London Palestinian conference: Human rights need addressing

Ahead of a major two-day Palestinian trade and investment conference starting in London on 15 December, Amnesty International is calling on PM Gordon Brown to put human rights firmly on the agenda of his discussions with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad.

In Gaza, the Israeli blockade is keeping 1.5 million Palestinians virtually imprisoned and deprives them of basic necessities and essential services which the people of the UK and Israel take for granted. This collective punishment does not target those who launch rockets but rather hurts the most vulnerable, reminded Amnesty.

In the West Bank, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the past year has reached levels not seen since the beginning of the decade and economic development is stifled by more than 500 checkpoints and barriers which restrict the movement of Palestinians.

Amnesty International Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories researcher Donatella Rovera said:

“More trade and investment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is desperately needed, but so is a sense that human rights are seriously and rigorously addressed by the international community.

“Gordon Brown must make it unambiguously clear to Ehud Olmert that the collective punishment imposed on the population of Gaza is unacceptable and that peace building requires a halt to the building of settlements, walls and barriers in the West Bank.”

At the same time, Palestinians are also subjected to human rights abuses at the hands of security forces and militias under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza.

Arbitrary detention without due process and torture and other ill-treatment are common both in the West Bank, where PA forces target known or suspected Hamas supporters, and in Gaza, where Hamas forces and militias target Fatah supporters and other critics. Journalists are often harassed by both PA and Hamas forces.

Donatella Rovera added:

“While human rights abuses committed by Hamas forces and militias must indeed be unequivocally condemned, there must be no room for selectivity and no silence about the abuses committed by PA forces. Gordon Brown should use the opportunity of this meeting to convey clear message to PM Fayyad that such practices by PA security forces must cease.”

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