“Israel is the only country in the world to routinely arrest, detain and try children in a military court system,” key witness Janna Jihad.
As members of the UN Human Rights Council meet in Geneva today (14 September), ActionAid and Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq are hosting a virtual people’s hearing to highlight Israel’s violations of international law.
Free Palestine: A People’s Hearing will give Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip a platform to share testimonies about human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.
Palestinian political analyst, activist, and researcher Nour Odeh, who is moderating the event says: “These hearings provide an opportunity to hear from the victims first-hand and to put their suffering and the injustices they suffer into perspective. In an era when people are overwhelmed with images and reports of grim news, it's important to hear from those at the centre of the news.”
The high-profile panel of witnesses will focus on five key areas of Israel’s violations of international law: Indefinite detention of minors and police brutality, ethnic forced displacement, attacks on freedom of the press, violations of the right to health, confiscation and exploitation of land and natural resources.
Sheikh Jarrah campaigner, Alaa Salaymeh, who will be speaking as a witness at the event, says: “We need this public hearing to send a message to the international community stating that evicting and displacing the residents of Sheikh Jarrah will cause another Palestinian exodus catastrophe and the Palestinian people will suffer again.”
Young activist and journalist Janna Jihad will share testimony on how children’s rights are violated by Israel.
“Palestinian children who are detained in Israeli prisons face a great deal of trauma and they have their childhood taken away from them,” she says.
“Israel is the only country in the world to routinely arrest, detain and try children in a military court system. We need to be able to look forward to a future where Palestinian children can be safe and protected at school, free from harassment, violence, arbitrary arrest, and attacks from Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers. We want a future like every other child in the world.”
During the event legal analysis of the violations committed by the State of Israel will be summarised by human rights experts and international lawmakers.
Jawad Bulus, a solicitor who represents Palestinian prisoners indefinitely detained by Israeli forces, says: “It is not easy to achieve international justice for Palestinians under the silence of international community and influence of powerful states that have blocked and hindered accountability for decades.
“This public hearing event is to urge the international community to start listening to Palestinian people and demand justice, dignity and the right to self-determination for them.”
In May, the UN Human Rights Council members voted to launch an open-ended international investigation into violations in the lead up to and during the 11-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and into systematic abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and inside Israel. However, nine member states voted against the resolution and 14 others abstained.
As members of the UN Human Rights Council meet in Geneva, ActionAid and Al-Haq are calling on all 47 countries to back the Commission of Inquiry investigating violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Al-Haq and ActionAid are also calling on the UN General Assembly, which is taking place this week in New York, to pass a resolution asking the government of Israel to end all illegal ethnic forced displacements, including Sheikh Jarrah.
Notes to editors:
Free Palestine: A People’s Hearing is taking place today (14 September) at 11am-1pm GMT. Register to watch live here.
**Our high-profile panel of experts and witnesses are available for interview **
Solicitor Jawad Boulos, who represents Palestinian prisoners hunger striking to protest ‘administrative detention’, an Israeli form of indefinite detention, which is illegal under human rights law, will introduce and question the witnesses.
• Indefinite detention of minors and police brutality – Janna Jihad: Janna, 15, became the youngest journalist in the world when she was given an accredited press card in 2019. She has been documenting the violations that Palestinian children are subjected to at the hands of the Israeli occupation, since she was aged just 7. She has reported for national media, appeared in international media and broadcasts to her tens of thousands of followers through her social media channels in both English and Arabic.
• Ethnic forced displacement – Alaa Salaymeh: Alaa, 25, is a young and leader activist from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Alaa is among 58 people, including 17 children, facing forced and illegal displacement from their homes, where their families have lived for nearly seventy years. Through her social media Alaa has brought the plight of the Sheikh Jarrah families to the attention of international audiences and media.
• Attacks on freedom of the press – Givara Budeiri: Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara was arrested by Israeli forces in June while reporting on a sit-in to mark the 54th anniversary of the Naksa (setback), which marks the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. She has been reporting for Al Jazeera from occupied Palestine since 2001.
• Violations of the right to health – Dr Adan Radi: Dr Radi is a consultant and head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Al-Awda hospital in Gaza. He witnessed the attacks in May and saw how they had an undeniably detrimental effect on pregnant women, increasing the number of complicated births, caesareans, early deliveries, and miscarriages.
• Confiscation and exploitation of land and natural resources – Mu’taz Bisharat: Mu’atz is an activist based in the Jordan Valley, who works for the Palestinian government monitoring and documenting rights violations committed by Israeli occupation. He sends reports to international organisations working in Palestine to update them about attacks against Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. He follows the legal cases raised against occupation and prepares legal documents needed for defending lands, shelters and natural resources in the Jordan Valley.
• Dr Hanan Ashrawi: Dr Hanan is a Palestinian leader, legislator, activist, and scholar who served as a member of the Leadership Committee and as an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process. She held many official and governmental positions and she established three civil human rights organizations. In 1999 she made history as the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine, she was elected as member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 2009 and most recently in 2018, from which she resigned in 2020.
• Luisa Morgantini: Luisa is a former Vice President of the European Parliament and Italian MEP. She has been a long-standing advocate for the rights of Palestinian people through her work as an MEP and with civil society organisations and grassroot movements.
• Makarim Wibisono: Makarim is the former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He resigned in 2016 after Israel refused to grant him access to investigate possible war crimes and human rights violations after the 2014 attacks on Gaza.
The event will be moderated by Nour Odeh, who is also available for interview. Nour is a Palestinian political analyst, activist, and researcher. She was occupied Palestine's first ever woman government spokesperson, and a candidate in the cancelled Legislative Council elections. She is also a published journalist and author.
ActionAid is a global federation working for a world free from poverty and injustice. For more information visit https://actionaid.org/.
Al-Haq is the first and oldest Palestinian human rights organisation established in 1979. For more information visit: https://www.alhaq.org/