Saturday, 03 December 2011, marks the UN International Day of Disabled Persons (IDoDP). In 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the General Assembly proclaimed 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons (Resolution 47/3). This decision came so as to stress the importance of respecting, advocating and protecting the rights of disabled persons worldwide. Such rights are based on the general principles of human rights, including the International Bill of Human Rights, which contribute to realizing equality between people without discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, color or social standing.
However, the suffering of disabled Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has continued due to human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against the Palestinian civilian population, and as result of the failure by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to protect the rights of disabled persons due to the ongoing political division that started in 2007.
Human rights violations perpetrated by IOF have not left disabled Palestinians unaffected . Since the beginning of this year, IOF have killed 2 disabled Palestinian children in two separate incidents. IOF claimed that the two children got close to the border with Israel, but testimonies collected by PCHR fieldworkers refute IOF’s allegations. According to PCHR’s investigations, one of the two children suffered from partial mental disability and speech impediments and he was hit by ten bullets, mostly to the head, when he was nearly 400 meters from the border in the northeast of Deir al-Balah. The second child was killed by shrapnel in the head and the chest when IOF fired a shell at him. He was nearly 300 meters far from Nahal Oz crossing in the east of Gaza City.
According to PCHR’s observation, since the beginning of the current al-Aqsa Intifada on 28 September 2000, IOF have killed 89 disabled Palestinians, including 15 children and 7 women. IOF have also wounded at least 105 disabled Palestinians.
Forty-five physically and psychologically disabled Palestinians have continued to be held in Israeli jails under cruel and unhealthy conditions. They are subjected to medical negligence and to inhuman detention conditions. Some of them suffer from muscle paralysis or atrophy, and some of them lost parts of their bodies as they were wounded before or during the arrest. In addition, some of them were subjected to extortion during interrogation by Israeli officers who offered providing them medical treatment in exchange of information.
Furthermore, disabled Palestinians have been held at IOF checkpoints disrupting Palestinian population centers, and at Beit Hanoun "Erez" crossing which is the only crossing Israeli authorities allow Palestinian patients to use, including disabled persons, to have access to medical treatment at hospitals in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank. During their detention, the Palestinian disabled persons were subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The policy of complete closure imposed by IOF on the oPt, especially on the Gaza Strip, has resulted in the deterioration of the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian population and led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty; 45.2% and 38% respectively. As a result, the economic and social conditions of the disabled persons have aggravated and they have suffered from severe shortage in rehabilitation services, health care and educational and occupational services.
The above data indicates the size of grave violations of the Palestinian disabled persons' rights to life and to safety and security of person. The same data indicates also that IOF have not attempted to make any minimal efforts to avoid causing casualties among Palestinian civilians in general and among disabled persons in particular. IOF continue to commit violations against Palestinian disabled persons although Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was published on 30 March 2007 and entered into force more than three years ago.
Internally, disabled persons have continued to suffer from severe deterioration in the level of enjoyment of their rights in view of the ongoing political division, the existence of two Palestinian governments in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and non-application -for more than 11 years- of the provisions of the Rights of Disabled Palestinians’ Law No. 4 of 1999 which ascribes them health, educational, rehabilitation, employment, recreational, sports and social rights. The irregular payment of the aid provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs to disabled persons has resulted in the deterioration of their economic and social conditions. They and their families are suffering poverty and lack of rehabilitation services, including the provision of necessary equipment. Disabled persons are still waiting for the implementation of the Rights of Disabled Palestinians Law that includes the issuance of a “Disabled” card entitling the disabled to a variety of services.
On the occasion of the IDoDP, PCHR:
1- Calls upon the international community to exert pressure on IOF to put an immediate end to all human rights violations perpetrated against disabled Palestinians, including killing and injury, and stopping all forms of targeting rehabilitation and educational institutions designed for disabled persons;
2- Calls for immediate end to all forms of grave violations committed against Palestinians prisoners with disabilities, for the provision of immediate and appropriate medical treatment to them, and for putting an end to placing them in solitary confinement cells;
3- Calls upon the international community to ensure Israel’s respect for international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the rights of disabled persons;
4- Calls for an immediate end to the ongoing internal division that has resulted in catastrophic impacts on the rights of Palestinians in general and on the rights of disabled persons in particular;
5- Urges PNA to implement the provisions of the Rights of Disabled Palestinians’ Law No. 4 of 1999, and calls upon ministries and governmental organizations to respect the law pertaining to the disabled persons’ quota of at least 5% in the number of employees in these institutions;
6- Calls upon the PNA to speed up the issuance of the “disabled” card stipulated in the Rights of Disabled Palestinians Law to reduce the suffering of disabled persons and provide decent living conditions for them and for their families.