Palestine: CIHRS and partners discuss human rights issues before the 46th session of the Human Rights Council

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

At the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which began on 22 February 2021 and will continue until March 23, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), together with Palestinian and international organizations, sent five joint written submissions on vital human rights issues affecting the Palestinian people to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). The five interventions dealt with Israeli reprisals against human rights defenders, Palestinian prisoners, and detainees. It also reviewed the ongoing developments of Israeli crimes committed in the barricaded Gaza Strip, in addition to the apartheid crimes that affect the Palestinian people. The organizations also renewed, in a written intervention, their repeated request to ensure that the United Nations database on companies operating in illegal settlements is updated.

The submissions reviewed Israel’s violations against human rights defenders and Palestinian prisoners and detainees. They also addressed Israel’s illegal blockade and closure of Gaza and Israel’s apartheid regime targeting all Palestinians. Lastly, the organizations reiterated calls for the annual update of the UN database on businesses involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.

A Climate of Fear and Intimidation for Human Rights Defenders

Under agenda item 3, the organizations called attention to Israel’s policy of silencing opposition to its apartheid policies through intimidation and institutionalized harassment as a means to maintain its apartheid regime. To create a climate of fear and intimidation, Israel utilizes measures which include death threats, mass arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, widespread collective punishment, travel bans, punitive residency revocation, deportation, and government-led smear campaigns. The organizations called on the Member States of the HRC to support Palestinian civil society by urging Israel to immediately cease any and all practices and policies intended to intimidate, delegitimize, and silence human rights defenders.

Blockade and Closure of Gaza

Under agenda item 7, the organizations address Israel’s illegal blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip targeting over two million Palestinians, which has left Gaza’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse while denying Palestinians residing in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The organizations called on Israel to fully, immediately, and unconditionally lift its illegal closure and blockade of Gaza and end all forms of collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian people. They also called on the international community to support accountability mechanisms including through universal jurisdiction and an investigation by the International Criminal Court into the Situation in Palestine.

UN Database

Under agenda item 7, the organizations reiterated the importance of the UN database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements (the database) and its annual update as a tangible mechanism to strengthen the implementation of international law, particularly in relation to States’ obligation to ensure business practices respect international human rights and humanitarian law, including in situations of occupation, as reaffirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The organizations called on the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) to increase transparency around the annual update process and to provide a clear timeline for its publication.

Prisoners and Detainees

Under agenda item 7, the organizations expressed grave concern, particularly during an ongoing pandemic, at the deteriorating conditions for Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli prisons and detention centers as a result of Israeli medical negligence, and overcrowding, insufficient ventilation, a lack of hygiene products, and a slow roll-out to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. To date, Israel has failed to heed calls from UN experts to release Palestinian prisoners and detainees who have been arbitrarily detained and those who are vulnerable due to health condition and age. The organizations urged UN Member States to ensure that Israel abides by the United Nations directives by releasing all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees arbitrarily detained, and ensuring the safety of Palestinian prisoners during the pandemic as well as adequate access to healthcare and hygiene facilities and products.


Under agenda item 9, the organizations warned that Israel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been fraught with racism and institutionalized discrimination targeting the Palestinian people since the pandemic’s beginning, exemplified by Israel’s vaccination roll-out, which excluded Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel’s apartheid regime, ongoing for over seven decades, has had detrimental effects on the Palestinian right to health on both sides of the Green Line, leaving Palestinians especially vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. The organizations called on the international community to recognize the framework within which Israel operates is one of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people. The organizations further urged UN Member States to ensure that Israel provides swift and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and healthcare for all Palestinians.

Photo: A man looks through a gate fence as people wait to leave the Palestinian Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which was reopened partially amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the southern Gaza Strip November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

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