by Tovah Lazaroff
15 July 2019
The Palestinian Authority is expected to raise the issue of the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees at its first United Nations racism review in Geneva next month.
The PA’s human rights record will be reviewed for the first time by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which will also look at discrimination issues in the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Iceland, Mexico, Mongolia and Poland.
In a report the PA submitted to CERD in 2018, in advance of the meeting, it spoke about the importance of the “right of return” for Palestinians to sovereign Israel, noting such a demand was in line with the convention on the elimination of racism, to which both it and Israel were signatories.
It noted that the committee in the past had said that “refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin under conditions of safety.” The PA continued that according to CERD, refugees have the “right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of the conflict, and to be compensated appropriately for any such property that cannot be returned to them.”
Until 2012, the UN did not view Palestine as a state and therefore there was no mechanism by which to review the Palestinian Authority’s record on human rights.
The UN General Assembly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a non-member state at the UN, a move that allowed the UN to give the Palestinians rights granted to non-member states, such as the ability to sign onto to treaty bodies.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the PA has signed on to seven of the nine UN human rights treaties that require public review at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was the UN body to review the Palestinians’ human rights record in July 2018.
In January 2020, the PA’s record will be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In June, CERD sent the PA a list of themes it wanted to focus on, including “efforts to address the issue of nationality for Palestinians who are deprived of citizenship owing to prolonged refugee status abroad.”
CERD requested detailed data on non-citizens in the Palestinian territories, including stateless persons, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, it requested information on specific minority groups such as Samaritan, Armenian, Syriac, Maghribi, Kurd, Roma, Turkmen, Ahmadi, Druze, Bosnian, Circassian, Maronite, Druze and Baha’i. This includes information on their representation in political and public life.
CERD wants the PA to discuss its treatment of the Bedouin, including its rights to housing, healthcare, education, employment, basic services and freedom of movement.
CERD asked the PA to discuss efforts to amend discriminatory laws, including in the Civil Service Code, the Egyptian Family Rights Law and the Jordanian Personal Status Law, which is applicable in the West Bank.
It also wants “detailed information on the implementation of legislative provisions that prohibit, in accordance with Article 4 of the convention, the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination or acts of violence and organizations that promote and incite racial discrimination.”
CERD asked the PA to speak about education that combats prejudice, and to highlight legislation to combat human trafficking including “forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.”