posted on Thu 5 May 2016 3:15 PM
Arria-formula Meeting on Protection of Civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Tomorrow afternoon (6 May), Egypt, Security Council president and Arab Group representative, together with Angola, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela, has organised an Arria-formula meeting on the protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The meeting, which will be open to all member states, will be followed by a press briefing. At press time it seemed that all Council members would attend, although it was unclear at what level each would be represented.

The meeting will begin with the airing of a short virtual reality film on life in Gaza after the 2014 conflict. Following that, there will be briefings by legal expert Ardi Imseis, who
served in senior policy and legal capacities with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East will present a legal perspective on the protections and rights accorded to civilians in armed conflict, including situations of foreign occupation, and the responsibilities of the Security Council in this regard, as well as the international community as a whole; a representative of Yesh Din, an Israeli organisation that works on issues concerning the rule of law and the duty to protect the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT; and a representative from Human Rights Watch.

A concept note circulated ahead of the meeting expresses concern over breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law as well as violations of Council resolutions intended to protect civilians in conflict situations. It focuses more specifically on the situation in the OPT, referring to a “protection crisis for the Palestinian people” as a result of breaches of international law by Israel, citing the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War. The concept note gives as examples Israeli military operations in Gaza and ongoing Israeli military raids in cities, towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It also recalls violations in the form of extra-judicial executions; rising Israeli settler violence; increased home demolitions and forced displacement; Israel’s blockade of Gaza; movement restrictions; and widespread arrest, detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian civilians. The note argues that the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation continue to be deprived of effective protection as the international community, foremost the Security Council, fails to hold Israel accountable.

The objective of tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting is described as being to provide an opportunity for Council members to listen to presentations on the situation of the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT, and to consider what must be done by the international community to rectify the situation, including efforts to protect civilians and uphold human rights until the occupation is brought to an end and the Palestinian people are able to realise their right to self-determination. The concept note sees these efforts as “essential for saving human lives, for salvaging the prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace… and for restoring the primacy of international law and the credibility of the Council itself”.

Tomorrow’s meeting follows a 16 February briefing, at the request of Venezuela, by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman under “any other business” on the issue of protection for the Palestinian people. In that meeting, Feltman referred to the Secretary-General’s letter dated 21 October 2015 (S/2015/809), which transmitted an internal review of historical precedents for regimes that have been devised to provide varying forms of protection for areas of territory and their inhabitants. This review was undertaken in response to a July 2014 letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which he requested that “the territory of the State of Palestine be placed under an international protection system by the United Nations”, with the central aim of “ensuring the protection of the Palestinian people” (S/2014/514).