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Israel/Occupied Palestinian territories: States must act to prevent genocide, protect civilians and ensure accountability

On the same day as a large group of UN independent human rights experts came together to clearly ring the alarm bell on the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and the obligation of all States to take all necessary measures to prevent genocide, ISHR delivered a statement at a high-level briefing on the situation given by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

An unprecedentedly large and diverse group of UN independent human rights experts has come together to clearly ring the alarm bell on the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and the obligation of all States to take all necessary measures to prevent genocide.

The experts’ statement was published shortly after a high-level briefing on the situation given by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, at which ISHR delivered the following statement:

ISHR Statement at high-level briefing by High Commissioner in Geneva on 16 November 2023

ISHR considers that all situations should be dealt with on their merits through the consistent and principled application of human rights and humanitarian law and principles. We are committed to respect for the right to self-determination and other fundamental freedoms, to denouncing illegal occupations, to protecting all civilians, human rights defenders and journalists, and to accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For all people. In all situations. At all times. Without selectivity. And without double standards.

Building on the analysis by civil society working on Palestine, ISHR reiterates that as we celebrate the 75-year anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we also commemorate 75 years of the ongoing Nakba and denial of the Palestinian people to self-determination and return. The current conflict in Gaza – as well as worsening attacks and killings in the West Bank – represent a continuation and worsening of this denial. 

UN experts, as well as the UN Secretary General, have recognised that the deplorable attacks of 7 October did not occur in a vacuum. It is imperative that OHCHR itself also recognise and address the root causes of the situation in Palestine, including apartheid and settler colonialism. We call on OHCHR to recognise and address the oppression and domination imposed by Israel and its allies.

With overwhelming evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated in Gaza, as well as prima facie evidence engaging the responsibility of all States to prevent genocide, ISHR joins more than 160 organisations calling on States to impose a two-way embargo on transfers of military items to and from Israel. This is a fundamental aspect of States’ legal obligations to prevent Israel from perpetuating further international crimes and other serious violations of international law, including possible genocide.

ISHR also joins more than 160 organisations in calling on all States to support an immediate ceasefire and unconditional and unimpeded access for fuel and humanitarian aid – including water, food, and medical supplies – into the Gaza Strip to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis. States must also call for the immediate lifting of the 16-year-long illegal blockade and closure. 

In addition to States implementing their duties to prevent genocide, support a ceasefire and end the blockade, ISHR also calls for

  1. The immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and Palestinians deprived of liberty without due process;
  2. Concrete steps to address the root causes of violations and abuses and the ongoing Israeli military aggression, including through reaffirming the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and return, and calling for an end to, and accountability for, Israeli policies and practices of apartheid and settler colonialism;
  3. Investigation and steps towards accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave violations and abuses committed by both State and non-State actors; and
  4. Action by the UN Member States to implement sanctions and other countermeasures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law.

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