Palestinian, Israeli rights groups condemn home demolitions

Al-Haq, B’Tselem, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions have branded the practise a form of collective punishment

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Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have condemned the recent punitive home demolitions ordered by Israeli authorities in occupied East Jerusalem, describing them as a form of “collective punishment.”

The home of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, the 21-year-old Palestinian who drove a car into a crowd waiting for a train in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old girl and an Ecuadorean tourist, was razed to the ground on Nov.19.

The Palestinian Al-Haq human rights group, Israel’s B’Tselem, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions have all branded these orders a form of collective punishment.

Human Rights Watch has demanded that Israeli authorities halt the demolitions, as they “deliberately and unlawfully” punish “people not accused of any wrongdoing.”

Although he was shot and killed on location, Shaludi’s mother received a demolition notice a month after the incident.

The order is a “violation of customary international law, a violation of the Hague Regulations and the Rome Statute,” Al-Haq’s legal researcher and advocacy officer Mona Sabella told Al Arabiya News.

Punitive home demolitions “would meet all of the prescribed elements of collective punishment” under Article 7 of the Rome Statute, the guiding legal text of the International Criminal Court, she said.

“The houses of these families are houses of civilians that aren’t liable for any of the acts that have been carried out by their family members,” which remain allegations as the perpetrators never appeared in court, she added.

Leila Farha, the U.N. special rapporteur on adequate housing, said in a statement on Monday: “Simply put: the use of house demolition as a punitive measure is a form of collective punishment contrary to international law. Israel must immediately end its use of this devastating practice.”

Separately, Israeli authorities destroyed the houses of those suspected of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teens, without affirming their involvement in the murders.

“Punitive demolition is illegal, full stop,” a B’Tselem spokesperson said. “B’Tselem objects to this policy in principle because it’s illegal and immoral.”

On Aug. 7, an Israeli court found these orders an appropriate form of “deterrence,” citing the 1945 British Defense Emergency Regulations.

This decision went against the findings of a 2005 Israeli military committee that concluded punitive demolitions were not a productive means of deterrence.

“The Israeli authorities have simply found it expedient to keep these extra-legal mechanisms in place despite the fact that emergency ended 66 years ago,” Jeff Halper, director of ICAHD, told Al Arabiya News.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee called on Israel to “immediately put an end to conducting punitive demolitions,” branding them incompatible with the country’s obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Sabella said alleged perpetrators must be granted a fair trial, but the Israeli judicial system is “inherently flawed” and “isn’t providing a fair trial in a lot of instances.”

Israel is not fulfilling its duties as an occupying power under the fourth Geneva Convention, she added.

“As an occupying power, Israel has certain obligations to ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, particularly the Palestinian population that it occupies.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross, the principal body tasked with applying the Geneva Conventions, told Al Arabiya News that the issue of home demolitions was being addressed “within the framework of a confidential bilateral dialogue with the relevant authorities.”

Earlier this month, two Palestinians from East Jerusalem stormed a synagogue, killing four worshippers, amid rising tensions in the city.

Authorities attempted to destroy the homes of the Abu Jamal cousins, who were killed by security forces during the attack.

However, residents stopped the bulldozers from approaching the homes, where their families still lived.

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