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Statement by Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, New York, 29 November 2017

Excellencies,

As other speakers have noted, this year marked half a century of occupation. During this time, year after year, the reports of the Secretary-General and of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have painted a bleak picture of a conflict in which serious human rights violations drive an ongoing cycle of violence, with victims on both sides.

These reports set out, with depressing regularity, violations by Israel as the occupying power with respect to obligations both under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. These violations have a profound impact on the daily lives of Palestinians living in the occupied territory.

Over the years, it has become clear that the occupation is the source of many human rights violations, and that the atmosphere of impunity that prevails with respect to these violations encourages further violence.

Settlements continue to expand, despite repeated declarations of illegality by the United Nations and the international community. Freedom of movement is severely restricted; many Palestinians are subject to frequent arrest and detention; and the rights to development, to education and to health are stifled.

The blockade of Gaza continues, now in its tenth year. In view of the electricity crisis of recent months, residents of Gaza have lived in an unbearable situation, with very limited access to healthcare and clean water. The deterioration in infrastructure, due to bombardments and restrictions on reconstruction, have further compounded the crisis.

Amidst these events, human rights groups are increasingly under attack. Palestinian human rights defenders find themselves subject to arrest and detention for participation in peaceful protests, which remain severely restricted under Military Order 101. Israeli human rights groups, many of whom have taken principled and courageous stances on the human rights of the Palestinian people, have been targeted by legislation, political rhetoric and repeated efforts to undermine their credibility, legitimacy and patriotism.

In this atmosphere, in which many have lost hope for the future, the United Nations still strives to help the parties achieve the long promised two-state solution.

In June, the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Human Rights Council: “Compliance with international law, and ensuring its respect, are not optional: they are the sine qua non condition for peace. … Human rights violations … are not merely symptoms of the conflict, but further fuel the cycle of violence, which has now persisted for half a century. To break this cycle, the root causes must be addressed. … Respect for human rights is the path which leads out of this conflict.”

To end on a hopeful note: the latest Cairo-brokered intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement is an important step towards addressing the energy crisis and its devastating consequences in Gaza.

We also hope it can contribute to moving the process forward, so that the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza can finally see some hope of ending the harsh occupation, that translates into the sustained and systematic suppression of almost every one of their human rights.

Thank you.