Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



30th regular session of the Human Rights Council

Scales for Justice (S4J) is working towards peace and reconciliation through active engagement with the United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms. Regular participation in relevant meetings of the UN therefore is crucial for our work. Among those meetings are the Human Rights Council (HRC), treaty bodies, and working groups. The 30th regular session of the HRC took place from 14 September to 2 October 2015 in The "Palais des Nations" in Geneva.

Opening

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein opened the 30th regular session of the Human Rights Council. S4J fully shares the frustration he expressed in view of the lack of ressources while misery accelerates, as well as anger in view of the international community's failure to act in cases of horrific human rights violations. "Unless we change dramatically in how we think and behave all of us will be inconsequential in the face of mounting violations", he stated. "Our lives are connected to one another. When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the centre of our institution (the UN) no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity." Guided by these thoughts S4J actively participated in the session and contributed through a number of presentations, interventions and other activities.

It was further a special honor for S4J to welcome and accompagny human rights defender Issa Amro from Hebron/ Palestine during the third week of the Council, where he held an oral statement under agenda item 7 of the Council's agenda, during which he demanded an independant international investigation into killings such as the extrajudicial execution of Hadeel al Hashlamoun on 22 September 2015 and called for an international protection force in Palestine as well as for urgent support for journalists and human rights defenders, who are increasingly targeted by Israeli security forces for exposing the truth about human rights violations in the oPt and for exercising their legitimate right to resist occupation through non-violent means. S4J further organized and a number of panels and meetings, adressing the escalating settler violence and impunity as well as the issue of Jerusalem. In collaboration with the Palestinian mission S4J also organized a press conference with Issa Amro to provide background information about the killing of Hadeel al Hashlamoun to journalists at the UN.

Presentations by S4J


S4J is frequenty invited to participate in panels at the UN and speak about particular human rights situations. S4J is particularly concerned about violations of the four fundamental freedoms, especially when violations affect fundamental rights such as the right to life and liberty, the right to due process and law, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. S4J further examines cases of racial discrimination and racially motivated violence. Among the issues in focus therefore remain human rights in the context of occupation, defined as the systemic domination of one group of people over the other.The right to self-determination is crucial in this context.

On Friday 25 September 2015 S4J was invited to hold a presentation on a panel under the title "Rights to self-determination". Speakers adressed the situations of Hawaii, Western Sahara, Kashmir and Palestine and found that the denial of the right to self-determination leads to a systematic pattern of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, the denial of freedom of speech, the right to adequate housing, the right to freedom from discrimination as well as it also entails serious reprisals against human rights defenders  and economic conequences. Especially with regard to the right to self determination UN resolutions are often systematically ignored, the panel further regretted and concluded that it is far past time to enhance this right in order to meet the preconditions for lasting peace and security.


Based on its experience from the ground S4J adressed in particular the situation of Palestine, one of whose most critical aspects is the continuing establishment of settlements that effects Palestinian human rights on all levels. After a short historical overview S4J explained that - though being illegal under international law - settlement contruction has continued since the beginning of the 1967 6-day war. Today an estimated 400.000 settlers live in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and their presence means heavy restrictions of movement, arbitrary arrests and constant fear of settler attacks, frequently carried out with impunity and under the very eyes of the army. Especially in area C - those 60 per cent of the West Bank over which Israel still retains direct control - Palestinians are further rarely granted construction permits and demolitions are frequent. 

Defending defenders

Visit of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro

Scales for Justice (S4J) has defined the four fundamental freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want as the core field of its work. In this context it is therefore crucial to support local human rights defenders, who face reprisals for their criticism of human rights violations. 

Issa Amro is OHCHR human rights defender of the year in Palestine 2009 and founder of Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a nonviolent activist group based in Hebron, that strengthens the local community’s steadfastness against the illegal expansion of settlements and documents human right violations on the ground in order to raise international awareness. For local and international YAS is often the first source of information from the ground. Nevertheless over the years Issa Amro and his group have continuously faced serious reprisals from Israeli forces and settlers alike. Reprisals included death threats, attacks, raids, arbitrary arrests and confiscation of video material.

Already in August 2013 a group of United Nations independent human rights experts expressed deep concern at the ongoing  harassment, intimidation and abusive treatmentagainst him. Nevertheless reprials continue, especially in relation to information shared by his group such as the killing of Hadeel al Hashlamoun. S4J therefore considered it highly important to invite Issa Amro for the 30the regular session of the Human Rights Council and share his testimony with the Council as well as during presentations and meetings with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and journalists at the UN.

At this place S4J would like to express a heartfelt and special thanks to Kurve Wustrow, which provided practical and financial support for Issa Amro's visit to Geneva, as well as to the International Youth and Student Movement for the UN (ISMUN), which provided accreditation and gave Issa Amro the possibility to hold a statement in the Human Rights Counciland and speak during a panel under the title "Increasing settler violence and impunity".

Statement in the Human Rights Council

On Monday 28 September 2015 Issa Amro held a statement in the Human Rights council under agenda item 7 on the Council's agenda. He expressed his concern about the provocations caused by Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and urged the Council  to finally end the apartheid policy related to the growing number of illegal settlements. "Over the past months settlers have changed the names of our neighborhoods into Hebrew", Amro said, "They have burnt the Dawabsheh family and many other houses with impunity, meanwhile Israeli security forces brutally oppress journalists and human rights defenders and systematically humiliate and kill our people, as we have seen last week at the extrajudicial execution of 18 year old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun."

"We urgently need an impartial international investigation into her case as well as international protection forces," Amro stated. Finally he also called on the Council not to forget its promise of reconstruction for the people in Gaza and concluded by reminding the Council that it bears a special responsibility towards the Palestinian people. "Over the past years I have been here several times and called on you not to leave us alone in our struggle," he urged "Meanwhile our situation is getting worse and worse and a number of countries still remain silent under this item which encourages Israel to oppress us more and more. I urge this Council to finally listen to our cries and end our suffering." 

Side events

On Monday, 28 September 2015 Issa Amro together with S4J participated in a side event under the title "Increasing settler violence and impunity" at the United Nations, Geneva. The panel moderated by Jan Lönn from the International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN) found that attacks such as in Duma on 30 August 2015, during which 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh was burnt to death after a firebomb was thrown by settlers into the family's bedroom and both parents, Saad and Reham, later succumbed to their injuries, have been systematic and increasing since many years. They have further been well-known and documented by the UN and a number of human righs organizations, S4J explained, yet, as settlers enjoy total impunity for such attacks fatalities were just a question of time.

Often attacks even take place under the very eyes and protection of the army. Especially hate crimes committed by the so-called “Hilltop youth”, who erect illegal outposts and undertake "price tag" campagins display a high level of organization and are extremely dangerous, Issa Amro further explained. They include arsons, stone-throwing, uprooting of olive trees, attacks on homes. Arson attacks on Palestinians therefore are nothing new and started already in 2008, Issa Amro explained, yet complaints submitted to the Israeli police are usually closed without any indictment.

Seeing the escalation of violence in the West Bank troughout 2015 the side event has proven to be of highest urgency. It is far past time to end this state of injustice and break the circle of violence before it is too late. Among many others the side event was attended by the Assistant of the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and the permanent observer mission of the State of Palestine to the UN, Geneva.

 




Issa Amro held a second presentation on Tuesday 29 September 2015 during a side event organized by the Union of Arab Jurists and Geneva International Center for Justice under the title "Human Rights in Palestine - The situation in Jerusalem". During his presentation Issa Amro warned that provocations surrounding the al Aqsa compound led to the first and second intifada and that currently there is a high risk of escalation throughout the oPt. Other speakers discussed the  recent incursions into the Al Aqsa mosque, such as military attacks, arbitrary arrests civilians and harassments ans well as the options for Palestinians residents of Jerusalem to legally claim their rights in Israel with  the Israeli Supreme Court. The panel concluded by discussing the potential international crimes that may be being committed; i.e. the forcible transfer of a population, and the unlawful destruction and appropriation of property and any potential investigations that may or may not be announced by the International Criminal Court, and the jurisdictional issues that it may face.

 




Press conference

At the end of his visit, after several meetings with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and in collaboration with the Permanent Overserver Mission of the State of Palestine to the UN, Issa Amro gave a press conference for journalists at the UN during which he explained the background of the extrajudicial execution of Hadeel al Hashlamoun on 22 September 2015 and gave an overview over the situation in Hebron. Despite several important events taking place in the Human Rights Council at the same time the conference was well attended and journalists urged for more information.





If you are a human rights defender and suffering from reprisals you may send an email to S4J and present your case. S4J will evaluate you case and consider which UN bodies could be engaged. In cases of severe threats and reprisals S4J may also consider further action, including the possibility to bring you to the Human Rights Council.