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International Human Rights Law & Demolitions in the oPt

In addition to violating the protections set out by international humanitarian law, the demolition practices and policies of the Occupying Power also infringe upon key and fundamental human rights protections.

The right to adequate housing is an essential component of the right to a decent standard of living. When guaranteed, it provides a foundation for the realization of other rights, including the rights to family, work, education and, ultimately, national self-determination.

Specifically, the human right to adequate housing is contained, inter alia, in the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (Art. 25(1));

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 (Art. 11);

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 (Art. 17);

the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1969 (Art. 5(e)(iii));

The Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1990 (Arts. 16, 27); and

General Comments 4 (1991) and 7 (1997) of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

From the inception of Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory some 45 years ago, UN Bodies have consistently rejected both the Israeli assertion that IHRL does not apply extraterritorially in the oPt, and Israel’s claim that it can legitimately discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians in the oPt on the basis of citizenship.

Moreover, it is not permissible for Israel to justify its discriminatory treatment of Palestinians on the basis that they have a different status in international law as ‘protected persons’, while in fact the protection afforded to Palestinians as a matter of international law is more extensive.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Covenant. In its 2011 concluding observations (which constitute the decision of the Committee regarding the status Covenant implementation), the Committee called upon Israel to stop forthwith house demolitions, forced evictions and residency revocation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem:

  • "The Committee is deeply concerned about home demolitions and forced evictions in the West Bank, in particular Area C, as well as in East Jerusalem, by Israeli authorities, military personnel and settlers. The Committee urges the State party to stop forthwith home demolitions. The Committee also recommends that the State party review and reform its housing policy and the issuance of construction permits […], in order to prevent demolitions and forced evictions and ensure the legality of construction in those areas."[1]

The Committee on the Elmination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had negated in its 2007 concluding observations the Israeli position that the Convention does not apply in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, nor did it accept Israel's assertion that it can legitimately distinguish between Israelis and Palestinians in the oPt on the basis of citizenship[2]. Accordingly, Israel is obligated under the ICERD to create and maintain conditions that will ensure Palestinians’ realization of their rights to self-determination participation without discrimination in public affairs, and their right, to develop and advance their respective communities economically, socially, culturally, and politically, according to their needs.

In its 2012 concluding observations, the Committee further urged Israel to reconsider its policies in order to guarantee Palestinian and Bedouin rights to property, access to land, access to housing and access to natural resources, and eliminate any policy of “demographic balance” from its Jerusalem Master Plan as well as from its planning and zoning policy in the rest of the West Bank[3].

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing

Notably, Following a February 2012 visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Prof. Raquel Rolnik concluded that:

  • "the policies adopted by Israeli authorities severely restrict Palestinians from building legally through various means. Among others, Israel has not provided Palestinians with the necessary planning framework to ensure that their basic housing and infrastructure needs are met. Currently tens of thousands of Palestinians are estimated to be at risk of their homes being demolished due to unregulated building. The mere threat of demolition has a profound impact on families and particularly on children, psychological and otherwise."

[1] Concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Israel, E/C.12/ISR/CO/3, 16 December 2011.

[2] Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Israel, CERD/C/ISR/CO/13, 14 June 2007.

[3] Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Israel, CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16, 9 March 2012.