Today begins a monumental week for human rights in Israel and the Palestine National Authority on several fronts.
Over the course of the next few days, in Israel, legislators will begin debate a draft of a law that would put asylum-seekers and migrants at risk for being returned to countries where they would face serious human rights violations. The United Nations will receive the secretary-general’s report on Israeli and Palestinian domestic investigations into violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from December 2008 to January 2009. And in the United States, a congressional letter is circulating asking Representatives to press for immediate relief of the citizens of Gaza.
That’s a lot of activity, and at a time of significant international interest in the region, Amnesty International hopes that it will lead to a renewed focus on human rights issues as the best way to achieve a lasting peace.
To take the various actions of the week one at a time:
* The Israeli Knesset will begin discussion Feb. 3 on the Prevention of Infiltration Law. The legislation comes out of a current crisis, particularly on the Egyptian border, where refugees from human rights violations – primarily the Sudan and Eritrea – are attempting to reach safety by entering Israel in large numbers. In recent years, large numbers have been forcibly returned to Egypt, where they are at risk of both human rights violations and of being forcibly returned to their country of origin.
Amnesty International is concerned that the draft legislation prescribes lengthy prison sentences for asylum-seekers and irregular migrants and would allow for their immediate deportation, without regard to the risk they might face of torture or other ill-treatment or persecution in the country to which they would be forcibly returned. We believe the legislation is inconsistent with international human rights treaties and we call about the Knesset to reject the draft law and ensure that any immigration or national security provisions that are introduced into law fully respect Israel’s international human rights obligations. Click here for more information.
* This past November, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the findings of the Goldstone Report, which concluded that both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups had committed grave violations of international law, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, during the three week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. Both groups were required to conduct domestic investigations into the allegations and submit reports back to the United Nations in early February.
Amnesty International has called upon both Israel and Hamas to fulfill their obligations in these investigations. We attempted to ensure both sides conducted their investigations with the required independence, impartiality, transparency and effectiveness. If the reports fail on these accounts, Amnesty expects that the United States and other UN member states will fulfill their responsibility to monitor the investigations.
Feb. 2 update: Amnesty has just issued this release condemning the Israeli response to the Gaza investigations.
* The congressional letter on Gaza, to date signed by 54 members of Congress, expresses sympathy with both the citizens of Gaza and Southern Israel but says the continuing economic pressure on Gaza by Israel has impeded aid groups and economic activity.
The letter calls upon President Obama to press for improvements in the areas of Movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists; access to clean water, medicine, sanitation supplies, construction materials, fuel and spare parts, and passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods. Amnesty International endorses the goals of the letter and encourages members to contact their Representatives to ask that they sign the letter.