On 25 January 2021, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), compromising of eleven Palestinian human rights organizations, submitted a joint urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures on Israel’s continued demolitions amidst a global pandemic. Addressing five UN Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, the organizations highlighted Israel’s continued utilization of Military Order 1797 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, adequate housing is considered to be “the front line in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as demonstrated by stay-at-home and lockdown orders,” as highlighted by Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, human rights organizations have noticed a significant increase in demolitions carried out under the auspices of Military Order 1797, which allows the demolition of unlicensed structures in Area C deemed as “new” within 96 hours after the issuance of a removal notice, if the Palestinian owners of the structures do not appeal a demolition order, with an approved master building plan and building permit within the provided 96 hours. Consequently, Military Order 1797, in requiring such a quick turnaround time, strips Palestinians of their right to due process, in violation of international law.
While human rights organizations have previously condemned Military Order 1797 for its violation of international law, and warned about its aftermath on the Palestinian protected population, the joint urgent appeal stressed that this issue is of an even more pressing concern during the period of closure, since residents cannot obtain the documents necessary to legally challenge the demolition orders and to file appeals or objections.
In their joint urgent appeal, PHROC and its member organizations requested the immediate intervention of the UN Special Procedures to uphold the rights of the Palestinian protected population during COVID-19, including their fundamental rights to self-determination, health, and adequate standard of living, including adequate housing, and, in particular, to:
- Publicly call on Israel, as Occupying Power, to adhere to its legal obligations, and to immediately cease its systematic implementation of policies that are aimed and designed to forcibly transfer Palestinians, including by freeze all demolition orders, including those issued under Military Order 1797;
- Call on Third States to comply with their obligations to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions, by immediately adopting effective measures to pressure Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law;
- Call on the European Union to adopt restrictive measure on the import of products, goods, and services originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT, namely by to supporting the proposal for a wide ban of trade with and support for illegal settlements; and
- Publicly call for international justice and accountability for Israel’s widespread, long-established, and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, by urging the immediate opening, without any further delay, of a full, thorough, and comprehensive ICC investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.
 OHCHR, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context,” UN Doc A/75/148, 27 July 2020.