Israel-Palestine: 50 years and counting | 15 years of impunity in CAR

A man waves a Palestinian flag near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, near Ramallah © Issam Rimawi/Flash90

Israel-Palestine: 50 years and counting

Half a century after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, civil society organizations are calling on Israel and the international community to step up efforts to address ongoing human rights violations in the occupied territories, including by defending the ICC preliminary examination into both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
 
On the 50-year anniversary of the Six Day War, human rights groups remain adamant that international human rights law abuses continue to be go unchecked in Palestine today. “Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
 
The UN secretary general António Guterres earlier in the week condemned the occupation’s “heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people” as fueling “recurring cycles of violence and retribution.” UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein added, “Two generations have already lived under occupation and in mounting disillusionment and despair. Both Palestinian and Israeli children are denied a future in peace and security.”
 
In an effort to combat the forces fueling human rights violations in Palestine, Amnesty International launched a new campaign for countries to prohibit settlement goods from their markets and to prevent companies from operating in settlements or trading in settlement goods.
 
“It is utterly shocking that, since the occupation began 50 years ago, there has been virtually total impunity for the decades of war crimes, crimes against humanity and human right violations committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “The world has seen the terrible toll of 50 years of ignoring gross violations and the relentless spread of illegal settlements. That’s why it’s crucial for states to take effective steps to end and redress these violations."
 
 
A group of Belgian organizations meanwhile called on the European Union (EU) and EU member states to avoid policies of "Israeli exceptionalism" in their approach to the ICC preliminary examination in Palestine.
 
Complaints including restricted access to healthcare and family visits, excessive use of solitary confinement and arbitrary administrative detention led around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails to go on hunger strike in mid-April 2017 for 40 days as human rights groups campaigned for the international community to take action to ensure that legitimate demands are met and the Occupying Power held accountable for any possible harms to protesters.
 
In January 2015, Palestine gave the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed by both sides to the Israel-Palestine conflict since June 2014, in Gaza and East Jerusalem, prompting the ICC Prosecutor to open a preliminary examination. Palestine became a recognized State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC that same year.

 

"Burning Heart of Africa" ignites war crimes concerns

A recent United Nations (UN) mapping report, documenting human rights violations committed during the multiple conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR) between 2003 and 2015, has suggested that many of the abuses could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
The report, meant to address the impunity that has allowed crimes to continue unchecked in the CAR for nearly 15 years, details systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including mass killings, extra-judicial killings, inhumane treatment of detainees and rape. The report also called for a sequenced, comprehensive, and gender-inclusive approach to transitional justice in the region.
 
“In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes,” UN Special Representative for the Central African Republic and MINUSCA head, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, said.
 
The report came as Human Rights Watch voiced concerns that the country and its complex conflicts are falling off the global radar – an issue that HRW recently sought to combat with a National Geographic video collaboration to show “what it looks like when a country shatters.”
 
 
Allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic are currently the focus of two investigations at the ICC, while the Special Criminal Court (SCC) was established in the CAR in 2015 to also begin dealing with international crimes effectively at the national level - a joint effort envisioned by the Rome Statute principle of complementarity.
 
“Together with the ICC, the SCC offers a meaningful opportunity to break the cycles of impunity that have plagued the country for years,” a HRW statement read.

 

ICC investigations

Darfur, Sudan: New clashes between pro-government militia and rebel groups have disrupted a recent period of calm in the region's 14-year conflict, ahead of the ICC Prosecutor's 25th Darfur situation report at the UN Security Council on Thursday.

DRC: While the US decided to impose sanctions against Congolese president Joseph Kabila, HRW has called for a commission of inquiry into violence in the Kasai region.

Uganda: The trial of former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen continued with a testimony from a survivor of an LRA attack, detailing how he was beaten and left for dead.

 

ICC preliminary examinations

Afghanistan: An attack on a peaceful funeral procession in Kabul led the country's UN envoy to call for established security in the city as a means towards negotiated peace in the country.

Burundi: A collective of lawyers reported that in total nearly 800 alleged cases of sexual violence, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and assassinations.in Burundi have been sent to the Office of the Prosecutor.

Ukraine: The European Court of Human Rights has accepted Ukraine's legal position in the first case of Ukraine v Russia, examining the potential violation of human rights in occupied Crimea.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

The arrest of Agnes Reeves Taylor, ex-wife of imprisoned former Liberian president Charles Taylor, for her alleged role in torture committed during Liberia’s first civil war, is a “meaningful step for justice”, according to Human Rights Watch.

In its first decision on indigenous people's rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ruled that Kenya violated the rights of the Ogiek people through repeated evictions from their land in the Mau Forest since colonial times.

If Syrian victims rely for now on European courts using "universal jurisdiction" to prosecute Syrian government torturers and others, the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) will be able to bring cases of serious crimes committed in Syria against those most responsible for them.

On 4 June, the world recognized the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression to acknowledge the pain suffered by children globally and to recognize the  250 million children who today live in countries affected by conflict.

 

Around the world

Citing the UN's "responsibility to protect", the New York Times called for international intervention in Venezuela, where a political, economic and humanitarian crisis has left its people urgently in need of food and medical supplies.

While Filipino president Duterte remains adamant that he is not afraid of an ICC probe, a Philippine lawmaker intensified appeals to the Court to open a preliminary examination of allegations of mass killings in the president's war on drugs.

Despite the establishment of two commissions in 2015, a study led by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) showed a delay in delivering accountability for war crimes committed during Nepal's ten-year civil conflict, with efforts hampered by the country's current political instability.

 

Have your say: Which global justice news stories have caught your eye this week?