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International human rights groups express grave concern about human rights crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
7 April 2002
This morning, all major international human rights organizations expressed their grave concern about ongoing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights standards in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and demanded immediate international intervention.
The organizations included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), International Committee of Jurists (ICJ), World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EHMRN), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Opening the press conference, Khader Shkirat, Director of LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment said: "We as human rights activists are waiting for the day we can stop counting persons killed, injured, homes demolished, medical personnel targetted, and accounts of other abuses." The aim of this press conference is "to break the conspiracy of silence and the unwillingness of the international community to act."
Shkirat added, "The international silence, in particular from the European Union, makes every single state responsible for the ongoing violations committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."
Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, who introduced the speakers, said that in March the highest number of casualties were counted and that most probably April will see the worse. On Friday, April 5, B'Tselem received information from Israeli sources in the Beitunia detention camp that torture has been used during interrogation of Palestinian detainees.
Mark Neuman, from Amnesty International, also speaking on behalf of Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of Jurists, said that "ordinary people are the main victims" and that the "deliberate targetting of civilians and actions that harm them must be stopped immediately."
He added that "the international community should act immediately to deploy international observers with a strong, transparent human rights monitoring component. Unlawful killings must be investigated and those who have carried out or ordered them must be brought to justice."
All organizations said that Israel has clear obligations under international law, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. The actions of today have no military justification and are serious violations of international law.
Neuman concluded saying that "it's time for the international community to act, as it has moral and legal obligations under international law. There can be no future unless human rights are the center of the process."
Robert Ménard, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that in the past 10 days, there have been forty cases of journalists being wounded, injured, arrested, expelled, or threatened. "The Israeli army is knowingly targetting journalists in a deliberate policy of intimidation." He urged the Israeli authorities to keep their international commitment to respect press freedom, which must include freedom of movement for all journalists - foreign correspondents and Israeli and Palestinian journalists - and a system of accreditation that ends the current arbitrary attitude of the Israeli Government Press Office."
Other speakers included Sidiki Kaba (FIDH), Eric Sottas (OMCT), Henri Leclerc (the French League for Human Rights), and Eva Norstrom (EHMRN).
Marie Helene Jouve from Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) could not make it to Jerusalem. She and others from MSF were in Yatta, which has been declared a closed military zone. MSF has experienced severe restrictions on its attempts to reach the most isolated families. Access to medical care is seriously jeopardised.
The international organizations were invited by LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Righs and the Environment and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza.
Media release from LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment © LAW