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Oral statement by WCLAC staff in their side-event at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council

WCLAC Oral Submission: Women’s Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Meeting of the Human Rights Council, Geneva


This year, 2017, marks a special anniversary: 50 years of Israeli occupation in Palestine. 50 years of oppression, discrimination, abuse and violations of human rights.. It is a good year to reflect on women’s rights in Palestine.

The causation is simple. The Israeli occupation is leading directly to women’s rights abuses in Palestine. Some of these abuses are committed directly by State actors – night raids, for example. Others are sanctioned by state actors by their failure to prosecute those who commit the crimes – settler violence for example. And, lastly, some are the inevitable consequence of years of economic blockades – on the West Bank, on East Jerusalem, and, critically on Gaza. Palestine is being strangled—actually and metaphorically—and that is affecting women in direct and indirect ways.

Night Raids, carried out by Israeli soldiers on Palestinian homes, are humiliating invasions of privacy. 15-30 soldiers forcefully enter a house in the middle of the night. Wearing full battle gear, with gas masks and machine guns, they terrorise the household. They destroy property, beat anyone that gets in their way, and threaten the women and children. Sometimes they arrest someone, taking them away to an unknown location; sometimes not. They are an effective and abusive tactic used by the Israeli army to subjugate and threaten Palestinian communities, an act that strips women from feeling safe or stable in their own house.

Israeli settlements in oPt are a violation of international law. With over 600,000 settlers now inoPt, they are a gradual annexation of the oPtdriven by a desire to force Palestinians off their land. Yet, for women, it is the violence accompanying settlements that is so damaging countless other women we have spoken to have had their cars rammed, their sons killed, arrested or attacked in the streets, their property smashed or burnt, and their dignity destroyed every day by ritual abuse and racism.

In East Jerusalem, housing demolitions and residency revocations are removing the Palestinian population. They are destroying their houses and livelihoods, and displacing them from the communities they grew up in. With Israeli law governing and the illegal annexation of  East Jerusalem, this is racism by decree: the legally sanctioned displacement of Palestinians from their own homes. Under international law, it is could quantify  to a war crime.

Palestinian female prisoners – many held without trial – continue to be transferred out of Palestine and detained in prisons that are not suitable for women. They are tortured, humiliated and discriminated against on grounds of their race. They are denied access to family and to lawyers.

Gaza continues to suffer. Brought to its knees by the war in 2014, it is being crippled by the unending siege on the country. It is a humanitarian disaster, a prison with no electricity, water, medical aid or infrastructure.

The world has called for Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Yet, Israel does not listen. It is immune to prosecution and is free to act as it wishes.


We call the international community:

-          To ensure that international humanitarian and human rights law are the basis of all interactions and cooperation agreements with Israel. Promote Israeli compliance with these laws, and end the culture of impunity enjoyed by Israel.


-          To reaffirm the Palestinian right to self-determination and to end the occupation of Palestine. To seek a strong and durable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.


-          To call on Israel to respect the dignity of the Palestinian people and to cease their invasive and illegal practices of night raids, settlement construction, house demolition, and residency revocation. Simultaneously, end the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli individuals involved in settler violence, whether state forces or non-state.  


-          To call Israel to cease its practice of transferring Palestinian female prisoners out of Palestine, a practice illegal under international law. Grant all Palestinian detainees access to legal services and to their family during family visits.


-          To end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Guarantee full access for the Gazan population to all basic services necessary to ensure the implementation of their rights to food, water, sanitation, and to the highest attainable standard of health, including medical treatment to all including women with chronic diseases. 

You can view the slideshow screened at the side-event here