UN Human Rights Committee Offers Concluding Observations on Israel

As Ruchi Parekh highlighted earlier this month on Just Security, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has been considering both the fourth periodic report of Israel and the fifth periodic report of Sri Lanka, two countries significant to United States security interests. The Committee has released an advanced unedited version of its “Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Israel,” as adopted on October 28. We will have additional coverage of the Committee’s concluding observations on Sri Lanka soon.

The Committee singled out for praise several steps taken by the government of Israel, including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for students, reforms to institutional oversight, and the 2012 ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The bulk of the release, however, consists of “matters of concern” and recommendations for remedial measures.

As Ruchi anticipated in her earlier post, the Committee indeed prominently criticized Israel’s position that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) does not apply to the Occupied Territories:

5.  The Committee regrets that the State party continues to maintain its position on the non-applicability of the Covenant to the Occupied Territories, by claiming the Covenant is a territorially bound treaty and does not apply with respect to individuals under its jurisdiction, but outside its territory, despite the interpretation to the contrary of article 2, paragraph 1, supported by the Committee’s established jurisprudence, the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice and State practice. It is further concerned at the position of the State party that international human rights law does not apply when international humanitarian law is applicable. The Committee reiterates its view on these matters (see CCPR/CO/ISR/3, para. 5; CCPR/CO/78/ISR, para. 11 and CCPR/C/79/Add.93, para. 10). The Committee notes that the State party maintains its reservation to article 23 of the Covenant. It also notes that the State party has not yet acceded to any of the two Optional Protocols to the Covenant (art. 2).

The Committee also put attention on Israel’s handling of potential human rights violations during military operations in the last six years, though not squarely focusing on 2014’s Operation Protective Edge:

The Committee, while noting that the State party implemented some of the recommendations of the second report of the Turkel Commission aiming at improving the investigation mechanisms into alleged violations of the laws of armed conflict, and that the implementation of other recommendations are currently being considered by a special Committee set up in January 2014, regrets the State party’s failure to provide updated information on investigation into human rights violations related to the “Operation Cast Lead” (27 December 2008-18 January 2009) conducted in the Gaza Strip. The Committee expresses its concern at allegations of human rights violations committed during the military operations in the Gaza Strip known as “Operation Pillar of Defence” (14-21 November 2012) and “Operation Protective Edge” (8 July-26 August 2014), inter alia the disproportionate number of casualties among civilians, including children; the destruction of homes and other civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities and schools, in particular UNRWA schools used as shelters for civilians and other UN installations during the “Operation Protective Edge” (arts. 2, 6, 7, 9, 12, and 17).

The Committee also noted additional concerns and recommendations relating to a host of other issues, including:

  • the absence of explicit codification of the principle of equality and non-discrimination in Israel’s Basic Law;
  • under-representation of Israeli citizens of Arabic origin in civil service and leadership;
  • “[p]unitive demolitions, planning and zoning regime in the West Bank and displacement of Bedouins”;
  • Israel’s state of emergency and its use of administrative detention;
  • the details of counter-terrorism measures;
  • the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip;
  • allegations of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces;
  • allegations of torture and ill treatment, including the availability of a legal defense of “necessity”;
  • “widespread, systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment of Palestinian children” in Israeli detention facilities;
  • violence by Israeli “settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”;
  • “continuing confiscation and expropriation of Palestinian land”;
  • “restrictions on freedom of movement of residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”;
  • evidence that despite some reforms, “Palestinian children are still exposed to arbitrary arrest and detention and often do not enjoy full procedural rights”;
  • low recognition of refugee status, including from South Sudan; barriers to “family reunification of Israeli citizens with Palestinian spouses living in the West Bank”;
  • potential chilling effects of domestic laws upon freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association
  • treatment of conscientious objectors to military service; and
  • inadequate dissemination of the ICCPR within Israeli government and society.

The report concludes by inviting Israel to “submit its next report, which will be its fifth periodic report, by 31 October 2018.” Just Security will continue to cover the reporting process. 

About the Author(s)

Eric Messinger

Former Assistant Managing Editor of Just Security Follow him on Twitter (@egmessinger).