The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) congratulates Palestine on its new status of non-member observer state at the United Nations (UN) following the passage of Resolution 67/191 on 29 November. The move came on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and was met by overwhelming support from the international community, with 138 UN General
Assembly member states voting yes, 9 opposing, and 41 abstaining. The resolution was the first time that the UN officially recognized Palestine as a state. This victory comes after months of sustained advocacy by Palestinian authorities and civil society organizations, including CIHRS and other Arab and international human rights organizations. CIHRS strongly urges the Palestinian state to uphold its previously declared commitment to human rights by immediately undertaking steps to sign and ratify all international human rights treaties.
On 28 November, CIHRS and 30 rights organizations from throughout the Arab region condemned the threats made by the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman prior to the UN General Assembly vote, in which Mr. Lieberman stated that Israel intended ‘to withhold Palestine’s tax revenues, to cut off their electricity and water supplies and to flood the occupied territories with new settlements if they go ahead with the UN vote’.
CIHRS is deeply concerned by recent steps by the Israeli government to follow through with these retributive acts. The Israel government’s recent decision to approve the building of 3000 houses in the E1 area in the occupied West Bank bordering East Jerusalem is a clear and grave violation of Israel’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the plans a “fatal blow” to the two-state solution. Similar steps were taken by the government of Israel immediately after Palestine’s admission into the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 2011, also as measure of retribution taken against the Palestinian government and citizens for a decision by the international community. These acts may amount to a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people.
CIHRS also condemns the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 2 December during his weekly cabinet meeting that Israel has the right to reject UN General Assembly resolution 67/191. Moreover, Israel’s decision to confiscate the tax money that Israel had collected for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in November (NIS 460 million) and use it against the PA’s debt to the Israel Electric Corporation also constitutes a worrying move that could prove harmful to the Palestinian people’s human rights and impair future negotiations over how to reach a peace agreement.
CIHRS urges Israel to refrain from expanding illegal settlements and to dismantle existing ones, to formally recognize resolution 67/191 granting Palestine non-member observer status, and to halt all measures aimed at ‘punishing’ the Palestinian government and people for their successful UN bid. Other governments, including the US administration, should also refrain from threatening the Palestinian government with cutting assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they file charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Governments around the world should strongly condemn such retributive acts and take concrete measures to pressure Israel to cease such behavior.
The State of Palestine’s ratification of international human rights treaties should begin with the nine core treaties of international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and its two additional protocols, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). CIHRS also urges the Palestinian government to sign and ratify the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, which the Palestine Liberation Organization has expressed willingness to ratify since 1989.
Moreover, Palestine should sign and ratify the Rome Statute (2002) and become a state party to the International Criminal Court in order to ensure accountability and the end of impunity for perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to ensure justice for victims of violations to international human rights and humanitarian law.
We urge both the Palestinian National Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza to uphold human rights standards with regards to their national and international policy and to ensure accountability for all types of abuses in order to avoid double standards and prevent impunity for past violations committed in the context of the internal conflict between Fattah and Hamas.
Palestine should use the opportunity of the upcoming 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013 to make public its signature and ratification of the above-mentioned treaties. Additionally, as part of demonstrating genuine political will to engage with the existing international human rights mechanisms, we call on the Palestinian government to lodge a formal request to the General Assembly to allow Palestine to take part in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council as a state under review.
The ratification of these treaties would be a first step towards the building of a democratic Palestine and would send a strong signal about the will of the Palestinian government to uphold the rule of law and protect and promote human rights.
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