On the third anniversary of the Great Marche of Return: Amid the absence of Equity and accountability, the international community must ensure the protection of the Palestinians

On the occasion of the third anniversary of the start of the Great Marche of Return, the Breaking of the Blockade in the Gaza Strip, and the 45th anniversary of Land Day, The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) reminds the international community of its failure to protect Palestinian civilians and holding the Israeli authorities responsible for war crimes. The Council notes that, to date, millions of refugees are deprived of their rights to return and compensation, and more than two million Palestinians have been suffering for 15 years from the policy of collective punishment and Israel’s siege of Gaza while the international community remains silent on the matter.

The events of Land Day didn’t, actually, trigger any change to date, as demolition and destruction and expropriation of land have been intensified in recent years in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Geneva Council recalls that the Great March of Return, started on March 30, 2018, in 5 camps on the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, is one of the most peaceful, civilized demonstrations in the world, however, it was met with Israeli repression and the use of live ammunition against protesters.

The demonstrations demanded the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were uprooted in 1948, in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194, and the lift of the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2006. The marches continued weekly until the end of December 2019 (86 weeks). With the popular participation of a variety of different societal groups, including women, children, youth, and the elderly.

The Israeli forces used excessive force to suppress the marches, employing various ammunition of fire and explosive bullets, gas and sound bombs, drones, and snipers, which resulted in the killing of 215 Palestinian civilians, including 47 children, 9 persons with disabilities, 4 paramedics, and two journalists, in addition to about 15 thousand of them wounded hundreds of people were permanently disabled, and more than 600 journalists and paramedics. The Geneva Council recalls the findings of the independent commission of inquiry established by the United Nations in Human Rights Council Resolution S-28/1, dated May 18, 2018, with the aim of investigating violations and international crimes suspected of being committed during the Great March of Return.

This committee concluded in its report that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Israeli occupation forces have committed grave breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law and that some of these violations may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, which imposes on Israel the duty to investigate its circumstances immediately. The committee also called on Israel to refrain from using lethal force against civilians and to ensure that the wounded reach health care centers abroad by granting them travel permits to leave the Strip. In addition to its demand to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which led to many violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The committee presented the results of its investigation and recommendations to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session, which adopted this report on Friday, March 22, 2019. GCRL notes that three years after the start of these marches, the Israeli forces are still involved in the siege policy, and the accountability system is still absent. The Geneva Council urges the International Criminal Court to expedite its procedures to open an investigation into war crimes committed by the Israeli forces, including those committed against the demonstrators of the Return Marches, in order to achieve justice and accountability.

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