Visa denials to UN human rights staff in Palestine part of wider worrying ‘trend’: Bachelet |

Development is taking place in a context where Israeli authorities are increasingly restricting what she called human rights “eyes and ears on the ground”.

Search for solutions

Although the UN Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Palestine has been operating for 26 years, 15 international staff there “had no choice but to leave” in 2020, said Ms. Bachelet.

“Subsequent visa applications and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years,” she added. “During this time I tried to find a solution for this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage.”

International obligations

Ms. Bachelet reminded the Israeli authorities of their obligations as a member state of the UN. Countries should cooperate in good faith with the UN and grant its officials the privileges and immunities necessary for them to exercise their functions independently.

This includes exempting UN officials from immigration restrictions and processing their visa applications as quickly as possible.

“Israel’s failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staff to access is contrary to these standards and I call on the government to fulfill its international obligations in this direction”, she said.

Evictions and rejections increase

Referring to the current context, the human rights chief noted that an increasing number of UN staff and mechanisms, non-governmental organizations and others are expelled or denied entry.

“Israel’s treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block access to human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said. “It raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide.”

Murders and violence increase

Last year, Israeli forces killed 320 Palestinians, a tenfold increase compared to 2020, she reported. Troops also injured 17,042 people, or six times the 2020 figure.

Additionally, the UN recorded the highest number of incidents of settler violence since records began in 2017, while arrests of Palestinians doubled. So far this year, Israeli forces have killed at least 111 more Palestinians.

Ziad Taleb

Children in the Gaza Strip. August 8, 2022.

Commitment to deliver

Ms. Bachelet said that despite the visa denials, the Palestine Office is carrying out its mandated work in monitoring Israel’s compliance with international human rights obligations and providing technical assistance.

“We report publicly on violations by Israel, but also on violations by the State of Palestine, by Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups. We also provide key support to the Palestinian government to help it improve its compliance with international human rights obligations,” she said.

We will continue to fulfill our mandate. And we will continue to seek access to the occupied Palestinian territory for our staff, consistent with Israel’s obligations as a UN member state.

Protect and support Palestinian children

Even as it’s back-to-school time for some 1.3 million Palestinian boys and girls, they face challenges “Many children around the world can’t imagine”a senior UN official said on Tuesday.

Lynn Hastings, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, shared how violence, violations, destruction and deprivation have impacted the lives of young people in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Palestinian children hold in their hands the potential and the drive to reimagine education, to co-create new paths for development and to transform their lives. They are the leaders of tomorrow. We must do more to protect and support themas children should not be exposed to violence or exploited for any purpose,” she said.

Ms Hastings reported that 20 children have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the year, compared to 12 in the same period in 2021.

Girls work at a communal table during a lesson at the Omar Ben al-Khattab school in the town of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.  (files)

© UNICEF/UNI6786/El Baba

Girls work at a communal table during a lesson at the Omar Ben al-Khattab school in the town of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. (files)

Violations related to education

Additionally, there are 56 outstanding orders to demolish schools that teach at least 6,400 children in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The UN has recorded 115 education-related violations in the first half of this year, which include direct or indirect firing of tear gas, stun grenades and/or rubber-coated bullets, intimidation of military and settler presence in schools , detentions and movements. restrictions that prevent students from reaching their classes.

Overall, around 8,000 students are affected, increasing the risk of them dropping out of school.

Deadly escalation

Seventeen children were killed during the latest escalation in Gaza and schools are overcrowded, with 65 percent working double shifts.

Ms Hastings added that conditions in Gaza for children, including experiencing four escalations of hostilities in their lifetime, increase the need for specialist psychosocial support services.

Despite the many challenges, she noted bright spots. The youth literacy rate among Palestinians is over 99 percent, and nearly 94 percent of children who graduate from primary school go on to secondary education.

“The United Nations wishes all children a successful and fun-filled year where their fundamental right to education is protected and realized by all. We remain committed to protecting children from violence and supporting them to fulfill their potential,” she said.

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