Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Joint memorandum submitted by International Service (IS) and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

  International Service (IS) is a United Kingdom based non-governmental organisation. It works to promote self-reliance, human rights and long-term sustainable development in West Africa, Latin America and Palestine. International Service is a member of United Nations Association, United Kingdom.

  The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to promoting human rights, the rule of law, and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. PCHR holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Federation Internationale des Ligues des Troits de l'Homme (FIDH) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network.

Inquiry issue: The effectiveness of aid from UK and EU sources on Palestinian poverty levels, how it is targeted and what could be done to prevent it from being wasted or destroyed



  IS and PCHR has become increasingly concerned regarding the progressively restrictive measures imposed on internationals seeking access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and the Gaza Strip in particular. Restrictions have been arbitrarily imposed on internationals employed by international and national humanitarian, development and human rights organisations seeking to conduct their work throughout the OPTs. These ongoing restrictions are imposed in violation of Israel's obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, and in violation of Israel's stated commitments, including the Bertini Commitments. IS and PCHR expresses its concerns that such ongoing restrictive measures will serve to further worsen the humanitarian situation in the OPT, particularly the Gaza Strip, where at least 20% of the population are now entirely dependent on international aid for basic foodstuffs and many more receive additional aid. We also assert that these restrictions are intended to prevent foreign observation of the impact of the illegal Israeli military occupation, and the military policies implemented to sustain and expand it, on the Palestinian civilian population.

  This memoranda will outline problems faced by international humanitarian, development and human rights workers, including denial of entry to Israel and the OPT, refusals of work visas for Israel. This paper also highlights the increasing levels of violence, including killings and injuries, directed at international staff by the Israeli military and other Israeli government agencies.

  While this memoranda seeks to provide information specific to the recent restrictions imposed on international staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, we note with grave concern, the ongoing denials of freedom of movement to the Palestinian civilian population of the OPT in general, and to Palestinian humanitarian, development and human rights workers in particular. For information regarding movement restrictions on Palestinians in the OPT please refer to PCHR's regular publications[52].


  Israel's commitments in respect of international staff of humanitarian development and human rights organisations can be found in international humanitarian law, international human rights law and in verbal and other guarantees made by the Israeli government.


  General principles of international humanitarian law provide for access for humanitarian agencies and their staff to ensure that necessary humanitarian services are accessible to civilians in time of conflict. More specifically, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, 1949, (the Fourth Geneva Convention), to which Israel is a High Contracting Party, obligates an Occupying Power to facilitate access for humanitarian workers in Occupied Territory. Humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, domestic, regional and international, have provided a range of important services to Palestinian civilians throughout the OPT for many years. These organisations have included UN agencies (represented mainly by United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Crescent, a high number of international development agencies including International Service, Oxfam GB, Save the Children UK, MERLIN, MAP UK, as well as Palestinian non-governmental organisations. Many of these agencies, particularly those providing humanitarian services in the field, have been subjected to restrictions, denials of access and even attacks on staff, vehicles and other equipment, by the Israeli military throughout the OPT. These attacks have continued to escalate since the beginning of the current Intifada in 2000.

  The Fourth Geneva Convention prescribes clear rules regarding humanitarian organisations, their services, duties and the duties of the Parties to the conflict (including the Occupying Power) in respect of these organisations. In article 10, the Convention recognizes certain types of organisations. The International Committee of the Red Cross is, of course, the primary humanitarian organization dealt with in this and the other three Conventions and Additional Protocols. This article also refers more generally to "any other impartial humanitarian organization". As further clarified in Pictet's Commentary, those organisations must be humanitarian, ie concerned with the condition of human beings irrespective of military, political, or other identities. The organisations must also be impartial. However, they are not required to be international, nor is it required to be neutral[53]. The Commentary further details the types of activities which these organisations are authorized to conduct. Activities may include:

    "1.  representations, interventions, suggestions and practical measures affecting the protection afforded under the Convention;

      2.  the sending and distribution of relief (foodstuffs, clothing and medicaments), in short, anything which can contribute to the humane treatment provided for under article 27;

      3.  the sending of medical and other staff."[54]

  Article 30 sets out obligations of the Parties to the conflict to provide services and relief to the protected persons. As Pictet's Commentary further details in reference to article 30, "The Convention requires the Parties to the conflict to grant all facilities to . . . relief organizations. That means that it will not be enough merely to authorize them to carry out their work; their task must be facilitated and promoted. It is the duty of the authorities to take all necessary steps to allow approved organizations to take rapid and effective action wherever they are asked to give assistance. Among examples of such measures can be mentioned the provision of facilities for delegates to move about and carry on correspondence, to have free access to all places where protected persons are living, transport facilities, and facilities for distributing relief, etc."

  Article 61 expressly details the obligation of the Occupying Power, Israel, to facilitate the "rapid distribution of these consignments".

  However, it must be noted that irrespective of the presence and services of humanitarian organisations, the primary agent responsible for the welfare of the protected persons, including provision of relief, is the Occupying Power; as article 60 specifically affirms "Relief consignments shall in no way relieve the Occupying Power of any of its responsibilities under Articles 55, 56, and 59".


  On 7 August 2002, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, appointed Catherine Bertini as Personal Humanitarian Envoy to address the humanitarian needs arising from the ongoing violence in the region since September 2000. Ms Bertini's visit later in August 2002 concluded with an agreement by the Israeli authorities to a minimum set of standards on humanitarian issues in the OPT. These minimum standards included commitments in health, water, fishing rights and access for Palestinian workers. In addition, the Israeli authorities agreed to "fully facilitate the activities of international organizations"[55].

  The Bertini Commitments were noted as providing only a minimum set of standards that did not in any way detract or limit the obligations of Israel as the Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant provisions of international humanitarian law.

  In addition to the Bertini Commitments, specifically in respect of UNRWA, the Israeli authorities are also bound by the Comay-Michelmore Agreement (signed in 1967), to facilitate UNRWA's operations throughout the OPT. The Agreement refers specifically to the free movement of UNRWA international staff and UNRWA vehicles.


  For many years, international staff of human rights organisations, both local and international, have provided essential services in the promotion and protection of human rights in the OPT, both in respect of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This group is particularly important in ensuring that accurate and appropriate information regarding the human rights situation in the OPT is provided to the international community, and in particular to the UN treaty and charter bodies dealing with human rights issues. Many international human rights defenders are based outside the region and conduct regular fact-finding missions to Israel and the OPT. Other international human rights defenders provide essential training and technical services to local human rights and other organisations. For those international human rights defenders, including those based in Israel and the OPT, access restrictions, including visa applications and access through checkpoints, has impacted daily on their ability to contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in Israel and the OPT. Internationals assisting Palestinians in seeking accountability for human rights violations are particularly vulnerable to arbitrary restrictions.

  The UN Declaration on human rights defenders[56] prescribes general commitments to the promotion and protection of human rights, including through non-governmental organisations and individual human rights defenders. The Declaration supplements the inherent obligation in international human rights treaty law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to all of which Israel is a State party, of state parties to promote and protect fundamental human rights. The work of human rights defenders is an integral element in the promotion and protection of human rights.

  Israel's role in facilitating the various humanitarian, development and human rights agencies and their work are clear. However, in reality, Israel's has consistently flouted these rules. In particular, the denial or restricted access for international staff of these humanitarian, development and human rights organisations continues to impact upon the quality and regularity of the important services which these organisations provide to the Palestinian civilian population.


  Approximately 80 international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) provide humanitarian relief and development assistance to the Palestinian civilian population. Representing over 20 countries, including the USA, European Union member states, Norway, Japan, Australia and Canada, and staffed by international relief and development professionals, their global mandate is to provide assistance to those most in need, in a variety of countries throughout the world.

  INGOs work in the West Bank and Gaza with local communities and local partners, and some have had a presence in the OPT for over 30 years. INGOs provide a wide range of community-based services and humanitarian assistance including: the rehabilitation of infrastructure (roads, electrical services, water cisterns), humanitarian relief (food and non-food aid), emergency medical care, educational and social activities, employment generation, assistance to people with disabilities, and support to the agricultural sector.

  INGOs are an integral part of the international aid community, and perform a significant role in implementing donor funded humanitarian and development programmes. According to AIDA estimates, approximately 10% of all donor assistance in 2002 flowed through INGOs. INGO efforts are targeted principally to the poor, and the World Bank estimates that about 20% of the Palestinian poor are totally dependent on INGO programmes for their day-to-day subsistence.
Estimated donor funding of INGO activity in 2002-03
*Funds for relief and development projects disbursed through INGOs EC/ECHO
Other donors
$13 million

$90 million

$45 million

$148 million
* Total donor funds disbursed in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002 $1.05 billion
* INGO contribution as % of total aid disbursement 10 %
* Proportion of Palestinian population fully dependent on INGO aid 390.000 (approximately 20% of those living below the poverty line of $US 2.1 per day)

  As the security situation in the OPT becomes increasingly unstable and the humanitarian and human rights situation deteriorates still further, the role of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations continues to increase. However, increasing restrictions on movement and the escalating numbers of attacks and other hostile incidents against international staff of these organisations have continued to impact on the ability of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, to provide these essential services to the Palestinian population. The following sections set out in more detail the access issues which international staff are currently facing and also the increasing disregard for the safety of staff members shown by the Israeli authorities, particularly the Israeli military.


  The first and most fundamental obstacle facing international staff of the humanitarian, development and human rights organisations working in the field is physical access to the OPT. Access to the OPT is exclusively and tightly controlled by the Israeli authorities. All border controls are controlled and staffed by Israeli government agencies. Therefore, all access to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip for international staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, is subject to the agreement of the Israeli authorities. For a number of years, internationals seeking access to the OPT have been subjected to prolonged cross-examination and time-consuming "security" checks at the Israeli-controlled border points, particularly at Tel Aviv international airport and the Allenby Bridge Crossing from Jordan. However, since the beginning of the current Intifada, many hundreds of internationals seeking entry to Israel as passage through to the OPT have been denied entry to Israel and the OPT at several border entry point, particularly at Tel Aviv international airport, at the Allenby Bridge and Sheikh Hussein crossings from Jordan, and at the Rafah Terminal from Egypt. Many of these internationals have sought entry to Israel for access to their places of work in the OPT, including Jerusalem, with international and local humanitarian, development and human rights organisations.

  This policy of denying entry to internationals reached an unprecedented level during the Israeli military offensive in the West Bank, "Operation Defensive Shield" in April and May 2002 and the subsequent "Operation Determined Path". During this time many hundreds of internationals, including those employed by humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, were denied entry to the region. Denial of entry by Israel commonly involves a period of detention (ranging from a period of several hours to several days. Detainees have reported denial of food and water and denial of access to a telephone); interrogation and security searches by Israeli immigration officials, police and the military; and then forible return to the home country in the case of Tel Aviv aiport, or to Jordan or Egypt in the case of land borders. In several instances denial of entry has occurred including where correct immigration documentation, including diplomatic and work visas, has been presented and intervention by the Israeli Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has occurred. Reasons for denial of entry are rarely provided. Intervention by diplomatic representatives and even legal actions, have rarely been successful. The number of such incidents has declined slightly since mid-2002, but denials of entry continue; in the latest examples, the international representative of the Norwegian Peoples Aid, based in the Gaza Strip, was denied access through the Rafah Terminal on 25 May 2003. On August 19, 2003, an American humanitarian aid consultant was denied entry to Israel at the Taba border crossing with Egypt.

  Information collected by the Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA) in the OPT, where IS is a member, during a sample period of one month, May 2003, there were at least ten incidents related to denial of entry/ delayed entry, deportation, detention and confiscation of equipment at Israeli borders. 17 NGO staff were denied entry to the country and had to return home during the month of May 2003. The following are examples of incidents.

    —  May 12, 2003:  Tel Aviv Airport—Swedish national 62 year old librarian working on an 8 day consultancy for Swedish NGO, funded by Sida. Never been to Israel. Detained and questioned overnight, deported next morning.

    —  May 11, 2003:  Tel Aviv Airport—Enfants Refugies du Monde general administrator is turned back at Tel Aviv international airport, despite showing an order of mission from ECHO, and coordination with French diplomats and ECHO.

    —  May 11, 2003:  Arava/Aqaba Border Crossing—Dutch national working in OPT for an Italian NGO. Denied entry at Arava. No reason given. Passport stamped `Entry Denied'. Had to fly back to Holland to get a new passport.

    —  May 11, 2003:  Allenby Bridge Border Crossing—9 French, Italian, German, Spanish, Irish and British participants in the European Commissions' European Voluntary Service program denied entry at Allenby Bridge.

    —  May 10, 2003:  Tel Aviv Airport—Ford Foundation Senior Program Officer (British citizen) denied entry at Tel Aviv international airport.


  In addition to denying entry at border points, the Israeli authorities have consistently restricted the issuance of working visas for internationals working or volunteering with organisations providing services in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. At any given time, there are an estimated 400-500 international INGO staff operating in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. In the beginning of 2003, AIDA conducted a survey of 32 INGOs and found that 95 staff were without working visas, 26 had working visas that would expire in the next 6 months, and that during a period of 6 months, eight staff was denied entry to Israel (in most cases) because they arrived without a working visa. It can be appreciated that the majority of the 80 INGOs working in the West Bank and Gaza cannot function unless their international managers are present in country.

  For the first six months of 2003, the Israeli Ministry of Interior (MOI) did not issue or renew B1 working visas to international staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations. No explanation was provided, and no announcement regarding any new procedures or criteria was made. Major difficulties in receiving B1 work visas were first reported in mid-2002, corresponding with the Israeli military offensive, Operation Defensive Shield (March/April 2002). In some instances, B1 work visa applications were refused. No grounds for refusal were given in most cases, while in some cases the grounds for refusal was that the ministry does not issue visas to internationals who work in the OPT even if they are based in Jerusalem and their organisation is legally registered with the Israeli government. In most cases, individuals were told repeatedly over a period of many months to return within a few weeks. The process left tens of internationals operating in Israel and the OPT without a valid visa for many months which restricted their movement to Jerusalem only. In some cases, for international workers with Arab names or origins, this situation has continued for more than a year.

  Many INGOs are unable, for various reasons, to obtain B1 working visas from the Israeli government. Some organisations are registered with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and were able to obtain visas without much difficulties prior to mid-2002. Other organisations, including international staff of Palestinian humanitarian, development or human rights organisations, have no access to these processes and are forced to work in the OPT on tourist visas which are problematic as detailed below.

  In denying or delaying issuance of work visas, many internationals are forced to work on tourist visas issued at border controls. This is extremely problematic for several reasons. Firstly, tourist visas are issued by Israeli immigration at border controls for maximum of three months and are often arbitrarily issued for shorter periods. Secondly, the refusal to issue a tourist visa and therefore the effective denial of entry to Israel, and consequently, the OPT, is an easy and common process. Thus, in forcing increasing numbers of international staff to work on tourist visas greatly facilitates the ability of the Israeli authorities to deny entry to Israel, including for passage through to the OPT, to international humanitarian, development and human rights workers. Thirdly, access to Gaza Strip and areas in the West Bank through Israeli-controlled military checkpoints have in some cases been denied to those not holding a valid work visa but who hold a tourist visa, without any explanation given by the Israeli authorities to whether there exist a policy to allow access only to those who hold work visa, UN service visa or diplomatic visa.

Legal Background

  The issue of visas for INGO and NGO staff is linked directly to the issue of INGO registration, status and visibility. Since the NGO Law of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was passed, there is a legal framework for INGO action in the PNA controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. But the status of international NGOs in relation to the Israeli authorities is still to be regulated. As Israel is the Occupying Power (under International humanitarian law) and controls entry to the Palestinian Occupied Territories, international NGOs have necessarily relied on the Israeli authorities (namely the MOI) in order to facilitate their access to the Palestinian population. Attempting to use International law as a framework for a formalised status agreement with Israel is problematic as Israel does not recognise the 4th Geneva Convention—claiming there was no sovereign state in 1967. Special privileges for international organisations (including NGOs) can be granted under Israeli domestic law not international law[57]. In previous discussions with the Israeli authorities and also the IDF, international NGO's are here because the Government of Israel (GOI) "permit" their presence. The implication being that if the GOI no longer "permit" this presence, they will be forced to withdraw. This is legally correct but politically unfeasible. It also explains the problematic relationship that NGOs have with the Ministry of Interior and the consistently weak negotiating position.

  A number of ad hoc initiatives have been implemented by donors and at diplomatic levels on behalf of INGOs/NGOs, but these efforts have failed to result in the establishment of a clear and transparent system for issuance of visas for INGO international staff.


  Access for internationals employed by humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, within the OPT is also increasingly restricted by the Israeli authorities. In particular, access to the Gaza Strip has been extremely problematic in 2003.

  Access to the Gaza Strip is through the Erez checkpoint located on the northern border with Israel and the Rafah Terminal along the border with Egypt. Erez crossing has progressively expanded over several years into a full border control with permanent structures, security and other facilities. The main Israeli military base for the Southern Command which includes the Gaza Strip, is also located at the Rez crossing. The Erez crossing is used by all internationals seeking access to the Gaza Strip from Israel, or the West Bank and East Jerusalem[58].

  May 2003 witnessed unprecedented restrictions on access to the Gaza Strip for internationals from all sectors, including UN staff, journalists, diplomatic passport holders, and INGO/NGO staff. For at least 9 days, the Erez crossing was closed to all internationals except those with diplomatic passports. For INGOs, Erez was closed for more than 4 weeks. Passage across Erez remains subject to security checks and many international staff continue to report being denied entry/ exit to the Gaza Strip.

Restricted Access

  Following a suicide bombing by a British national (the equipment carried by the second bomber had reportedly failed to explode and his body was later found drowned off the coast of Tel Aviv) on 30 April 2003 in a beach-front bar in Tel Aviv, the Israeli military immediately began to impose delays on access for internationals through the Erez crossing. For several days, internationals, including UN staff and diplomatic passport-holders were made to wait for prolonged periods, often for up to 9 hours before being allowed to cross into, or out of, the Gaza Strip. No official and explicit explanation was provided for these delays and no warning of extra time required for crossing was issued. Unofficial sources stated that the delays were incurred by extra security checks of each international each time they passed through Erez. Access was effectively denied on many occations during this period as staff were delayed for so long that they returned either to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Israel.

Denial of Access

  According to information collated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the first international staff member was denied entry to the Gaza Strip on 5 May. On 8 May, the Israeli military authorities at Erez crossing first issued a disclaimer to be signed by all international seeking to enter the Gaza Strip. This disclaimer required detailed personal information, including contact information in the Gaza Strip. The disclaimer declared that the Israeli military could not guarantee the personal safety of internationals in the Gaza Strip and could not accept liability for "death, injury, or damage/loss of property incurred as a result of military activity". The disclaimer further laid down conditions on internationals in the Gaza Strip, including prohibited access to the "Military Installation Area", along the Egyptian border—the Rafah area; and to "Closed Military Zones" which apparently included areas next to the border fence with Israel, Israeli settlements and settlement roads.

  The final element of the disclaimer is a declaration to the effect that the signatory agrees to abide by the conditions prescribed by the Israeli military on access to certain areas, and that "failure to do so may lead to arrest and/or expulsion from the Gaza Strip and/or the territory of the State of Israel". The declaration clearly stated that the signatory "accepts that the Government of the State of Israel and its organs cannot be held responsible for death, injury, and/or damage/loss of property which may be incurred as a result of military activity". The signatory was also forced to declare that they would not "disrupt" Israeli military operations and that they have "no association with the organization know as ISM (International Solidarity Movement) nor any other organization whose aim is to disrupt IDF operations". Access to the Gaza Strip was conditional on signing this disclaimer. The same day, the Israeli military also reduced the opening hours of the crossing from 24 hours, to between 0800 and 2000 hours each day. Most humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, both international and local, refused to sign this document.

  From late on Friday 9 May 2003, no internationals working for international and local non-governmental organisations, including those with work visas issued by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, were permitted entry to the Gaza Strip. Again, no explanation was given and no warning had been issued prior to the implementation of this decision.

  On Sunday 11 May 2003, the Israeli military authorities closed the Erez crossing for all internationals, including staff of UN and other inter-governmental agencies, and journalists.

  Access for a limited number of named internationals employed by named international organisations were permitted access through Erez crossing from 17 May 2003. The Israeli military authorities had prepared a list of internationals with certain organisations and only those internationals who had been included on this list were permitted access through Erez crossing. Since this list contained almost exclusively staff of certain inter-governmental agencies, large numbers of staff of international and local non-governmental organisations continued to be denied entry. The closure for internationals, including those from UNAIS, whose names were not included on this list continued until Monday 26 May 2003.

UN and INGO Action

  UN agencies and other international organisations issued repeated public statements regarding the impact of the restricted access to the Gaza Strip on their work. See attached press release, Annex I. Many of organisations reported spending a significant amount of working time on dealing with access issues for staff, including access into Israel, through checkpoints, and on visa issues. In light of these unprecedented restrictions, AIDA organised a convoy of vehicles to the Erez crossing with the purpose of demanding free and fair access for all to the Gaza Strip. On 26 May 2003, AIDA representatives handed a letter protesting restrictions on access to the Gaza Strip to Captain Joseph Levy, Head of Foreign Relations for the District Coordination and Liaison Office at Erez. Captain Levy gave a verbal statement that internationals had been permitted access for several days previously (which was not consistent with INGO and NGO experience) and could cross that day if they wished.

  Since 26 May, internationals have been permitted access to the Gaza Strip, including those with tourist visas. However, the list of named individuals and organisations remain in existence; passage, including for those on this list, is still subject to delays and some internationals have continued to be denied access. In one particularly disturbing incident, during an attempt to enter the Gaza Strip on a routine visit, an international staff member of World Vision was detained for 9 hours on August 12, 2003 at the Erez checkpoint and was subject to extensive questioning and security checks by Israeli security services, before being permitted to exit the crossing and return to Jerusalem. A second, shorter version of the waiver form continues to be presented to some internationals seeking to cross into the Gaza Strip whose entry has been conditioned by signing the disclaimer.


  The security of staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations is essential in ensuring the provision of services to the Palestinian civilian population. However, since the beginning of the Intifada in 2000, attacks by Israeli soldiers on international staff of local and international organisations, including UN and diplomatic staff, have increased. Increasing levels of violence against international and local staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations, which have included fatal shootings and injuries, have escalated particularly in 2003. Aside from these instances of killing and injuries, perhaps most disturbing is the regularity which which physical and verbal harassment of staff, including threatening with guns, by Israeli soldiers at military checkpoints throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip has become routine. The following are examples of major incidents reported to AIDA during a sample period of 5 weeks—from 29 March to 5 May 3003[59].

    —  May 5, 2003:  Abu Holi Checkpoint, Gaza Strip—Israeli forces opened fire above a British embassy convoy and held it at gunpoint in Gaza while it was carrying diplomats and the family of an English peace activist left in a coma by an Israeli bullet.

    —  May 2, 2003:  Southern Gaza Strip—British television cameraman, James Miller, is killed by IDF fire in southern Gaza, confirmed in May 8 autopsy report by Israel's National Forensics Institute. (Source: Israel radio May 7, 2003:)

    —  April 11, 2003:  Rafah, Gaza Strip—Thomas Hurndall, a photojournalist student covering ISM activities (and an ISM activist) is shot in the head by the IDF, critically injured and in a coma.

    —  April 2, 2003:  Gaza Strip—IDF opened fire on a convoy of 5 INGOs delivering food aid to al-Mawasi.

  Eleven incidents of shootings at foreign nationals took place during this period involving one diplomat, one journalist, two peace activists and INGO personnel. One person (British citizen) was killed, and 2 injured. During the same period, ICRC and UN delegates had also been fired upon. In the same period, there were four incidents of INGO staff held at IDF gunpoint, in addition to seven known similar incidents with the UN.


  The ongoing restrictions on access for internationals to the Gaza Strip, in particular, and the OPT in general, and the increasing instances of violent attacks, harassment and abuse of international staff by Israeli soldiers and other state agents, have impacted on the level and quality of services provided to Palestinians civilians in the OPT, including in respect of food and aid distribution, medical services, human rights protection etc. As a result of the closure in May 2003, at least two International NGOs were forced to temporarily suspend their operations in the Gaza Strip and the services provided by many agencies were forcibly reduced. The increasing levels of violence targeting internationals further restricts the provision of essential services by humanitarian, development and human rights organisations. The results of access restrictions and increasing violence by the Israeli military come at a time when the humanitarian and human rights situation for Palestinian civilians in the OPT is possibly at its worst point ever. The impact of the ongoing illegal Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the military policies and measures employed in the maintenance and expansion of this occupation, have resulted in an ever-deteriorating economic, social and political crisis. The closures policy, preventing free movement of Palestinians and goods, has in particular directly resulted in rising unemployment and poverty levels. As a result, increasing numbers of Palestinians are now reliant on aid distribution from international organisations, including the UNRWA and World Food Programme (WFP).

  In addition, these restrictions on entry for internationals from all sectors can be viewed as part of a policy of restricting international attention on the deteriorating situation for Palestinians in the OPT, in particular Israeli military operations in civilian areas such as house demolitions, and killing and injury of civilians. The denial of access for internationals to areas of the OPTs by the Israeli military and government seeks to prevent international observation of the realities of life under occupation. Increasing attacks on internationals since autumn 2002, including the killing of UNRWA employee, Iain Hook; solidarity activist Rachel Corrie; cameraman, James Miller; and appear to reflect this policy of removing international witnesses to the Israeli military operations on the ground in the OPT.

  Furthermore, IS and PCHR have obtained no information to suggest that in the cases of killings and injuries of internationals, the Israeli military has conducted a full and independent investigation in accordance with international standards. We are also unaware of any appropriate disciplinary or other punitive measures taken against any individual responsible for attacks on internationals, including staff of humanitarian, development and human rights organisations. We are further concerned at the increasing arrest, detention and/or deportation of internationals from the OPT. Many of these internationals belong to solidarity and civil society movements who seek to provide non-violent protection for Palestinian civilians and to provide first-hand information on violations of Palestinians rights to the wider international community.

  The imposition of these restrictions on international aid workers and human rights defenders, in particular, can be viewed in the context of the global trend of increased restrictions on human rights defenders in the name of "security"[60]. As detailed in this paper, these restrictions on access to the OPT in general and specific areas of the OPT are generally based upon alleged "security" concerns. However, a recent statement reportedly made by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, reflects the wider policy of restricting human rights defenders in particular. In May 2003, the Foreign Minister was reported as stating that "Palestinians who have carried out attacks hide in human rights offices" and that "most human rights offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip provide shelter for Palestinian terrorists"[61]. This statement seeks not only to undermine the credibility of Palestinian human rights organisations, but also those international human rights organisations and individual international human rights defenders who work in close cooperation with their local partners in the OPT.


  IS and PCHR calls upon the Israeli government and military:

    —  to immediately provide free and unrestricted access for all in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;

    —  to ensure that access through the Erez crossing and other military checkpoints in the OPT is available 24 hours a day and not subject to arbitrary and prolonged delays;

    —  to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure free access for humanitarian and other organizations providing key services to the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT;

    —  to immediately cease all attacks on internationals, including journalists, humanitarian, development and human rights workers in the OPT;

    —  to immediately cease all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT against Palestinian civilians.

  IS and PCHR further calls upon the International Development Committee and the British Government:

    —  to ensure Israel's fulfillment of its legal and moral obligations, including in respect of access for international staff members of humanitarian, development and human rights organizations, including through the imposition of equivocal measures on access to other states.

  Annexes were also submitted with this written evidence. These have not been printed but copies have been placed in the Library.

  Annex I and II—Press Releases signed by AIDA members.

  Annex III—"Life Before and After the Road Map".

August 2003

52   All PCHR publications, including the regular closure update, are available in English and Arabic on PCHR's website at Back

53   Pictet, J, Commentary, IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, ICRC, Geneva, 1958, p 97. Back

54   Ibid. Back

55   See OCHA, Humanitarian Monitoring Report, Commitments made by the Government of Israel to Ms Catherine Bertini, Personal Humanitarian Envoy to the Middle East for the Secretary General, April 2003 ( Back

56   Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. UN Doc. A/RES/53/144, 8 March 1999. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144. Back

57   Pressure can be applied from the IHL framework-ie the Occupying power is responsible for humanitarian supplies to the local population and therefore pressure can be applied on Israel to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid. But even when a duty does exist there is a caveat at the end stating "to the best possible way given the security . . .". Back

58   Access to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Terminal border crossing with Egypt is also highly restricted as detailed in the previous section on access into Israel. Back

59   Incidents are recorded in AIDA Security Committee reports which are available upon request. Back

60   For an analysis of recent trends regarding restrictions on human rights defenders by states, please refer to the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Ms Hina Jilani, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/104/Add.1, 20 February 2003. Back

61   As reported on Yediot Ahronot's Arabic website,, 21 May 2003. Back

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