Ramallah- By invitation from the Womenís International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) in the Netherlands and Palestine, a Palestinian womenís delegation participated in a series of meetings held at the 27th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, between the 16th and 19th of September. The participating organizations included: The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy (MIFTAH), the Womenís Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), the Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD), Oxfam Novib-Netherlands, and Women for Women in Sweden.
The events brought together Palestinian delegates, international law experts, European Union representatives, the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The meetings highlighted the legal responsibility of the occupying power, as well as the obligations of member states in opposing recent war crimes in Gaza and ongoing human rights violations in Occupied Palestine. The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was also addressed in light of the aggressions of the 8th of July, with reference to obligations towards the protection and security of women, as well as their participation in peace negotiations to end the conflict.
By invitation of the British Ambassador to the United Nations Karen Pierce, Friends of 1325, and in the presence of delegates from New Zealand, Brazil, the European Union, the State of Palestine, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, France, Finland, and Sierra Leone, the importance of holding Israel accountable to violations of international humanitarian law was highlighted. A change in European official discourse also addressed, particularly the problem of speaking about the conflict as though it is a symmetrical one, and not a relationship between occupier and an occupied peoples, the former having due obligations towards the latter. There were also individual meetings between the delegation members and delegates of Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States.
The delegation called for commitment by the United Nations Human Rights Council to its charter, and to thereby increase efforts to end the Israeli occupation and uphold accountability through international mechanisms. It also demanded that the Human Rights Council works alongside states to facilitate a commission to carry out its work. It also emphasized the responsibility of States for holding Israeli accountable for its violations. The forth-coming work of an independent fact finding mission, set up at the Human Rights Council at its 21st meeting on July 24th was addressed, in which the Palestinian delegation emphasized the importance of providing a platform for the testimonies of women who are victims of Israeli attacks. The delegation also highlighted the importance of coordination between the Commission and Palestinian womenís organizations. The delegation also met with civil society organizations from various countries and Mr. Zeid Raíad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Al Hussein emphasized the importance of the role of the Council in working with member states in protection of human rights. Amal Khreishe, a Palestinian delegate and General Director of the Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD), emphasized to Mr. Al Hussein the importance of protecting the rights of the Palestinian people and the necessity of ending the occupation, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. She also addressed the importance of holding Israel accountable to its crimes against women and children in occupied Palestine, and the role of the Human Rights Council in safeguarding their security. She also invited him to visit occupied Palestine.
A documentary film produced by WATC on crimes against women and children in the latest aggression against the Gaza strip was presented at the open meeting between the Palestinian delegates and members from various countries at the Human Rights Council and nongovernmental organizations. Afterwards, Hanan Kaoud a delegation member from MIFTAH presented a glimpse into the reality of human rights violations committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the aggression. She cited the killings of Mohammad Abu Khdeir of Jerusalem, and Mohammad Abu Nawara of Ramallah, in the hands of settlers and soldiers of the Israeli occupation. She addressed the reality of Israeli aggression against women and children in Gaza, and its devastating impact on the civilian population, from the economic, social, and psychological standpoints. She reiterated Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, which calls for protection of civilian populations, especially women and children in times of war. She emphasized the importance of acting upon the results of a forthcoming investigation on the crimes committed in Gaza, and not to allow for impunity as happened with the Goldstone report on the aggression on the Gaza Strip. Samia Bamie from WATC also called on the Swiss government and all state signatories to the Four Geneva Conventions to hold a conference on Israeliís failure to comply with its principles. She also spoke about the vision of Palestinian women with regards to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, and the security and protection of women, which Israel has not complied with. She called for member states and the United Nations as a whole to work towards an end to the occupation and an immediate international protection mechanism for the Palestinian people.
Amal Khreishe refuted Israelís claim that it has launched the war on Gaza for self-defense, as it continues to be an occupier. She emphasized the Palestiniansí right to self defense according to international laws. She also called for boycott of Israel until it complies with international humanitarian and human rights standards. She highlighted the impact of the Palestinian peoplesí rights to security and pointed out the interrelatedness of regional insecurity as a result of the Israeli occupation. She emphasized the historic role of Palestinian women in struggling for their national and civic rights, and their efforts to participate in negotiations. In addition, she called for an international conference held by the United Nations to discuss mechanisms of human rights protection for the Palestinian people, and for the Human Rights Council to address protection of Palestinian women.
The delegates discussed mobilization strategies and made the following recommendations:
- The only way to achieve sustainable peace is for Israel, to end its prolonged occupation of the Occupied State of Palestine, in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. We, the Palestinian women organisations urge member states to use all necessary efforts to ensure the ending of the Occupation, including the provision of immediate international protection for all civilian population in the Occupied State of Palestine.
- All High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the obligations arising from the Convention in relation to the Occupied State of Palestine. We, the Palestinian women organisations urge the Government of Switzerland and contracting parties, to convene a Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention without delay, to discuss Israelís non-compliance with the Fourth Convention and First Additional Protocol, as well as agreeing on all necessary measures to be taken.
- We welcome the establishment of the Independent, International Commission of Inquiry, appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, as a crucial step towards investigating all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied State of Palestine. We, the Palestinian women organisations, call on all member states of the Human Rights Council to ensure that the Commission of Inquiry has all the necessary support to fulfil its mandate effectively and ensure that the findings of the Commission form a base for developing immediate concrete adequate accountability measures.
We call the Commission of Inquiry to adapt a holistic gender perspective when investigating and documenting violations and to take into account the disproportionate impact of violence on women and girls, and ensure consultations with women and girls victims and a broad of number of organizations in the Occupied State of Palestine.
- Palestinian women have great concern that the ceasefire will not hold unless the international community ensure that Israel lift the siege on Gaza and to secure the right of mobility, right for free access and movement from and to Gaza for people and goods.
- Palestinian women have been excluded from any consultation or formal participation in the negotiated ceasefire to end the aggression in Gaza. We, the Palestinian women organisations, urgently call for the involvement and equal participation of women in the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the occupied State of Palestine and the integration of a womenís rights and gender perspective in the resolution of the conflict and the collective responsibility of the international community to ensure women's protection and security in accordance with UNSCR 1325, 2122, and CEDAW GR30.
- We, the Palestinian Women Organizations, call upon the United Nations Member States and the Human Rights Council to ensure immediate action for the reconstruction in Gaza, to hold Israel accountable for the destruction and to guarantee the prevention of any further destruction perpetrated by the occupying power. Israel must compensate all those who are affected. In the process of reconstruction, the international community should see to it that Israel would not profit from the reconstruction operation in any way. We also urgently call for the consultation and inclusiveness of women and a holistic gender perspective the reconstruction process.
- We, the Palestinian women organizations, urge the Human Rights Council to support and to decide on a panel on the human rights situation of Palestinian women under occupation, during the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council.
To view the Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Middle East and North Africa Statement, please click here:WILPF_Side_Event_Palestine_HRC27th.pdf