COHRE STATEMENT: GAZA CRISIS
12 JANUARY 2009
European governments and citizens hold the key to imposing
accountability on Israel
Israel’s ongoing invasion of Gaza has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian
situation caused by Israel’s 18 month long blockade of the Gaza Strip. The invasion
of Gaza has violently forced an estimated 80,000-90,000 people from their homes.
75% of Gazans are currently without electricity and over half a million residents have
no water supply. There are severe shortages of food and essential medicines. Sewage
from non-functioning treatment plants is flooding into residential areas. Israel’s
excessive and indiscriminate use of military force has been disproportionate to the
threat posed by rocket fire by armed Palestinian groups in Gaza. Israel has targeted
civilians and civilian infrastructure, including the destruction of homes, mosques and
schools. So far around 900 Palestinians have been killed including 250 children. Israel
has wilfully impeded humanitarian aid and aid workers from reaching the residents of
the Gaza Strip. These actions constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian
law as set out in the Geneva Conventions and serious violations of international
human rights law as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights and other human rights treaties.
Israel’ military attacks on civilians and the economic blockade of Gaza which violate
international human rights and humanitarian law standards persist in spite of
widespread calls, including by the United Nations, for a ceasefire and a lifting of the
economic blockade. The time has come for countries that are in a close trading
relationship with Israel to concretise their commitments to human rights and to make
Israel’s preferential access to European markets conditional upon its human rights
behaviour. Further, EU member states as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth
Geneva Convention are under a legal obligation to ensure respect for the Convention
and to hold those responsible for grave breaches of the Convention to account.
In June 2008, several international human rights, development and humanitarian
organizations, including COHRE, called upon the EU to place human rights
conditionalities on Israel within the context of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement makes clear that “Relations
between the parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be
based on a respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their
internal policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.”
In December 2008, the EU council of ministers voted to upgrade Israel’s relations
with Europe which will lead to stronger EU-Israel cooperation in areas such as the
economy, trade, academic, security and diplomatic fields. This appears to have sent a
signal to Israel that it will not be held accountable for any violations of international
law. Israel’s ongoing invasion and the intensification of the blockade has not yet
brought about a change in this position. This calls into question the European Union’s
respect for international humanitarian law and human rights in its foreign policy.
COHRE calls on the EU member states to rescind its recent decision.
COHRE calls upon civil society, particularly citizens of European countries, to lobby
their governments to immediately suspend negotiations to upgrade Israel’s relations
due to its human rights violations, including aggression on the Gaza Strip and its
economic blockade on Gaza. In addition, European citizens should call on their
governments to suspend Israel’s planned membership of the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development – the club of economically dominant
nations - until its human rights performance with regard to the Palestinians is
significantly improved and attacks on Gaza cease.
Information on lobbying the EU and the OECD to call upon Israel to respect
international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including a
resource pack for civil society and concerned individuals, can be found at
For more information please contact:
Lara El-Jazairi, Legal Officer, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: +44 (0)7961908714.