GENEVA / AMMAN, 17th July, 2017 (WAM) -- A United Nations committee has heard serious concerns about Israel’s human rights record, including the deteriorating situation in Gaza, inadequate protection for detained children, and increasing obstacles being faced by human rights defenders and journalists.Members of the committee also heard testimony on the expansion of settlements, the ongoing use of administrative detention, excessive use of force and possible extrajudicial killings, and lack of accountability. During its annual mission to Amman, Jordan, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, established by General Assembly Resolution 2443 in 1968, heard from civil society organisations, UN representatives, and Palestinian officials. Based on this testimony, the committee clearly observed that Israeli authorities are continuing with policies and practices that negatively impact the human rights situation in Palestine. The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, compounded by the ongoing electricity crisis, was repeatedly raised as one of the most pressing issues. The committee heard with concern about the atmosphere of increasing hopelessness and desperation among Gaza's population as Israel’s blockade and closure continues for its tenth year, with ongoing restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza impacting every aspect of life for residents. Other testimony described with grave concern the situation of Palestinian detainees reportedly living in difficult conditions in Israeli prisons. The continued use of administrative detention was also raised as an area of ongoing concern. The committee also listened to troubling testimony regarding the arrest and detention of children, including cases of reported ill-treatment and lack of adequate protection. Organisations told the committee that Israeli settlement expansion had continued in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan, with a notably high level of new construction announced this year, in violation of international humanitarian law. Settlements were having a negative impact on the human rights of Palestinians, including restricting freedom of movement and further fragmenting life in the West Bank. Other issues raised included the effects of the separation wall on Palestinians’ rights, and the demolition of homes and other structures in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan. The use of punitive demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem was described as a form of collective punishment. Organisations described the practice of demolishing homes as one that increases pressure on vulnerable communities such as the Bedouin communities in Area C to leave their homes, which they noted could amount to unlawful forcible transfer. Many organisations highlighted the continued lack of accountability for allegations of excessive use of force and violations of international law by the Israeli forces, including during the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. A number of organisations emphasised that the lack of accountability further exacerbated the cycle of violence. Human rights defenders and journalists seeking to highlight violations of human rights and humanitarian law told the committee that the space in which they were free to operate was shrinking at an alarming rate. They reported cases of the detention of peaceful demonstrators and the targeting of journalists covering protests. The Government of Israel does not recognise the committee, which was therefore unable to speak to the relevant Israeli authorities or access the occupied territories. The committee will submit a full report on its mission and other activities to the UN General Assembly in November 2017.
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