PCHR submits Individual Complaint to UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Gaza Strip, Press Release

On Monday, 12 November, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has made a written submission, in the form of an Individual Complaint, to Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, which draws attention to the case of Sheikh Omar Mahmoud Ahmed Nofal (47) from Gaza City, Gaza Strip (occupied Palestinian territory).

During the First Intifada, which began in 1987, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000, and as part of the ongoing illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel since 2007, Israel has placed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory, banning them from traveling between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and preventing them from exercising their right to freedom of worship.

As a Muslim worshipper from the Gaza Strip, Sheikh Omar Nofal, along with all other Muslims from Gaza, is categorically denied access to Islamic holy sites located in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Most significantly, this prevents Sheikh Nofal from performing religious prayers and rituals in the Al Aqsa mosque, which is located in East Jerusalem. This mosque is considered the third holiest place in the world by Muslims. Accessing the Al Aqsa compound and praying in the Al Aqsa mosque constitute an important and valuable part of the practicing of religion for Muslim Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

On 7 August 2012, Israel’s Supreme Court confirmed a District Court ruling which approves the policy that allows Christians from Gaza to access holy sites in Israel and the West Bank during their religious holidays, but categorically denies similar access to Muslim Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

Arbitrarily barring Palestinians’ movement from one place to another within the occupied Palestinian territory is an unlawful and punitive restriction of freedom of movement, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These restrictions lead to a lack of access for Muslim Palestinians to their places  of worship, which is a violation of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

PCHR will be submitting either Memorandums or Individual Complaints on a bi-weekly basis to UN Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs, to draw attention to issues facing the Palestinian people.

Supplementary documents

Individual Complaint: Individual Complaint related to the Right to Freedom of Worship in the Gaza Strip (pdf)


Briefing Note: The Right to Freedom of Worship in the Gaza Strip (pdf)