Saturday, April 26, 2008

Press Statement

Occupied Palestinian Territory, 24.04.08

We the undersigned Palestinian civil society organizations express our grave concern over the recent Israeli military orders closing and transferring ownership of property owned by the Islamic Charitable Society in the city of Hebron in the so-called H1 area which is ostensibly under the full control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The property targeted includes residential units, two orphanages, a school under construction, several shops and two clinics. Despite the fact that the military orders are presently being challenged before the competent Israeli judicial authorities, the Israeli army has carried out military operations partially implementing the orders, including the destruction and appropriation of property belonging to civilians. The orders and consequent military operations contravene international humanitarian and human rights law, severely infringing upon the rights of thousands of Palestinian civilians - in particular children, who are the beneficiaries of the specialized services of the Society.

As an Occupying Power, Israel has the legal obligation of providing for the welfare of the occupied population, including facilitating the proper working of institutions devoted to the care and education of children. The destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity is a blatant violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime. Additionally, halting the provision of essential services to the civilian population infringes upon their right to education, health and adequate standard of living, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is a State Party.

These measures have negatively impacted upon one of the most vulnerable groups of society, children, to whom Israel, the Occupying Power, has a duty to provide special protection under international humanitarian law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Additionally, these orders affecting organizations in locations under the full administrative control of the PNA, undermine the designated powers of the PNA and the application of existing Palestinian laws, including Law No.1 of 2000 Concerning Charitable Associations and Civil Society Organizations.

Should the military orders be fully implemented, the result will also be the unlawful forcible displacement of hundreds of people, mainly orphans living on the premises, prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and human rights law, including the Principles on Internal Displacement.

We call upon:

· The State of Israel, as the Occupying Power, to uphold its legal obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect the occupied population and to ensure their welfare. In particular, the State of Israel must afford special protection to vulnerable groups such as children. We therefore urge the Israeli army to cancel the orders imposing closure and transfer of ownership of the property of the Islamic Charitable Society.

· The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to uphold their legal obligation under Article 1 to ensure that Israel respects its legal duties under the Convention. In particular, the member States of the European Union, which have shown a strong commitment to ensuring respect of international humanitarian law in their Guidelines on Promoting Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (2005/C327/04), must take concrete steps to enforce international humanitarian law in relation to Israel's violations.

· The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian and Development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to urgently examine the needs and vulnerabilities of the persons affected by the orders imposing closure and transfer of ownership of the property of the Islamic Charitable Society. In light of the grave infringements upon the rights of the civilian population, we urge the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian and Development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to support our request to cancel these orders.

Defence for Children International – Palestine Section
The Palestinian Non-governmental Organisations' Network (PNGO)
Women's Studies Centre
Jerusalem Legal Aid Center
Applied Research Institute Jerusalem
Palestinian Network of Children's Rights
Health Work Committees
Palestinian Medical Relief Society
YMCA – Beit Sahour
Union of Social Workers and Psychologists

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