Visa refusal for UN human rights staff in Palestine part of wider ‘worrying trend’: Bachelet
🇮🇱#Israel’s refusal to issue or renew visas for UN Human Rights staff working in the occupied #Palestinian territory will not prevent the Office from monitoring & reporting on the human rights situation on the ground –UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) August 30, 2022
Search for solutions
Although the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) in Palestine has been operating for 26 years, the 15 international staff there “had no choice but to leave” in 2020, said Ms. Bachelet.
“Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years,” she added. “During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage.”
Ms. Bachelet reminded the Israeli authorities of their obligations as a UN Member State. Countries must cooperate in good faith with the UN and grant its officials the privileges and immunities necessary for them to independently exercise their functions.
This includes exempting UN officials from immigration restrictions and dealing with their visa applications as speedily as possible.
“Israel’s failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staff’s access is inconsistent with these standards, and I call on the Government to meet its international obligations in this regard,” she said.
Expulsions and refusals rise
Referring to the current context, the human rights chief noted that a growing number of UN staff and mechanisms, non-governmental organisations, and others are being expelled or refused entry.
“Israel’s treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block human rights access to the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said. “This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide.”
Killings and violence increase
Last year, Israeli Forces killed 320 Palestinians, a ten-fold increase over 2020, she reported. Troops also injured 17,042 people, or six times the 2020 figure.
Furthermore, the UN recorded the highest number of incidents of settler violence since recording began in 2017, while arrests of Palestinians doubled. So far this year, Israeli forces have killed at least 111 more Palestinians.