Human Rights Committee addresses housing, water, sanitation and access to land in Palestine and Israel
The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) welcomes the Concluding Observations on Israel released by the Human Rights Committee today. Relying on the Parallel Report submitted by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Committee condemned violations of rights related to housing, water, sanitation and access to land. The relevant Concluding Observations also relied on a complementary Parallel Report from Al Haq, particularly regarding access to natural resources and the right to self-determination. The GI-ESCR and Al Haq coordinated their advocacy before the Committee. The Concluding Observations reaffirmed extra-territorial obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as that violations of certain aspects of social rights amount to violations of rights under the ICCPR. It also took a new look at denial of access to land as violating the Covenant.
Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Director of the GI-ESCR, said that "While these Concluding Observations form part of our ongoing advocacy dealing with violations of rights to housing, water, sanitation, food and access to land in Palestine and Israel, this work also fits into our broader strategy of opening additional avenues for enforcement of social rights. By effectively using the principle of indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights, we hope that advocates now see the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as a tool to enforce certain aspects of social rights, particularly since the Individual Complaint procedure under the ICCPR is open to 115 countries." Thiele added that "We have already used the results of similar foundational work to successfully use the Individual Complaint mechanism to enforce the prohibition on forced eviction as well as to get water supply reestablished, and we hope that other civil society organizations consider this additional option for enforcement of social rights."
Regarding housing, the Committee again condemned punitive house demolitions as well as discriminatory forced evictions undertaken in the context of Israel's planning and zoning regime, finding that these practices violate Articles 7, 17 and 26 of the Covenant. The forced eviction and forced relocation of Bedouin communities in both the West Bank and the Negev region of Israel was also condemned, including for not taking into account these communities' traditional pastoral economy, social fabric, and rural way of life, which also rise to violations of Article 27. The Committee called for an immediate halt to forced evictions and house demolitions and effective remedies to victims of destruction of property, forced eviction and forcible transfer. It also called on Israel to ensure the right of participation of the Bedouin communities in any planning that affects them.
On denial of access to water and sanitation, the Committee expressed its concern about the restricted access of Bedouins living in unrecognized and recently-recognized villages in the Negev to basic services, including adequate housing, water and sanitation, healthcare, education and public transportation. It also condemned the blockade of Gaza, in particular its impact on access to food, health, electricity, water and sanitation can called on the immediate lifting of the blockade, as well as the denial of access to water by Palestinians in the West Bank. The Committee reaffirmed that denial of access to food, water and sanitation in these contexts rose to violations of Articles 6, 7 and 26 of the Covenant.
In a new development, the Committee also considered denial of access to land as rising to violations of the ICCPR, including Articles 1, 12 and 17. In doing so, it looked both at the Bedouin's right to ancestral land as well as confiscation of Palestinian land and denial of access to agricultural land by Palestinians in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. The Committee called on Israel to ensure and facilitate non-discriminatory access of Palestinians to land, natural resources, water and sanitation; to ensure that Palestinians have full access to their lands and livelihood; and to put an end to the practice of expropriation of land including for Israeli settlements and the Separation Wall. It also called for the withdrawal of all settlers from the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
The task now is to continue advocacy in Israel, Palestine, Geneva and elsewhere to ensure implementation of these Concluding Observations.
Transcript of Human Rights Committee questioning of Israel is available HERE.
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Parallel Report is available HERE.
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Parallel Report for the List of Issues is available HERE.
Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations are available HERE.
Al Haq Parallel Report is available HERE.