Rights groups say Israel violates Palestinian human rights, including of persons with disabilities

In a joint parallel report submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for its list of issues on Israel’s initial report, the two Palestinian human rights organizations, Al-Haq and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association examined how the Israeli authorities’ widespread and systematic human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) affect Palestinians with disabilities- an impact that was further exacerbated these past few years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recalling the broader picture of Israel’s overarching settler-colonial and apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole, on both sides of the Green Line, the joint parallel report highlights Israel’s failure to comply with its obligation, as an Occupying Power, to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all Palestinians, including persons with disabilities subject to its effective control in the OPT,” they said.

The report accordingly examines violations of the right to life, health, liberty and security, and freedom from torture and other ill-treatments against Palestinians with disabilities in Israeli prisons and detention centers, among other rights and freedom guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the OPT.

In particular, the joint report highlights Israel’s effort to erase Palestinian presence in the OPT, which is not even mentioned in Israel’s State report, which merely refers to the Palestinian citizens of Israel as the “Arab Population”, as an attempt by Israel to absolve itself of its legal obligations towards the Palestinian people. As such, the organizations called on the Committee to recognize the applicability of the CRPD in all areas under Israel’s effective control, as Occupying Power.

Furthermore, the joint parallel report highlights the escalation of violence by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) who have deliberately targeted and killed Palestinians, during intensified Israeli military offensives against Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, and which provides further evidence of its well-implemented and ongoing shoot-to-kill policy.

As a result of this use of excessive force by the IOF, 324 Palestinians, including 75 children were killed in the OPT in 2021. This dangerous path continued in 2022 with 192 Palestinian killed, including 44 children and 157 Palestinian killed in the West Bank, the highest death toll therein since 2005. However, to date, 2023 appears to be even deadlier, and as of 10 August 2023, 174 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“Importantly, our organizations stress the institutionalization of these killings, evidenced by the rampant impunity that has prevailed in Israel for decades when it comes to acts of violence committed by Israelis against Palestinians,” they said, referring to autistic 32-year-old Eyad Hallaq, who was shot and killed by an Israeli policeman in Jerusalem in 2020 even though he did not pose any threat to the lives of the people around him at the time of the killing. The policeman was acquitted of any wrongdoing on 6 July 2023 and subsequently rewarded with command courses, despite a police investigation that pointed out his recklessness.

In addition, the joint parallel report highlighted the detrimental impact that Israel’s 16-year illegal closure of the Gaza Strip has had on the rights guaranteed to Palestinians with disabilities under the CRPD, in particular, the freedom of movement (Article 18) and the right to health (Article 25). Among many other Palestinian victims of the closure, an ill Palestinian who requested a permit to seek medical treatment outside Gaza went in vain, which resulted in the atrophy of nerve cells in his brain, and eventually his death.

Another issue of concern covered by the joint report was Israel’s unwillingness to share in-date COVID-19 vaccines with persons with disabilities in the OPT, which contradicts its obligations as an Occupying Power. This aggravated the situation therein, where 300,000 Palestinians were infected in 2021. Of those, 3,545 died. “This is a serious violation of the right to health of Palestinians with disabilities considering the greater impact the virus has had on them,” said the rights organizations.

In addition, they said, Israel illegally froze some of the Palestinian Authority’s funds allocated to, inter alia, the families of injured Palestinians. These funds form part of the “Martyr” program launched after the second intifada, in the face of the significant number of Palestinian casualties.

“The fact that the fund still exists testifies to Israel’s continuous use of disproportionate force against Palestinians. This confiscation of the PA’s funds constitutes a prohibited collective punishment to the extent that it cripples the whole Palestinian economy and operates to deny a vital social welfare payment to innocent families. As such, it is intended to break Palestinian resistance and render impossible the fulfillment of their inalienable right to self-determination, in violation of peremptory norms of international law,” said the two human rights organizations.

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