Monday, December 15, 2008

Israel wants to be immune from scrutiny and denies entry to UN Special Rapporteur

DCI deeply concerned as Israel denies entry to SR Falk

[RAMALLAH, 15 December 2008] – DCI-Palestine is deeply concerned by news received this morning from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Ramallah that the UN Special Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territory, Professor Richard Falk, was denied entry into Israel and deported to Switzerland by the Israeli authorities.

Professor Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, was planning to conduct his first official visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) this month. The objective of the visit was to collect information for a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2009. On this visit, Professor Falk was to meet among others Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli journalist Amira Hass, UN agencies and NGOs working in the Occupied Territory, including DCI-Palestine. The visit was supposed to take place from 14 to 20 December.

Professor Falk landed at Ben Gurion airport in Israel yesterday and was detained all night before being deported to Switzerland, on the first plane to Geneva this morning. The two colleagues accompanying him were allowed into Israel but are unable to carry out the visit without the Special Rapporteur. DCI-Palestine is also concerned by reports that their laptops were taken from them.

Israel has always criticised the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the OPT because it does not address human rights in Israel, but Professor Falk's appointment in March 2008 particularly angered Israel because of Falk’s outspoken views on the Israeli military occupation and Israeli policies in the OPT. [DCI/PS, 27 March 2008]

This week, Professor Falk issued a statement equating Israel's policies in the Gaza Strip to crimes against humanity. He said the siege of Gaza constituted a “continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law” and amounted to collective punishment by Israel. [DCI/PS, 9 December 2008]

Throughout 2006-2008, Israel denied entry three times to the High-level Fact-finding Mission to Beit Hanoun headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and established under Council Resolution S-3/1 to investigate the impact of the Israeli military operations carried out there around 8 November 2006. Israel’s refusal to facilitate the implementation of the Resolution prevented the Mission from discharging its mandate until May 2008, when the Mission decided to travel to Beit Hanoun via Egypt [BBC].

Israel’s refusal to cooperate with independent experts mandated by the UN to investigate human rights violations is unacceptable; all the more so if they represent attempts by the Israeli government to protect its politicians and military commanders from being held accountable for grave human and child rights violations; and especially in light of the fact that independent and impartial investigations into killings by the Israeli military are never conducted by Israel, despite numerous calls from both Israeli and Palestinian civil society.

DCI-Palestine supports Professor Falk’s call for accountability, and calls on the international community to publicly denounce Israel’s lack of transparency and put pressure on the current government to cooperate with the UN’s efforts to improve the human rights situation in the OPT.

DCI-Palestine had been asked by OHCHR in Ramallah to prepare a briefing for Professor Falk. We will be sending a detailed report on the detention and abuse of Palestinian children by the Israeli authorities to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as to the Special Rapporteur to aide his report to the UN Human Rights Council.

“The deportation of Professor Falk is a clear and blatant attack against the UN, its mission and its staff and shows how far Israel can go in challenging the international community. It is time to put more pressure on the Israeli government to hold it accountable for all the human rights violations it is committing in the OPT and to force Israel to comply with internationally recognised human rights norms and standards”, said DCI-Palestine General Director Rifat Odeh Kassis.

Professor Falk does not intend to attempt to re-enter Israel in the immediate future.

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