GENEVA, Switzerland – UN human rights experts* have called on the government of Israel to immediately return confidential documents and office equipment that its military seized from the offices of Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) in Al-Bireh, in the occupied West Bank.
“We are deeply concerned by the Israeli military’s interference with the human rights work of a well-known and well-regarded NGO,” said the experts. Computers, hard drives, binders and other materials were taken from DCIP’s offices during a nighttime raid at the end of July.
“The indispensable work of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society organizations has provided a measure of much-needed accountability in documenting and scrutinizing the dispiriting human rights trends in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the experts said.
“In recent years, DCIP has critically and reliably reported on the patterns of arrests, maiming and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The silencing or hindering of these activities violates the fundamental human rights of expression and association, which Israel has committed itself to uphold through its ratification of the two 1966 International Covenants.”
From the start of the year until the end of July 2021, Israeli military forces have killed 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank. This is more than the recorded deaths of Palestinian children under the occupation in all of 2020. As well, a reported 67 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza during the violence of May 2021.
“All civilian lives under occupation are protected under international law. This is particularly true for the rights of children,” the experts said. “We are aware of the long-standing criticisms of the lack of transparent and impartial investigations in apparent violations of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli military. Accordingly, we call upon the Government of Israel to work with the international community to establish an impartial body to conduct transparent, arm’s length and public investigations into these deaths consistent with the standards on international law, and to apply the lessons gleaned from these investigations to strenuously avoid such a pattern of tragedy in the future.”
The UN experts also called upon the government of Israel to fully respect the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998.
“An occupying power with a true commitment to human rights would protect and encourage the work of human rights defenders, and not ostracize, harass or silence them,” the experts stated.
“Such a government would respect the critical scrutiny of their work, even if their reports and allegations excoriated the conduct of that government. And such a government — even one conducting a long-term military occupation — would accept that human rights can be infringed only as a last measure and then only in a minimally impairing manner that is subject to meaningful judicial review.”