4 January 2016 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian territories is resigning due to Israel’s failure to grant him access to the areas he is tasked with monitoring.*
“Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Makarim Wibisono said of his resignation,which he submitted to the President of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council today, to become effective as of 31 March.
“I took up this mandate with the understanding that Israel would grant me access, as an impartial and objective observer,” he added, stressing that upon assuming his post in June 2014, he was assured that he would have access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Repeated requests for access, both written and oral, have been unsuccessful. “With no reply from Israel to my latest request, in October 2015, to have access by the end of 2015, it is with deep regret that I accept the premise upon which I took up the mandate, which is to have direct access to the victims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, will not be fulfilled,” he said.
He will present his last report to the Human Rights Council in March.
Mr. Wibisono, an Indonesian diplomat, said that that throughout his tenure, the Government of the State of Palestine cooperated fully with the mandate, and he voiced deep concern at the lack of effective protection of Palestinian victims of continuing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law.
“I reluctantly wish to pass the baton to a successor, selected by the Human Rights Council,” he added.
“It is my sincere hope that whoever succeeds me will manage to resolve the current impasse, and so reassure the Palestinian people that after nearly half a century of occupation the world has not forgotten their plight and that universal human rights are indeed universal.”
He underscored that it was important for Israel’s own human rights credibility to cooperate fully with the mandate, including by allowing unfettered access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In his most recent reports, Wibisono voiced concerns at Israeli raids against the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements in the occupied West Bank, at the high level of clashes in the city, where Palestinians live in close proximity to a large settler population, and at the blockade around the Gaza strip, which imposes severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, imports and exports.
“The bottom line remains that, if Gaza is to recover from the damage wrought by multiple rounds of hostility and a shattered economy, the blockade must be lifted. The people deserve help and realization of their human rights, not collective punishment,” he said in June.
Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by and reporting back to the Council.
Wibisono served as Indonesia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva (2004-2007) and in New York (1997-2000), as well as on a number of UN bodies, including as Chairperson of the 61st United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2005 and President of the UN Economic and Social Council in 2000. (8Source: UN).
UN Experts Urge End to Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Occupied Palestinian Territory
Gravely concerning at continued reports that human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Hebron, are being subjected to physical attacks and death threats, UN independent experts on 18 December 2015 denounced such harassment as “unacceptable” and called for it to end immediately.**
According to a press release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), human rights defenders have been subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats, in an apparent bid by Israeli authorities and settler elements to stop their peaceful and important work.
“Amidst a charged and violent atmosphere over past months in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Palestinian and international defenders are providing a ‘protective presence’ for Palestinians at risk of violence, and documenting human rights violations,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.
The continued harassment of human rights defenders in the region, who are exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and association, is simply unacceptable. It should cease immediately,” Forst stressed.
Earlier this month, a group of UN human rights experts urged the Israeli Government to ensure a protective environment where human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory can work without unlawful restriction and without fear of retaliatory acts.
“We recently addressed concerns to the Israeli Government regarding retaliatory acts by Israeli authorities against members of one organisation based in Hebron, Youth Against Settlements, after its Centre was subjected to raids and settlers allegedly called for it to be closed,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Makarim Wibisono.
He noted that the Centre has now effectively been shut down as a result of the Israeli military declaring the surrounding area a military zone.
“We urge Israeli authorities to lift this military order,” added Widisono.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. (**Source: UN)