International Human Rights Day- Restoring Faith in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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10 December 2020

The International Human Rights Day commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948. It is a reminder that this international document, recognized as the cornerstone of human rights, guarantees the universality of human rights to which every human being is entitled to, notwithstanding race, color, religion, sex, political opinion, or any other indifferences.

On this day, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association urges the international community to re-establish its legal and moral commitment to reclaim and foster the protection of Palestinian human rights within the larger framework of the right to self-determination. Addameer further urges the international community to take a stand and end the impunity of the Israeli occupation's grave breaches of human rights and injustices practiced against the Palestinian people. 

 

Article 3:

"Right to life, liberty, and security of person."

 

The prolonged Israeli occupation as an apartheid regime is a menace to the Palestinian people's integral rights to life, dignity, and security of person protected under Article 3 of the UDHR. This apartheid apparatus continues to commit crimes that deeply shock humanity's consciousness for the sole purpose of delegitimizing, oppressing, gaining, and maintaining control over Palestinians. Not even a week ago, on 4 December 2020, the Israeli Occupation Forces killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy after shooting him with live ammunition in the abdomen during a protest in Al-Mughayyir village in the West Bank. According to reports, the boy was only observing the protest and was not taking part in it.

 

Article 9:

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile."

 

Addameer fully acknowledges the unified cause of all Palestinian political prisoners as they carry the same burden; suffering through the same horrendous conditions and fighting a joint battle for dignity and liberty. Israeli military orders have legitimized repression with legal language that intervenes in many aspects of Palestinians' daily lives. Military orders have criminalized many forms of political and cultural expression, association, movement, and nonviolent protest, even certain traffic offenses and any other acts that might be considered opposing the occupation and its policies.

Consequently, no one is exempt from the Israeli occupation's various forms of arbitrary arrest and detention, including women, children, the elderly, and human rights defenders. As of October 2020, the number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons reached nearly 4,500 prisoners, including 40 female prisoners, while the number of child detainees reached 170 child prisoners. Moreover, in October 2020, the Israeli occupation issued 68 administrative detention orders, including 38 new orders and 30 renewed orders.

The administrative detention policy is a stark violation of the UDHR, which prohibits the arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile of any person under Article 9. Israel continues to place Palestinians under administrative detention based on secret material that cannot be disclosed, denying them the right to know the particulars of the charges against them, violating the basic guarantees of a fair trial. On the other hand, administrative detention hinders the Palestinian detainees' right to present and build a fair defense guaranteed under Article 10 of the UDHR. Neither the detainees nor their lawyers are allowed to know the charges' nature or view the prosecution's evidence. 

 

Article 5:

"No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or

degrading treatment or punishment."

 

The Israeli occupation state branches, including the judiciary system, have never hesitated to provide a legal cover for all acts of torture, cruel and degrading treatment against the Palestinian people by the Israeli Occupation Forces and intelligence agencies. Despite the entrenched and absolute prohibition of torture, particularly under Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 2(2) of the Convention against Torture, which Israel ratified on 3 October 1991, Israeli practices on the ground reflect a reality that stands in contrast with this non-derogable rule.

In reality, the Israeli Occupation Forces practice clear violations of this fundamental right from the first moments of the arrest until the detention or release of Palestinians, most notably during the interrogation process. The Israeli forces systematically put the detainees under severe physical and psychological pressure, in many cases, as a means to extract confessions. This includes beatings, physical assault, sleep deprivation for prolonged hours, which often leads to the detainees' collapse, forcing the detainees into stressful positions for long periods and calling in their family members, and threatening to arrest and brutally interrogate them.

Although the Israeli High Court's 1999 ruling confirms the prohibition of the use of torture, however, it does permit the practice of "moderate physical pressure" in cases of "necessity defense" as outlined in article 34(11) of the Israeli Penal Code of 1977. The necessity defense presents a serious loophole that allows the interrogation of a person suspected of possessing information on "military operations," thus providing a legal cover for Shabak interrogators to practice impunity torture and cruel treatment against Palestinian prisoners. On 26 November 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Firas Tubayesh's petition regarding torture, undermining the absolute prohibition on torture. This ruling's gravity extends beyond legitimizing torture to broadening the definition of the "necessity defense."

It is important to note that a number of detainees subjected to this form of interrogation techniques were later charged with what can only be described as simple charges that primarily revolved around their student union activism in universities, like student detainees Ameer Hazboun and Mais Abu Ghosh

 

Article 10:

"Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and any criminal charge against him."

 

The Israeli military courts display a significant lack of impartiality and dependency on the discretion of the Israeli government and intelligence agencies, which has effectively transformed the judicial system into a tool of the occupation to legalize the Israeli policies against the Palestinian people. This includes approving the extension of detention for interrogation purposes despite the evident marks of torture on the prisoners, approving administrative detention orders without a real cause for arrest, and issuing unusually long sentences against Palestinians. One cannot overlook Israeli courts' role in convicting Palestinian detainees based on confessions extracted under duress or torture; instead of finding these confessions inadmissible.

Numerous human rights organizations consider prosecuting civilians before military courts an infringement upon the right to a fair trial. The idea is that Israeli military courts, whose judges are military officers who do not necessarily have long-term judicial training and are biased, aim to prosecute Palestinian civilians arrested by the Israeli military and charged with "security violations" and other crimes defined by the Israeli military orders. Within these military courts, military orders always take precedence over Israeli and international law. On the rare occasions when international law is used, it is used to favor the occupying power. It is important to note that the yearly conviction rate of Palestinians in these military courts is always above 99%. 

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association takes the opportunity to restore its faith in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' values and principles as a tool to apply human rights standards in opposition to the Israeli occupation's apartheid regime and systematic injustice practices. Addameer reaffirms its commitment to advocate for Palestinians' legitimate rights and support Palestinian political prisoners in their quest for liberty and justice.