With the Israeli occupation of Palestine now in its 52nd year, a new report from Human Rights Watch calls for equal rights for Palestinians in the West Bank.
While international laws governing military occupation permit a certain degree of restriction of civil rights in the early stages of an occupation for security purposes, the report – titled ‘Born without civil rights: Israel’s use of draconian military orders to repress Palestinians in the West Bank’ – suggests that after more than half a century, the continued deployment of these restrictions may be considered excessive. The report highlights the use by Israeli authorities of military orders which repress the fundamental rights of citizens of occupied Palestine.
The paper says: ‘The Israeli army has deprived generations of Palestinians in the West Bank of their basic civil rights, including the rights to free assembly, association and expression, regularly drawing on military orders issued in the first days of the occupation. Even if such restrictions could have been justified then to preserve public order and safety, the suspension of core rights more than half a century later with no end in sight violates Israel’s core responsibilities under the law of occupation.’
In assembling the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed Palestinian former detainees and their legal representatives, as well as conducting detailed examinations of case studies and reviewing the decisions of Israel’s military courts. The evidence indicated that Israel makes ‘unjustifiable’ use of military orders to curtail the free speech and other civil rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank, with residents arrested and jailed for protesting the Israeli occupation; political and campaigning groups forcibly disbanded; and media outlets closed down.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said: “Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore. Given Israel’s long term control over Palestinians, it should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place.”