UN decries desperate state of right to health in Occupied Palestinian Territory

By agency reporter
March 27, 2018

Israel has failed to uphold its obligations under international law to ensure the health and welfare of the Palestinian population under its control, said an independent  expert mandated by the United Nations to monitor human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, stated in a report delivered to the Human Rights Council in Geneva last week that the healthcare system for Palestinians living in Gaza was on the edge of collapse.

“The right to health is one of the most fundamental and widely recognised of human rights, touching upon everything that we do as humans, and its robust promotion is one of the most effective tools available to reduce the scourges of social and economic inequalities, gender disparities, discrimination and poverty,” he said.

“Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory – with characteristics such as the expanding settlement enterprise, the annexation of territory, the confiscation of private and public lands, the pillaging of resources, the publicly-stated ambitions for permanent control over all or part of the Territory, as well as the Territory’s fragmentation – has had a highly disruptive impact upon health care and the broader social determinants for health for Palestinians in the occupied territory.”

Lynk noted with great concern increasing delays or denials in exit permits for those seeking needed medical treatment outside of Gaza, concluding that “Israel’s byzantine and opaque exit permit system imposed upon patients who require treatment outside of Gaza is but one element which demonstrates that Israel’s obligations as occupying power to the residents of Gaza remain far from fulfilled”.

The Special Rapporteur also drew attention to the impact of occupation, and associated violence, uncertainty, and regular violations of human rights, on the mental health of Palestinians, describing a mental health system that is increasingly ill-equipped to provide greatly needed support and resources.

“The health and social well-being of children are an apt barometer of the larger well-being of a society”, Lynk said, identifying worryingly high rates of malnutrition in parts of the Occupied Palentinian Territory.

“An occupying power has the duty to ensure that the right to health – the enjoyment by the protected population of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – is fulfilled during the temporary period of occupation,” he said. “Measured against these obligations, Israel has been in profound breach of its responsibility with respect to the right to health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The Special Rapporteur recommended that Israel “ensure regular and reliable access, at all times, for all Palestinian patients who require specialised health care outside of their jurisdictions, consistent with genuine Israeli security concerns” and to “comply fully with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law with respect to fulfilling the health needs of the protected population”, among other recommendations.

Lynk highlighted other human rights issues, noting that the decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel resulted “in a feeling of hopelessness among Palestinians which cannot be overstated, and it is against the background of 50 years of occupation that this announcement, and current concerns with respect to human rights, must be viewed”.

The Special Rapporteur said: “I once again call upon Israel to comply with international law and bring to a complete end its 50 year occupation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”

* Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights http://www.ohchr.org/EN/pages/home.aspx


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