GENEVA July 26, 2019 – Two UN human rights experts have condemned Israel’s demolition of 10 buildings comprising approximately 70 housing units in Sur Baher, a Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
“We are following the developments in this matter very closely,” said Leilani Farha, the Special Rapporteur for the right to housing, and Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
“We are deeply concerned that, following the dismissal by the Israeli High Court on Sunday of a petition by the residents of the designated housing units against the impending demolition order, the buildings have now been demolished.
“The demolition of these apartment buildings aggravates the coercive environment that many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, face. The international community has critically commented on a number of occasions about the extremely low rates of housing construction permits allowed by the Israeli authorities for Palestinians seeking to build, or add to, homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
The demolition of these housing units in Sur Baher is part of a larger pattern of home demolitions occurring in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to information available to the UN experts, Israeli authorities have demolished a total of 63 East Jerusalem housing units so far in 2019. Over the same period in 2018, 37 East Jerusalem housing units were demolished.
“What is required in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are fair and equitable planning policies for the construction of housing,” said the UN experts.
The area in Sur Baher where the housing units were located is technically within the West Bank, but it lies on the Jerusalem side of Israel’s separation wall. The apartment buildings were built with the proper construction permits issued by the Palestinian authorities. However, the Israeli military issued an order in 2011 prohibiting construction within 100-300 metres of the wall.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, any destruction of private property by an Occupying Power is prohibited except where it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. “As the International Court of Justice found in its 2004 advisory opinion on the construction of the separation wall, the route of the wall, including those parts of the wall which are constructed inside of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is not justifiable on the basis of military exigencies nor by national security,” Lynk said.
“The home demolitions in Sur Baher appear to be forced evictions in violation of article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other human rights,” the experts said, calling upon the Government of Israel to ensure that it upholds its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Earlier this week, the UN human rights experts raised their concerns directly with the Government of Israel.