Hebron University Holds Seminar on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Palestine

Hebron, 8 May 2012-- The Legal Clinic of Hebron University, in cooperation with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), organized a seminar on the relationship between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law and their applicability in the occupied Palestinian territory and, in particular, to the possibility of using UN human rights mechanisms as one tool to monitor the implementation of these two branches of law. The seminar, which was attended by some 130 people, including lawyers, professors, international organizations, and law students, intended to raise the awareness of the community on international law issues and empower law students and jurists with tools necessary for defending victims by employing various means, including documentation, reporting to UN Special Procedures and revert to local and global courts and organizations. The seminar included three presentations.

Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, Professor of International Law and Legal Clinic Director, addressed the question of “Applicability of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Palestine”. Drawing on his previous experience at the UN in Geneva, Beirut and a number of international organizations in Palestine and abroad, Dr. Qafisheh stated that the doubts on the applicability of humanitarian law and human rights had become beyond question after the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Wall on 9 July 2004. The relevant point now is to hold Israel internationally accountable to its war crimes and crimes against humanity that are committed on daily basis in the occupied Palestine, including killing, arbitrary/administrative detention, home demolition, apartheid and building settlements. Accountability, he added, needs preparation from Palestinian jurists and supporters of peace and justice around the world to prosecute criminals by collecting data, documentation of violations and invoking international law at local courts, International Criminal Court and available UN mechanisms. He called upon the Palestinian leadership to be more active in perusing its application to UN membership and to seek being party to the two international human rights covenants and to Geneva conventions.

Mr. Hamed Qawasme, OHCHR Human Rights Officer, talked about the “UN Human Rights Mechanisms”, focusing on the Human Rights Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review. He also talked about the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner as the key UN human rights body and highlighted the activities of the office in the occupied Palestinian territory (Gaza, Ramallah and Hebron) with regard to capacity building and monitoring.

From his part, the TIPH Legal Adviser, Mr. Kenneth Ögren, gave a presentation on the special international rules applicable in the context of the City of Hebron, including customary law, law of belligerent occupation, human rights law and Geneva Convention IV. He focused on the status of the City of Hebron in the peace agreements between Israel and the PLO, with particular reference to the Oslo II of 1995 and the Hebron Protocol of 1997. He talked about the mandate of the TIPH and its role in monitoring human rights and humanitarian law violations and its confidential reporting to the Israelis and Palestinians sides as well as to the six countries that form the organization, namely: Denmark, Italy, Norway, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland.

The seminar, which was moderated by Ms. Hazam Tahbub, TIPH Coordinator of Research and Analysis Division, is part of a longer-term cooperation between the Legal Clinic of Hebron University and the TIPH, which would be followed by a practical training course next week.