EU Member States must address the structural discrimination, repression and occupation of Palestinians by Israel

Ahead of the next UN Universal Periodic Review of Israel’s human rights record scheduled for 9 May 2023, and based on its member’s interventions to the UN Human Rights Council, EuroMed Rights calls on EU Members states to use this occasion to address the accelerated process of annexation and settlement of the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as the widespread use of repressive tools and policies to stifle Palestinian resistance.  

These include but are not limited to: the designation of civil society organizations as “unlawful and terrorist organizations”, the widespread use of administrative detention, the legalized and common use of torture in Israeli detention centres, and the weaponization of counter-terrorism law against legitimate Palestinian resistance.  

EuroMed Rights also highlights in its submission that although Israel accepted most Member States’ criticism during its UPR, very little has changed on the ground, with levels of repression increasing sharply and attacks against civil society reaching unprecedented levels. You can read our submission below: 

EuroMed Rights recommendations on Israel’s Universal Periodic Review 2023 

Considering the upcoming Israel’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), due to be held on 9 May 2023 at the United Nations Human Rights Council, EuroMed Rights would like to bring our major human rights concerns and recommendations to the attention of European Union (EU) Member States, as documented by our Israeli and Palestinian member organisations. 

Repeal Counter-Terrorism Measures and Regulations against Palestinians 

Under the guise of counter-terrorism action, the Israeli government has implemented or is in the process of implementing several measures that repress Palestinian civil society and violate international standards on civil liberties. Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016 allows for extensive use of secret evidence, lowered evidentiary requirements, limited detainees’ access to judicial review and created new criminal offenses for any alleged expression of support for ‘terrorist’ organizations, negatively impacting the rights of Palestinian citizens. It is also necessary to remember that Israel arbitrarily accuses Palestinian Human Rights organizations or engaging in terrorist activities, as exemplified by the 2021 designation of 7 CSOs as unlawful/terrorist organizations. These CSOs were raided by the Israeli army, their members threatened and their working material seized. Under the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Regulation, these civil society members are also under the risk of suffering criminal prosecution for their legitimate activities.  

Moreover, Israel also has started to implement a system of residency and citizenship revocation for those accused of committing terrorist acts, which would render stateless even Palestinian citizens of Israel.  

During its 2018 UPR, Israel accepted several EU Member States recommendations to respect Palestinians’ freedom of association. Member States should urge Israel to: 

  • Repeal the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law and ensure the right of fair trial to those accused of engaging in terrorist activities. 
  • Repeal the 2023 Bill for Revoking the Citizenship or Residency Status of a Terrorist Operative 
  • Repeal the designation of the 7 Civil Society Organizations.  

Ensure accountability for human rights violations by the Israeli police and military forces 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be characterised by a culture of impunity that permeates through the Israeli police and military forces and facilitates the blatant disregard for human rights and international law. Although over 1000 complaints on torture against Palestinian detainees by Israeli police and armed forces have been filed on the Israeli judicial system, not a single one led to a criminal investigation. In a landmark case in 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court went as far as admitting the legitimacy of torture methods such as stress positions and sleep deprivation in “exceptional cases”.  

The Israeli Supreme Court has also proven itself adverse to properly implement accountability on the army, by refusing to conduct criminal investigations when civilians have been killed or maimed in the Gaza strip. Furthermore, the Supreme court also refused civil remedies for those victims of war crimes in Gaza, setting up a situation of absolute unaccountability for the Israeli armed forces. During its 2018 UPR, Israel accepted several recommendations by EU Member States to investigate all human rights violations. Member States should urge Israel to: 

  • Conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into documented human rights and international humanitarian law violations, including torture and ill-treatment; 
  • Support all international efforts to promote accountability for breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law in Israel/Palestine. 

Stop human rights violations against Palestinian prisoners and detainees 

Palestinian prisoners and detainees are systematically subjected to several human rights violations from torture and ill-treatment to administrative detention, due to the combination of a flawed legal framework, the lack of safeguards and a widespread impunity. Israel uses administrative detention in a widespread and systematic manner to intimidate Palestinians, unlawfully deporting individuals from the Palestinian territories into Israel to make use of torture and degrading treatment during interrogations. Recently, Palestinian activist Khader Adnan passed away after 87 days of hunger strike under Israeli administrative detention – Adnan was arrested 12 times for a cumulative 8 years of his life and never stood trial 

Furthermore, administrative arrests can be held indefinitely, which leads long waiting periods without trial. Following the arrest and transfer of Palestinian detainees for interrogation, lawyers were often denied access to their clients, hindering their ability to provide effective legal services and concealing illegal practices during interrogations including torture and ill-treatment. Israeli military orders prohibited Palestinian detainees from meeting with their lawyers for a period of 60 days. During its 2018 UPR Israel accepted several Member States recommendations to adjust the use of administrative detention to international standards of applicability.  

Member States should call Israel to:  

  • End the illegal use of administrative detention and repeal the “Unlawful Combatants Law”, ensuring that all persons deprived of liberty are either promptly released or subject to a fair trial; 
  • End the practice of deporting persons deprived of liberty from the Palestinian territories to beyond the Green Line.  

 Enshrine the principle of equality and non-discrimination in Israeli Basic Law 

Israel lacks a written constitution or a Basic Law that guarantees the right to equality, while several laws and policies increasingly privilege the State’s Jewish over its democratic character. These circumstances seriously undermine the human rights of Palestinian citizens. In 2018, The Israeli Knesset approved a highly controversial Jewish Nation-State Bill, which seeks to even further entrench Israel’s Jewish character in a Basic Law and excludes Muslim, Druze and Christian Palestinians from the right to self-determination within Israel and denies the land as the homeland of Palestinian people, as well as of other national groups. Furthermore, the Nation-State of the Jewish People contained no commitment to democratic norms, any guarantee of the right to equality, or a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity or any other category for all people living under Israeli sovereignty. 

 Various UN human rights mechanisms have in the past called for the review of discriminatory laws, and CEDAW has recently expressed concern over the systemic discrimination against women from the Arab and Bedouin communities. Member States should urge Israel to: 

  • Enshrine the principle of equality into its Basic Laws and legislation to ensure non-discrimination in law or practice based on race or national belonging; 
  • Protect the Bedouin citizens of Israel from all forms of discrimination and ensure their rights to property, land and housing  

Reverse the unlawful annexation and occupation policies in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territory 

Since Israel annexed East Jerusalem and occupied the West Bank in 1967, it established a policy aimed at reshaping the demographics of the region, drive out its Palestinian residents and judaize the region through the transference of settlers. This policy has included large settlement building and planning, demolitions of houses and infrastructures, residency revocations and forced displacement. As a result of the severe housing shortage in East Jerusalem and the discriminatory planning policies by the Municipality, over 20,000 Palestinian homes were built without permit, putting 85,000 Palestinians at risk of home demolition and displacement.  

Member States should call on Israel to:  

  •  Immediately cease all settlement construction and planning in East Jerusalem and the oPt, as well as the house demolition, residency revocation and forced displacement of their Palestinian residents.