An ecumenical church-based body has given evidence to the European Council about the abuse of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) submitted evidence on the issue to the European Council’s working party on the Middle East, the Mashreq/Maghreb Working party (MaMa).
It was the first such meeting at this level. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights backed up the evidence of abuse of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces.
MaMa heard information about the herding communities in the South Hebron Hills. EAPPI said that the absence of the rule of law and the remote location allow Israeli settlers to harass Palestinians, sometimes with the protection of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). They added that complaints often go uninvestigated.
The meeting in Brussels comes just days ahead of an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 27 February 2012. MaMa’s function is to draft policy for the European Council’s 27 Heads of States.
The President of MaMa said the members of MaMa, all ambassadors, political counsellors and first secretaries, were already aware of the work of EAPPI.
They heard first hand evidence from Jane Backhurst, an EAPPI human rights observer who provided a protective presence for Palestinian herding communities for three months in the South Hebron Hills. She said that the human rights abuses have major humanitarian consequences.
EAPPI was set up by the World Council of Churches in 2002 in response to a call for international help from church leaders in Jerusalem. EAPPI’s aim is to end the Israeli occupation and bring a just peace based on international law. Quakers manage the programme on behalf of British and Irish churches and church agencies.
The programme’s human rights observers, called Ecumenical Accompaniers, monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. They also support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists and offer protection through non-violent presence.
EAPPI also engages in public policy advocacy and stands in solidarity with churches and others struggling against the occupation.
Speaking from that experience, the EAPPI team offered several recommendations. They included establishing the rule of law in the region, ending demolitions of Palestinian homes and water tanks and ending the expansion of Israeli settlements.
They also recommended an end to child detention and said that the European Union should ensure clear labelling of Israeli settlement products. The UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights were also keen for the Golani Brigade of the IDF to be removed from Hebron City.
Teresa Parker, who manages EAPPI for Britain and Ireland and was present at the MaMa meeting said, “This work is about keeping our promises to take the experiences of civilians suffering violence and occupation to those with the power to bring about a just peace”.