On Wednesday, 04 April 2017, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) launched its 2017 annual report. This report is the 22nd of its kind, as PCHR has always published annual reports displaying the human rights conditions and International humanitarian law (IHL) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ( oPt). The event was held in the hall of Roots Hotel in Gaza City and attended by a large number of public figures, including decision makers, politicians and representatives of human rights, community-based and youth organizations. Moreover, the event was extensively covered by the media.
The ceremony was opened with a welcoming speech by Dr. Riyadh al-Za’noun, Chairman of PCHR’s Board of Directors. He pointed out that this report is the most important document for PCHR as it includes PCHR’s activities throughout 2017. He added that the report further addressed human rights violations committed by the Israeli forces and Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. He also indicated that the report displays the activities and training courses implemented by PCHR in cooperation and networking with the human rights and civil society organizations to disseminate the culture of human rights and enhance the rule of law, democracy, social justice.
Dr. Riyadh al-Za’noun said that the report is locally and internationally published through websites and social media in addition to all human rights centers throughout the world.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, reviewed the human rights situation in 2017. He started his speech by talking about the Great Return March, which organized on Friday, 30 March 2018, on the anniversary of Earth Day.
Sourani said that this day was a remarkable day, in which protesters expressed their anger, rejection and insistence on the right to return and self-determination. The protesters also confirmed that the expulsion of Israel is the biggest and main concern in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
He added that the demonstration was an expression of anger and rejection of the inhuman and illegal closure, as described by all international organizations, UN bodies and International civil society. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip continues for the 11th consecutive year and its devastating impacts on humanitarian, social, economic and political aspects has strongly increased.
Sourani added that the Israeli forces practiced the law of the jungle on the Gaza Strip, by the conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community, and isolated it from the rest of Palestine and the outside world, aiming at pushing the Gaza Strip not to believe international law, international humanitarian law and human rights. Despite all this, Gaza remained more cohesive and clinging to its moral, humanitarian and cultural superiority, as the Gaza Strip population organized a peaceful, humanitarian and civilized demonstration, which included all the spectrum of the Palestinian society. This demonstration expressed the unity of the Palestinians inside and outside the Gaza Strip and introduced an unprecedented equation to the Israeli forces that if the oPt, including occupied Jerusalem, are disputed territories, the Historic Palestine is also disputed territory.
Sourani said that the Friday, 30 March 2017, was a watershed day in the Palestinian national struggle, which gave the Palestinian people and its civil, social and political powers a lesson and sent a message to friends and enemies that the dignity of the Palestinian human is priceless and the Palestinian people through their peaceful expression unleashed a fourth dimension in the conflict, which has not been employed as it should be.
He also confirmed that since the early hours of the demonstration, it was clear that the protestors were demonstrating peacefully along the Gaza Strip borders and did not approach the Green Line. However, the Israeli forces directly opened fire at the protestors and fired tear gas canisters at them. Moreover, the protestors did not pose any threat to the Israeli forces and there was no justification for the shooting. Sourani clarified that most of the wounded persons were present 50-500 meters away from the border fence while the killed persons, mostly well-known activists, were previously demonstrating in those area. One of them was killed while performing the prayer while the wounded persons were hit with live bullets to the back of the head and chest. Dozens of the wounded persons, including 3 children, sustained serious wounds.
Sourani said: that the Israel’s goals was clear, to blend the peaceful demonstrations intentionally with blood in more than one place, knowing that these demonstrations did not pose any threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers nor there was an indication of that. By doing so, Israel attempted to provoke the armed groups to resort to violent means. However, our and brilliant people with civilized principles have surprised the world with this level of discipline, commitment, urbanization and peace, civilization. More than half million Palestinian protestors humanely, morally, culturally and legally beat Israel that is fully involved in war crimes, which are publicly practiced, as the Israeli political, security and military leadership spoke before and after the demonstration. Israel is a rogue state that has neither abided by the international law nor the international humanitarian law and still not deterrent or accountable due to the political and legal immunity given to it by the U.S. and Europe. Thus, Israel will continue its tyranny if it isn’t held accountable.
Sourani Added: “As we pursued and will go after war criminals and those involved in issuing political, military and security orders and gave legitimate cover. We will pursue those who gave the orders of willful killing in a new crime added to the Israeli forces crimes. We will also observe the weekly activities that will culminate on the 80th anniversary of al-Nakba on 15 May 2018.”
Sourani emphasized that the U.S President Donald Trump’s declaration of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy to it is a blatant challenge and full denial to the rules of the international law and the UN resolutions. Sourani added that this declaration gives Israel the green light to initiate further steps and procedures to create new realities on the ground and continue the processes of systematic expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Jerusalem in addition to implementing settlement plans in East Jerusalem as part of the “Great Jerusalem” project.
Sourani highlighted that Israel continues committing war crimes and violates the human rights and the international humanitarian law in the oPt, including the policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinian Jerusalemites; continue the settlements projects in the holy city and all over the West Bank; strengthen its hegemony and control over the Palestinian cities, villages and camps; continue its efforts to fragment and isolate them; prevent its regional contiguity and turn them into geographically unrelated cantons where the movement of the inhabitants are subjected to the Israeli hegemony and control.
Sourani clarified the work of Palestinian human rights organizations before the International Criminal Court and practicing pressure on the Israeli Attorney General to refer the filed cases by those organizations concerning the war crimes committed by the Israeli forces against civilians and their property to the court after the initial investigation. Sourani emphasized the threat, defamation and blackmailing campaigns practiced by Israeli official parties in addition to excessive campaigns to reduce the role and work of the civil society organizations aiming to politically and financially targeting them.
On the Palestinian level, Sourani added that the last quarter of 2017 witnessed positive developments concerning the national reconciliation and end the state of division, which is continued since 11 years under Egyptian sponsorship, including handing over the administration of the Gaza strip border crossings (Beit Hanoun “Erez”, Karm Abu Salem crossing and Rafah crossing) to the National Unity Government. Sourani also said that the following weeks witnessed a slowdown in the reconciliation file and Gaza citizens did not witness a significant change in their living conditions, not to mention the punitive measures taken by the Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas and the government during the past months, including minimizing the electricity supply and deductions of salaries of the PA servants and put thousands of them on early retirement.
Sourani further pointed out the deterioration of the human rights’ situation in the oPt throughout the year and the continued decline in the state of public freedoms, including the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the arbitrary political arrest, torture crimes, aggravation of the living conditions, particularly in the Gaza Strip, in addition to the Rafah crossing crisis, the electricity crisis, the salaries’ deductions crisis, the crisis of patients’ medical referrals abroad and hospitals and so on.
It should be noted that the attendees received hard and soft copies of the report along with the summary. Moreover, PCHR works currently on the report’s translation into English, which will be published soon.