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PCHR submits an Individual Complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

 Ref: 121/2012

 

On Monday, 12 November, the Palestinian Centre
for Human Rights (PCHR) has made a written submission, in the form of an
Individual Complaint, to Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special
Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, which draws attention to the case
of Sheikh Omar Mahmoud Ahmed Nofal (47) from Gaza City, Gaza Strip (occupied
Palestinian territory).

 

During the
First Intifada, which began in 1987, following the outbreak of the Second
Intifada in September 2000, and as part of the ongoing illegal closure imposed
on the Gaza Strip by Israel since 2007, Israel has placed severe restrictions
on the movement of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory,
banning them from traveling between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including
East Jerusalem, and preventing them from exercising their right to freedom of
worship.

 

As a Muslim
worshipper from the Gaza Strip, Sheikh Omar Nofal, along with all other Muslims
from Gaza, is categorically denied access to
Islamic holy sites located in the West Bank, including East
Jerusalem
. Most significantly, this prevents Sheikh Nofal from
performing religious prayers and rituals in the Al Aqsa mosque, which is
located in East Jerusalem. This mosque is
considered the third holiest place in the world by Muslims. Accessing the Al
Aqsa compound and praying in the Al Aqsa mosque constitute an important and
valuable part of the practicing of religion for Muslim Palestinians throughout
the occupied Palestinian territory.

 

On 7 August
2012, Israel’s Supreme Court
confirmed a District Court ruling which approves the policy that allows
Christians from Gaza to access holy sites in Israel and the West Bank
during their religious holidays, but categorically
denies
similar access to
Muslim Palestinians
from the Gaza Strip.

 

Arbitrarily
barring
Palestinians’ movement from one place to another within the occupied Palestinian territory is an
unlawful and punitive restriction of freedom of movement, which constitutes a
form of collective punishment, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention. These restrictions lead to a lack of access for Muslim Palestinians
to their places of worship, which is a violation of Article 18 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 27 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention.

 

PCHR will be submitting either Memorandums or
Individual Complaints on a bi-weekly basis to UN Working Groups and Special
Rapporteurs, to draw attention to issues facing the Palestinian people.


Supplementary
documents

 

Individual Complaint: Individual Complaint
related to the Right to Freedom of Worship in the Gaza Strip (pdf)

 

Briefing Note: The Right to Freedom of Worship
in the Gaza Strip (pdf)