Human Rights & Democracy

EU ANNUAL REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD 2020 - Israel update

30/06/2021 - 12:02
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EIDHR

State of Israel

  1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Israel is a democracy with established and independent institutions, robust checks and balances, a free democratic media and ‘basic laws’ enumerating fundamental rights. A general election took place in March 2020 in line with international standards. Fundamental disagreements within the new coalition led to the dissolution of the Knesset in December, and new elections scheduled for March 2021. A number of political figures continued to challenge defining features of liberal democracy through various proposals and critical discourse. Some aim at questioning the ability of institutional and quasi-constitutional bodies, in particular judicial authorities, to scrutinise legislative or normative initiatives coming from the elected executive and legislative branches.

 

Many human rights NGOs – mainly those active on Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territory or on the rights of persons belonging to minorities and migrants – continue to raise concerns about restrictions on the work of civil society and how public debate and media create hostility towards them. A number of prominent Israeli and Palestinian CSOs – including EU beneficiaries – considered the issue of non-renewal/non-issuance of visa for international staff of the OHCHR as a serious negative trend. The status of minorities is a case in point as the balance between defining characters of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic is being constantly debated, mainly after the approval of the so-called Jewish Nation State Law in 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the political climate have also led to an increasing polarisation of the Israeli society with ideological rifts, in particular between the religious/Orthodox and secular. During 2020,the advancement of COVID-19 related restrictions and other initiatives through emergency regulations caused concerns for a number of think tanks and CSOs (such as limitations of the right to protest and the use of tracking of cell phones of civilians).

In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the situation remained challenging. Demolitions increased in 2020 and violence by settlers remained high. Concerns persist over the use of force and inadequate law enforcement by Israeli security forces towards Palestinians (arbitrary administrative detention). Accountability remains inadequate in cases involving Palestinian victims.

  1. EU action - key focus areas: As in previous years, the EU focused on five strategic priority areas: Israel's responsibilities as an occupying power; children and armed conflict; upholding democratic values; situation of the Arab minority; asylums seekers, migrants and foreign workers.

 

  1. EU bilateral political engagement: During 2020, the EU’s priorities have been outlined through political work, via the EU delegation in Tel Aviv. This work consisted in numerous meetings with Israeli authorities, NGOs and Members of the Parliament. The EU delegation conveyed EU positions regarding specific draft legislative initiatives. Priorities were raised during specific events organized by the EU delegation and EU Member States' missions. The EU delegation regularly undertakes public diplomacy activities focused on human rights issues, including speeches and participation in events.

The EU and EU Member States marked Human Rights Day 2020 with a series of events and initiatives. For example, the EU organised a special event with the German Embassy on the subject of administrative detention.

The EU Head of EU Delegation also participated in various events related to implementing the EU’s strategic priorities on human rights and democracy. These included an event on violence in the Arab community, a photographic exhibition on Bedouin women, or a film festival in the context of the International Human Rights Day Programme. The EU delegation also organised a number of activities and briefings focusing on EU human rights and democracy priorities: on the situation of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on asylum and migration and the specific situation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic, or on Israel’s measures to fight human trafficking. The EU also closely followed the situation of CSOs and human rights activists, and the Arab minority. Taking into account the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the delegation (and EU Member States’ missions) participated in field trips pertaining to relevant topics for EU human rights work and attended a number of court hearings.

  1. EU financial engagement:

In the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU supported 30 human rights organisations on their own or in partnerships to implement 15 actions aimed at addressing the EU's priorities. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, all running projects were adapted and maintained a credible level of implementation, while even achieving significant results.(4)

(4) Examples of achievements: The project ‘ Challenging violation of human rights through de-isolation of vulnerable disability minorities’ implemented by Bizchut, the Israel human rights center for people withdisabilities which examined internal and external barriers to community services for Israeli Arab citizens withdisabilities. The organizations Kav LaOved and ACRI actions to demand that Palestinian workers from the oPt aregiven access to their sick leave benefits. Or Adalah’s advocacy to enhance the realisation of rights of Bedouins in the Negev.

  1. Multilateral context:

Following the publication by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of the report on business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli authorities decided not to renew the visas of the international staff of the OHCHR, forcing them to leave Israel. This left no international staff present in the OHCHR office in the occupied Palestinian territory. A demarche, in which the EU participated, was delivered in October 2020 to raise concerns with this decision.

Israel was reviewed by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2019 and the Committee issued its concluding observations in January 2020 (5) including a number of recommendations. Israel continues to refuse to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. Visit requests are still pending from the Special Rapporteur on racism, the Working Group on people of African descent and the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste. Past – and still pending visit requests – remain from the Special Representative on torture, the Working Group on mercenaries, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention. The last visit by Special Procedures in Israel was the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in 2016.

The human rights situation in the oPt is also regularly addressed through EU statements under item 4 in the UN Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council maintained its traditionalfocus on Israel during 2020 with four resolutions focusing on the situation in the oPt.

 

 

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