The Humanitarian Conditions of the Disabled in the OPT Have Continued to Deteriorate
On the Anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
More than one year and a half has passed since the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that was issued on 30 March 2007, entered into force. Despite this, the suffering of the Palestinian persons with disabilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is steadily increasing
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights-PCHR. Press Release
Today, 3 December 2009, is the anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992). This day is marked in order to urge the international community to respect, enhance and protect the rights of persons with disabilities all over the world, in line with human rights principles, including the International Bill of Human Rights which was devoted to achieve full equality among human beings without any kind of discrimination based on disability or any other form of discrimination.
More than one year and a half has passed since the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that was issued on 30 March 2007, entered into force. Despite this, the suffering of the Palestinian persons with disabilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is steadily increasing. This is due to the serious and continued escalation of war crimes by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against Palestinian civilians, including persons with disabilities and institutions working in the field of rehabilitation and care provision, as well as Israels continued illegal closure policy. Persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip particularly are witnessing an unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and are deprived of their right to enjoy a decent life. During the 23-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, the disabled in Gaza were denied their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. They were denied all forms of protection to their rights to life and to safety and security of person. Furthermore, during the offensive, they were denied their right to resort to safe locations where their life and safety would have been protected and where their needs, including food, medicine and appropriate shelter, could have been met.
Since 03 December 2008, IOF have killed six disabled civilians from the Gaza Strip, including a child and two women. Four of these victims, including a child and a woman, were killed during IOF offensive on the Gaza Strip. During the IOF offensive, 5,300 Palestinian civilians were wounded. Out of them, at least 600 civilians sustained different disabilities as a result of their severe wounds. Disabilities ranged from physical disability due to amputation of one or both of the upper or lower limps, loss of hearing or vision, to a number of dual disabilities. According to PCHR documentation, since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada on 29 September 2000, 87 Palestinians with disabilities, including 12 children and 7 women, have been killed by IOF. This proves that IOF have not made sufficient efforts to avoid the killing of the Palestinian civilians in general, and persons with disabilities in particular.
Throughout the al-Aqsa Intifada, dozens of institutions working in the field of rehabilitation a care provision to the disabled have been subjected to partial or complete destruction and devastation by IOF. As a result, thousands of Palestinian persons with disabilities were deprived from access to services provided by these institutions in the areas of health, rehabilitation, education, relief, leisure and sports.
The suffering of Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza has aggravated due to the tight and total siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip since mid June 2007. This siege constitutes a unique form of collective punishment against the civilian population, and is a flagrant violation of all the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Palestinian civilians, and is also a flagrant violation of their civil and political rights. Due to the collective punishment policy, the disabled in Gaza have become unable to access the institutions that provide care and rehabilitation services to them, because of the inability of many of these institutions to provide many of their needs, including medical tools and supplies, hearing and visual aids and other needs due to the imposition of the tight closure.
Institutions providing services to disabled persons are suffering from severe and dangerous shortage of all needs, including spare parts, tools required to make mobile wheelchairs, medical assistive walking tools, hearing aids and their batteries, medical and supporting devices and all kinds of raw materials required to operate workshops that employ persons with disabilities to produce embroidery, sewed products, handicrafts, wood products and other kinds of products. Many educational programs, including kindergartens that target disabled persons, were closed for long periods due to resource and supply shortages.
This anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities coincides with the increasing suffering of the Palestinian civilian population. Rates of poverty and unemployment in the current year have increased to unprecedented levels. The suffering of persons with disabilities escalated, as a result. Many institutions working in the provision of rehabilitation and care services to the disabled are suffering from financial crises and confronting dangerous shortages of their needs, causing the freeze of many of rehabilitation and care services. Persons with disabilities who depend on allocations and subsidies provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs are suffering from the irregularity of paying these allocations and subsidies.
The fragmentation and conflict taking place in the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority have negatively reflected themselves on the conditions of persons with disabilities, who already suffer from dangerous deterioration in the standard of their enjoyment of their rights stipulated by the Disability Law concerning the rights of the disabled No. 4 of 1999. In this context, Palestinian persons with disabilities are still suffering from the lack of the application of the provisions of the Disability Law that stipulates their rights in the areas of health and rehabilitation services, care, education and employment and in the areas of leisure and sports and participation in the cultural life with the community. The non-issuance of the disabled card – provided for in the Disability Law to provide a group of services, including health; rehabilitation; educational and social security services to the disabled and their families – has remained the main obstacle that confronts the disabled persons’ enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. This contributes to the deterioration of the economic and social rights of disabled Palestinians. It should be noted that the majority of disabled Palestinians and their families are suffering from extreme poverty, deprival of many rehabilitation and care services and shortages of many medical devices needed form many of them.
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PCHR calls:
- Upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, the different institutions of the United Nations and international governmental and non-governmental organizations to exert pressure on IOF to compel them to stop their violations against the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law and the International Human Rights Law and against the Palestinian civilian population. It is essential that the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip be lifted.
- For the immediate cessation of all forms of violations committed by IOF against Palestinian persons with disabilities, including killing and causing injuries, and all violations against the institutions that provide care and rehabilitation services to the disabled.
- Upon the international community to obligate the Israeli occupation authorities to respect international human rights instruments, including those concerning the rights of the disabled.
- For putting an end, immediately, to the ongoing fragmentation of the institutions of the Palestinian National Authority, that has caused severe effects on the rights of the Palestinian civilians in general and on the rights of Palestinian persons with disabilities in particular.
- Upon the Palestinian National Authority to immediately issue the disabled card, stipulated in the Palestinian Disability Law, to relieve the disabled and ensure decent life to them and to their families.
- Upon governmental institutions and ministries to commit to the provisions of the Palestinian Disability Law, to ensure the employment of at least 5% of the disabled in these institutions and ministries.
- Upon the Ministry of Education to make available the secondary education to the persons with hearing disability, as a commitment to the principle of providing equal educational opportunities to all based on equality and non-discrimination.