Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



 

28th regular session of the Human Rights Council

 

The 28th session of the Human Rights Council took place from 2 to 27 March 2015. During this session the Council discussed issues such as the right to food and adequate housing, torture, the situation of human rights defenders, freedom of religion and belief, human rights in the context of counter terrorism, cultural rights and violence against children. S4J attended the session and was invited to participate in a number of panels and discussions on issues related to its work.

The Right to self-determination


On 11 and 12 March 2015 S4J was invited to participate in panels at the UN under the title "People's right to self-determination"  and  "Fundamental Right to Self-Determination" and speak about the case of Palestine. During these meetings S4J highlighted the severe impact of the denial of the right to self-detmination in the context of occupation and explained at the example of the illegal expansion of settlements, land grab, checkpoints, closures and institutionalized discrimination how the denial of self-determination affects real people on the ground.


The loss of self determination of Palestinians is tremendous, S4J explained. Following the 1967 occupation and the Oslo accords only 18% of the West Bank (area A) remain under full Palestinian control. Palestinian rights are especially affected by the establishment of settlements, illegal under international law, as article 49 of the fourth Geneva conventions states: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

Slides presented by S4J

Today the number of settlers is estimated at 520,00015. Settlers have priviledged access to land, natural ressources, infrastructure and scurity and often prove to be extremely violent towards Palestinians, who often face demolitions and closures. Demolitions even accelerated throughout the time of peace talks, when 567 Palestinian homes were demolished and more than 14,000 acres of Palestinian land citizens confiscated, only to be registered with Settlement companies. Checkpoints and arbitrary arrests are another feature of the occupation. They often mean hours of waiting, humiliation, arbitrary arrests, impeded ambulances and even women forced to have their babies. According to testimonies from Breaking the Silence checkoints often do not serve security purposes but in reality to make Palestinian life impossible. 

The legal foundations and practices of the military justice system further do not comply with international standards. Israel uses arbitrary detention of Palestinian civilians for up to 6 months without trial. These can be expanded indefinitely, S4J explained. The situation is extremely severe when it comes to children. They are often arrested for minor offenses such as stone throwing, then subjected to harsh interrogation without the presence of a parent or legal advisor. The average number of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention at the end of each month during 2013 was 199. Over 76.5 percent of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons experienced some form of physical violence and 98 percent were not informed of the reason for the arrest.

Self-determination is essential in order to guarantee human dignity, S4J concluded and expressed its determination to remain committed to this matter.


The rise of ISIL and islamophobia

On 12 March 2015 S4J was invited to participate in a side event under the title "The rise of ISIL and Islamophobia". Participants highlighted the danger and crimes of islamic extremism and discussed strategies to defeat it. At they same time they adressed  the backlash of atrocities committed by extremists groups on minorities in Europe, who are often discriminated based upon  nationality. In its presentation S4J therefore spoke about the issue of xenophobia in Europe and explained particularly how the rise of extremist groups such as ISIL affects the public opinon in Europe. The presentation was held in collaboration with Servas International.

S4J began by explaining that already between 2012 and October 2014 xenophobia in Europe was on the rise with around 81 attacks targeting mosques were carried out in Germany. This trend was similar in other countries of Europe. Between 2004 and 2014 more than one-third of the Netherlands' 475 mosques have experienced at least one incident of attacks. At the same time also synagogues were attacked. A 2012 survey found that 76% of the partiipants said anti-Semitism had increased in their country over the past five years.

 S4J then desribed examples of some headlines of big weeklies in Germany in 2014 in the context ot the rise of ISIL. Headlines such as "The dark side of Islam" or "A faith to fear" terrified public opinion and contributed to increased stereotyping of Muslim foreign nationals. As a consequence movements such as the German PEGIDA (translated: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamazation of the Occident) became popular and caused shock for their radicalism.

Growing radicalization, fundamentalism and extremism demand a renewed emphasis of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals, S4J concluded. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, divisive politics and sectarian incitement "have no place in our modern world and  there will be no lasting peace on earth". Dialogue and encounter are therefore more important than ever,  S4J stated and concluded with the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights “We must speak of the need to love more, to care more, be compassionate more and kind, to include more and be included more, and if we are to derive anything from the vicious murders that took the lives of the people we mourn today – it is that lesson.”

Tensions worsened with the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, which marked a new low point for the European multiculturalism. Shortly after the attacks the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned: “If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists ... With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.” Against such calls a new heated debate was unleashed by media and politics throughtout the Western world about the question wether or wether not Islam was still compatible with Western values. More than 50 anti-Muslim incidents were been recorded in France since the Paris shootings.

Growing radicalization, fundamentalism and extremism demand a renewed emphasis of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals, S4J emphazised. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, divisive politics and sectarian incitement "have no place in our modern world and  there will be no lasting peace on earth". Dialogue and encounter are therefore more important than ever,  S4J stated and concluded with the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights “We must speak of the need to love more, to care more, be compassionate more and kind, to include more and be included more, and if we are to derive anything from the vicious murders that took the lives of the people we mourn today – it is that lesson.”