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Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Meet with New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Commission of Inquiry on Return Protests in Geneva

On Monday, 12 November 2018, lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian center for Human Rights (PCHR) and ‘Issam Younis, Director of al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  That was the first meeting to be held between the Palestinian human rights organizations and the new High Commissioner, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, who assumed her functions on 01 September 2018.

The meeting reviewed the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), mainly the illegal and unjust closure imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for more than 12 years and its reflections and catastrophic impact on the life of around 2 million Palestinians.  The meeting also addressed the peaceful protests of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that are organized by Palestinians along the northern and eastern borders of the Gaza Strip since 30 March 2018 and the excessive use of force by the Israeli forces against the participants in these peaceful protests which resulted in the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including journalists and paramedics, and the injury of thousand others, including hundreds who became with permanent disabilities.  The meeting also discussed the escalation of the crimes of the Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem, confiscation of more Palestinian lands and property premised on the interest of Israeli settlers, exploitation of natural resources, including water and lands to establish more settlements and deprive Palestinians of their fundamental and genuine rights to exploit and develop these resources.

Sourani  and Younis called upon Ms. Bachelet to publish the database, which was prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) about corporations that work in settlements. In March 2016, the Human Rights Council issued Decision No. (31/36), which calls upon the OHCHR to “prepare a database that include all the business corporations that were directly or indirectly involved in the construction and expansion of settlements in the oPt in order to facilitate and benefit from the database.” The decision also called upon the OHCHR to submit its report during its regular session in March 2017. The OHCHR worked on and prepared the report, but it was not submitted on time and its publication was postponed upon the recommendation of the OHCHR until the end of December 2017. Sourani and Younis stressed on the importance to publish the database as soon as possible and pointed out that it is an urgent demand by the Palestinian human rights organizations.

The meeting addressed the UN Commission of Inquiry on Israel’s violations during the March of Return protests. On 18 May 2018, the Human Rights Council issued a decision to form an independent international commission to promptly investigate all the alleged violations of the international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the oPt, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Sourani and Younis briefed the new High Comissioner on the latest developments related to the International Criminal Court and confirmed the need to open investigations into the Israeli crimes in the oPt as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Sourani and Younis held separate and long meetings with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Israeli violations during the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip.  These meetings addressed the Israeli forces’ violations and use of excessive force against civilians during the last months and the resulting killing and injury of thousands of civilians.