efforts to address Israel’s apartheid regime, and was attended by diplomats, representatives from UN agencies and civil society organisations. Placing Israel’s discriminatory, unlawful, and racist rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the wider context, Al-Haq highlighted, during the webinar, the root causes of the issue, noting that decades of Israel’s settler-colonialism and apartheid regime of systematic racial domination and oppression over all Palestinians has led to the fragmentation and de-development of the healthcare system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Al-Haq further stressed that international accountability is crucial to put an end to Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime, urging the international community to recognise the root causes of the prolonged denial of Palestinian rights and take effective steps to prevent the further commission of international crimes against the Palestinian people, including by fully cooperating with the ICC.


[1] Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Association France Palestine Solidarité, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Civil Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ), Community Action Center (Al Quds University), Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC), MIFTAH, Palestinian Counseling Center, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), and the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling co-sponsored the event.