Coinciding with the 49th UN Human Rights Council: 16-day awareness raising campaign on Israel’s crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

At the current 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) a UN Special Rapporteur will present the first official report by a UN special procedure on the issue of Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people.  This report, by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967,  Michael Lynk, joins growing  international recognition of Israel’s crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. The groundbreaking report follows a 2017 report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA) on this issue.

For over two years, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), in cooperation with partner Palestinian, regional, and international organizations, have pressed for three key demands: first,   international recognition and condemnation of the apartheid regime on the Palestinian people as a whole; second, the reconstitution of the United Nations Special Committee and UN Centre against Apartheid to investigate the crime of Israeli apartheid; and third, for non-state parties to ratify the Apartheid Convention and for state parties to the Convention to adhere to their obligations.

On 14 March, CIHRS launched a 16- day awareness raising campaign  on Israel’s crime of apartheid, in conjunction with the current Human Rights Council session, to increase pressure on the international community and other stakeholders to achieve these goals. This 16-day campaign is part of longer term efforts to shed light on Israel’s crime of apartheid and encourage more countries to publicly recognize and condemn it, whether through joint written statements and appeals, oral interventions before the Council, or in  public and private side events and meetings on the sidelines of the session, in which UN experts and representatives of diplomatic missions participate. The campaign has so far succeeded in encouraging at least twelve UN member states[1], as well as the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to use the term “apartheid” in statements on Israel’s laws, policies, and practices targeting the Palestinian people.

Join the upcoming side event!

CIHRS is scheduled to hold a webinar on 22 March, in cooperation with 21 regional and international human rights organizations, on “ Examining the applicability and implications of the apartheid framework to Israel’s repressive rule over the Palestinian people”. Participants in the webinar include Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and a number of representatives of diplomatic missions. The symposium aims to discuss the report of the Special Rapporteur, and how to implement the apartheid framework in light of the increasing recognition that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid.

The ongoing human rights campaign against Israeli apartheid began in November 2019, prior to the periodic review of Israel before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. CIHRS, as part of a coalition of Palestinian, regional, and international organizations, submitted a joint report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), contending that Israel has established, maintained, and further entrenched a regime of apartheid to ensure the domination and oppression of the Palestinian people in violation of Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). CERD, in its Concluding Observations, found that Israel’s policies violated Article 3 of ICERD pertaining to segregation and apartheid on both sides of the Green Line.

Last year there were two key developments at the UN level in regards to the growing international recognition of Israeli apartheid. First,  in May 2021, the HRC responded in resolution S-30/1  to the longstanding demands of civil society to recognize the necessity of addressing the root causes of crimes committed against the Palestinian people. The resolution established a standing Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate “systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity” on both sides of the Green line. Second, in June 2021, Namibia and South Africa expressed their support for the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid including during a high-level side event at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). CIHRS also called on the UNGA to take action to investigate and address Israel’s apartheid regime.

In its January 2022 submission to the Special Rapporteur (SR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies outlined Israel’s establishment of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole. CIHRS recommended the expansion of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate from a sole focus on the occupied Palestinian territory to encompassing the Palestinian people as a whole.

Earlier this month, CIHRS and seven organizations called on the UN Human Rights Committee  during its periodic review of Israel on 2 and 3 of March, to recognize the following: “Through the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people, Israel has ensured that Palestinians cannot exercise their right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources, in violation of Israel’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

This growing international and UN recognition would not have been possible without the pressure and advocacy campaigns of Palestinian, regional, and international civil society groups and human rights organizations. These campaigns have brought global awareness to how Israel imposes an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people through an arsenal of repressive and racist laws, policies, practices, including violence and intimidation. Many of these organizations, especially Palestinian civil society, face retaliatory and hostile measures from Israel as a result of their advocacy against apartheid.

[1] Including: Palestine, Pakistan, South Africa, Namibia, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Iran, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria and Mauritania.

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