Key points outlined in this LPHR Demolitions and Displacement bulletin:
Data collected by the UN records that between 1 July- 4 August 2020, 89 structures were demolished or seized during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, displacing 77 people, including 36 children
Israeli authorities demolished or seized 31 residential structures, of which 14 were inhabited
A JCB heavy machinery vehicle is documented in a video published by B’Tselem to have been involved in the demolition of a family home in Beit Hanina, displacing a family of 7, including 4 children, on 4 August
During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 5 water, hygiene and sanitation structures
Israeli authorities demolished a structure reportedly intended to be used as a COVID-19 testing centre on 21 July
Israeli authorities demolished or seized 21 livelihood structures and 27 agricultural structures
This Bulletin further provides accompanying legal analysis and a short report on LPHR’s recent evidence-based human rights complaint against the UK company, JCB, under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for involvement in demolitions and displacement.
LPHR gives special thanks to Emma Fullerton for her excellent work preparing this bulletin.
Demolitions and Displacement during the reporting period
UN OCHA records that between 1 July- 4 August 2020, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 89 Palestinian-owned structures (eight of them donor-funded), displacing 77 people, including 36 children, and otherwise affecting the livelihoods or access to services of 397 others. All of the structures were targeted due to a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
Between 1 January- 4 August 2020, according to data collected by UN OCHA, 405 Palestinian structures (69 of them donor-funded) have been demolished or seized by Israeli authorities between , displacing 451 people (including 236 children) and otherwise affecting 1,966 people.
During the COVID-19 emergency, Israeli authorities have continued to target water, sanitation and hygiene structures, demolishing five such structures between 1 July- 4 August 2020 (bringing the total number of demolished water, sanitation and hygiene structures since the start of the year to 28). The demolition of livelihood and agricultural structures also continued, with 21 livelihood and 27 agricultural structures demolished or seized during the reporting period.
31 residential structures, 14 of them inhabited, were demolished or seized between 1 July- 4 August 2020. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, the Israeli authorities indicated that they would refrain from demolishing or seizing inhabited homes that were in place prior to the start of the crisis. However, UN OCHA reports that since the beginning of March 2020, Israeli authorities have targeted 19 such homes (15 in Area C and four in East Jerusalem), while another seven homes were demolished by their owners, following the issuance of demolition orders: overall 152 Palestinians have been displaced as a result.
Incidents of demolitions, seizures and displacement include:
UN OCHA reports that between 1-14 July, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 26 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 13 people and affecting over 100 others.
B’Tselem reports that on 8 July, Israeli forces dismantled and confiscated a wooden and metal structure, which was under construction and intended as a couple’s home, in the Abu a-Nuwar community in the West Bank.
B’Tselem reports that on 8 July, Israeli forces confiscated a shack intended as a couple’s living quarters the community of Abu al-Hilu, in the Khan al-Ahmar area, east of Jerusalem. In addition, Israeli forces confiscated a solar power system belonging to the same family. The solar system was constructed and maintained by an NGO with funding from the European Union.
B’Tselem reports that on 15 July, Israeli forces demolished an under construction duplex in the Jabal al-Mukkaber neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The duplex was intended as a home of two families. B’Tselem reports that the Jerusalem Municipality deliberately avoids preparing detailed urban building plans, which are the only avenue for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem to obtain building permits. The result is a severe shortage of homes and infrastructure, leaving Palestinians no choice but to build without permits, risking demolition.
UN OCHA reports that settler violence, in the form of physical attacks on Palestinian farmers and vandalism against Palestinian vehicles and olive trees, continues during the COVID-19 emergency. Such attacks contribute to a coercive environment for Palestinians living in the West Bank.
UN OCHA reports that between 15-28 July, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 26 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, including one home self-demolished by its owner, displacing 25 people and affecting over 100 others. One of these structures, located on the outskirts of Hebron city and demolished on 21 July, was, according to the Hebron Municipality, planned to be used as COVID-19 testing centre. This claim is contested by the Israeli authorities. The demolition was carried out using Military Order 1797, which allows the removal of unauthorized structures within 96 hours from the delivery of a notice. Humanitarian and human rights organizations have repeatedly raised concern about this procedure, which largely prevents affected people from being heard before a judicial body.
B’Tselem reports that in East Jerusalem on 3 August, three families (made up of 17 people, including 10 children) were forced to demolish their own homes following receipt of a demolition notice. Many Palestinians demolish their own homes after receiving notice from the municipality, in order to avoid the municipal charge for the demolition, which amounts to tens of thousands of dollars.
B’Tselem reports that on 4 August, in the community of al-Muntar in al-Quds District, southeast of the town of al-‘Eizariyah, Israeli authorities demolished the homes of six families, leaving at least 26 people, including 14 children, homeless. A shack that served as a livestock enclosure and a water tank was also demolished.
To clearly illustrate that these demolition and displacement incidents are part of an ongoing policy and practice, please see our previous bulletins for the periods 4 June- 30 June 2020, 1 May-3 June 2020; 1 March- 30 April 2020; 1 January-29 February 2020 and 1 December-31 December 2019 (including an overview of 2019).
Legal Analysis: International Humanitarian law, International Criminal law and International Human Rights law
Palestinian residents in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have the status of protected persons under the Geneva Conventions. International humanitarian law requires an occupying power to protect and provide for the welfare of the occupied population.
Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits “destruction of property” not justified by military absolute necessity. As noted above, the purported justification for the demolitions in this reporting period was a lack of building permits. Israel’s permit system operating in the occupied Palestinian territory makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain a building permit. This plainly calls into question whether the above-mentioned demolitions in this Bulletin, including those of residential, livelihood and agricultural structures, could amount to an absolutely necessary military measure. As such, the demolitions clearly appear to constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.
Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention requires that Israel ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilised to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. The demolition of residential and water, hygiene and sanitation structures during the COVID-19 crisis, suggest that Israel is obstructing initiatives that might help halt the spread of the pandemic, rather than fulfilling its obligations under Article 56.
Further, the demolition of property is likely to give rise to the commission of war crimes. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that “extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”, is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. Grave breaches entail individual criminal responsibility for all persons involved with its implementation, including government officials. The extensive destruction of Palestinian property during the reporting period of this Bulletin is indicative of a policy and practice not justified by military necessity that engages the individual criminal responsibility provision of the Fourth Geneva Convention at Article 147.
Moreover, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provides that grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention constitute war crimes that fall within the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction. The policy and practice of the demolition of Palestinian property in the occupied Palestinian territory is therefore an issue that can be investigated by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC if it opens an investigation into the situation in Palestine.
International human rights law is also engaged by the purposeful acts of demolitions and displacement grossly affecting Palestinian residents and communities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Israel has ratified, requires State Parties to “recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate… housing.” Similarly, Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Israel has ratified, provides “State Parties recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” Article 27 of the UNCRC further adds that State Parties “shall in case of need provide material assistance… particularly with regard to housing.” The above-mentioned demolitions or seizures of residential structures and consequential displacement of Palestinian civilians, including 36 children, constitute a violation of these obligations under international human rights law.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to be aware that Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires State Parties to recognise the right of everyone to the enjoyment of an attainable standard of physical and mental health. Specifically listed as one of the steps to be taken by States Parties are those necessary for ‘the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases’ (Article 12 (2)(c)). Israel’s demolition or seizure of 14 inhabited residential structures and five water, sanitation and hygiene structures at a time when social distancing, self-isolation and facilities for frequent handwashing are needed to control the spread of the pandemic, appears to constitute a direct breach of its duties under Article 12.
LPHR’s human rights complaint against the UK company, JCB, under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in regard to its involvement in demolitions and displacement in the occupied Palestinian territory
In 2019, LPHR gathered clear and compelling evidence to substantiate that in demolitions similar to some of those described above, the products of JCB, a world-leading construction equipment company headquartered in the UK, have materially been used in a way that results in human rights violations. This includes a violation of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate housing, under international human rights law.
On 10 December 2019, LPHR submitted an evidence-based human rights complaint against JCB to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (situated in the Department of International Trade). The complaint is being brought under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines). The primary evidence submitted with LPHR’s complaint that substantiates the material use of JCB products in demolitions, relates to incidents in ten villages or areas in the occupied Palestinian territory, covering the period 2016-2019. In total, 89 homes are identified as having been demolished, resulting in the displacement of at least 484 individuals, including children and the elderly.
LPHR will use its monthly Demolition and Displacement bulletins to highlight any published evidence from the leading Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, of apparent continuing involvement of JCB heavy machinery vehicles in demolitions and displacement:
On 24 June 2020, outside of this bulletin’s reporting period, a JCB heavy machinery vehicle was documented to have been involved in the uprooting and vandalising of around 70 olive trees belonging to a family in the Palestinian village of Bardala in the northern Jordan Valley.
On 4 August 2020, a JCB heavy machinery vehicle was documented to have been involved in the demolition of a family’s home. The family of seven, including four children, demolished their own home in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, after receiving a demolition order from Jerusalem municipality. Many Palestinians demolish their own homes after receiving demolition notices from the Jerusalem Municipality, in order to avoid the municipal charge for the demolition, which amounts to tens of thousands of dollars.
In our complaint, LPHR submits that JCB is in breach of five human rights responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines. In summary, these are:
That JCB is in breach of the general obligation under Chapter 4, paragraph 1 of the OECD Guidelines to respect human rights;
That JCB has failed to avoid contributing to adverse human rights impacts and to address impacts where they do occur;
That JCB has not sought ways to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their business operations and products;
That JCB has failed to develop a human rights policy that: has been approved by its Board; benefits from internal and/or external expertise; sets out the company’s expectations from its staff; is publicly available; and is embedded across the business; and
That JCB has failed to carry out human rights diligence as appropriate to its size, nature and context of operations and the severity of the risks of adverse human rights impacts.
As a consequence of our submissions that JCB is in breach of its human rights responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines, LPHR concludes our complaint by requesting that JCB:
Immediately suspend supply of products to Comasco (an Israeli company which is the exclusive dealer of JCB products in Israel) that could be identified as being part of the supply chain that results in demolitions or settlement-related construction, and to permanently cease supply to Comasco should it not be able to provide credible and verifiable guarantees that such products will not be involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights;
Develops and publishes on its website a human rights policy which specifically sets out the due diligence methodology it applies to ensure that its products are not at risk of contributing and/or being directly linked in a business relationship to the violation of human rights;
Agrees to participate with LPHR and other appropriate stakeholders in establishing an effective grievance mechanism to enable remediation. Such a mechanism would be administered in accordance with the core criteria for a remediation process as specified in the OECD Guidelines, and incorporate appropriate financial and/or non-financial remedies for individuals in respect of damages suffered through the known uses of JCB products in the demolition of their homes and property, including those identified in this complaint.
LPHR is currently awaiting an Initial Assessment decision from the UK National Contact Point on our comprehensive evidence-based human rights complaint.