Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
24 February 2021
Distinguished President of the Human Rights Council,
Colleagues and friends,
I am pleased to present our report under item 2 on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/46/22).
The report provides an update on matters related to accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian territory. It also considers how to ensure follow-up to recommendations issued to all parties in our 2017 report (A/HRC/35/19). And it outlines the responsibilities of third States to ensure that all parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international law.
Serious violations continued during the reporting period. Between 1 November 2019 and 31 October 2020, 67 Palestinians, including 16 children, were killed by Israeli security forces, and 3,678 were injured. One Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinians during this period and 90 other Israelis were injured.
The demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza fence were suspended. However, my Office observed a disturbing lack of progress regarding investigations into the widespread use of lethal force in 2018 and 2019, in the context of these protests. Available information suggests that only 17 investigations have been initiated into the 231 reported incidents that resulted in killing of Palestinian demonstrators – and that there has been only one conviction.
There has been no notable progress in the investigation and prosecution of suspected violations of international humanitarian law, including allegations of war crimes, perpetrated by all parties in the context of multiple outbreaks of hostilities in Gaza. This is extremely concerning. Moreover, violations of international humanitarian law continued to be reported. They include an attack carried out by Israeli Security Forces in November 2019, which killed nine Palestinians (including five children) in Deir El Balah. Palestinian armed groups in Gaza also continued to indiscriminately launch rockets, mortar shells and incendiary balloons towards Israel.
We also continue to observe persistent impunity afforded to members of the Israeli Security Forces for incidents of possible excessive use of force in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In the rare cases where convictions have been secured, the charges and sentences have appeared extremely lenient given the gravity of the conduct.
Similarly, there was no notable progress in investigations into allegations of ill-treatment and torture in Israeli detention facilities. The recent closure of a criminal investigation into the alleged torture of Samer Al Arbeed in September 2019 is of deep concern.
Regarding the accountability of Palestinian authorities over this reporting period, I note the lack of progress by authorities in the West Bank, as well as the de facto authorities in Gaza, regarding incidents of possible excessive use of force, or allegations of torture and ill-treatment, by their security forces. Available information suggests there have been no charges brought against any persons involved in these violations.
I urge far more efforts by the parties to the conflict, as well as the international community, to advance accountability for serious violations, and to provide redress to victims.