Yesterday, 03 December 2012, marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, while the suffering of the disabled in occupied Palestine continues. This suffering is the result of the Israeli practices against the Palestinian civilians and their property, in addition to the ongoing internal split that started in mid 2007. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was declared to confirm the respect, promotion and protection of the rights of the disabled people worldwide. These rights are based on the general principles of human rights, including the International Bill of Human Rights, which ensures equality, and protection against all forms of discrimination.
Palestinians with disabilities, like all Palestinian civilians, have not been immune to the war crimes and grave violations perpetrated against them by the Israeli forces. Since the beginning of 2012, Israeli forces killed 3 disabled persons, the Israeli forces claimed that a disabled person (who suffers from seizures and fainting) approached the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and as a result the Israeli forces opened intensive fire at him. The disabled person was wounded by many bullets throughout his body and died immediately. The two others people (two mentally disabled persons) were killed during the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip (14-21 November 2012). The first victim was killed when an Israeli warplane targeted him directly, while the second was killed when Israeli warplanes targeted farming land adjacent to his house, killing him while he was inside.
A third victim, a physically disabled child, was killed as he sustained shrapnel wounds when a home-made rocket landed in front of his house in the latest offensive. The large-scale violations perpetrated against disabled persons’ right to life and security of person, especially in time of the offensive, reflect that the Israeli forces do not take the minimal measures in order to avoid harming Palestinian civilians in general and the disabled in particular. All of this happened despite Israel’s ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that came into effect 4 years ago (on 03 May 2008).
The latest Israeli offensive further increases the number of disabled persons, resulting from certain injuries caused by Israeli attacks. During the offensive, 1,286 Palestinians, including 466 children and 219 women, were wounded. A large number of them had to undergo amputation of the limbs and had problems with their hearing and vision. Others suffered from psychological problems as a result of the attacks. It should be noted that the number of disabled persons in the Gaza Strip reaches 38,000 persons (i.e. 2.4% of population). The percentage of disability among men is 2.9% compared to 2.5% among women.
According to documentation of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the number of Palestinian disabled persons increased to 94, including 15 children and 7 women from the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000 until now. Additionally, over 110 disabled persons were shot by the Israeli forces during the Intifada.
During the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, rehabilitation institutions of the disabled were directly and indirectly attacked, as part of the attacks against civilian establishments in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli bombardment of Palestine Stadium, including the Paralympics Committee building that offers services to disabled athletes, resulted in the full destruction of both facilities. Moreover, the Israeli attacks resulted in the destruction of the al-Jazeera Sport Club, including a hall that contained a lot of sports equipment, serving the needs of many disabled athletes and young persons.
In Israeli prisons, there are currently 85 mentally and physically disabled Palestinians, who live under cruel health conditions, suffer from medical negligence and bad detention conditions. Some of these disabled persons suffer from paralysis or muscular dystrophy. Others underwent amputation operations as they sustained injuries before or during their detention. A large number of disabled persons in prisons were blackmailed while being questioned by Israeli interrogators who abused their needs for medical treatment.
At the internal level, Palestinian disabled people have been suffering due to the non-application of the law of the Palestinian Disabled Rights 4/1999, which allows them to enjoy their rights in relation to health care services, rehabilitation, education, employment, and other rights related to sports, participation in cultural life, and entertainment. The disabled have been waiting for the issuance of the disabled card, which gives them access to the main services in the fields of health, rehabilitation, training and education, for over 12 years.
The situation of the rights of disabled persons has deteriorated due the internal split that resulted in two governments in Gaza and Ramallah. This split hinders any true amendment of policies, measures, legislations and systems, which denies the disabled persons their rights, especially the rights codified in the international instruments relevant to the disabled persons’ rights in general.
The illegal closure, now ongoing for over 5 years, has impacted the economic and social conditions of disabled Palestinians. They and their families have suffered from extreme poverty as well as a lack of many necessary rehabilitation and health care services and medical devices.
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PCHR:
1- Calls upon the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli forces to put an immediate end to all human rights violations perpetrated against disabled Palestinians, including killing and injury;
2- Calls upon the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli forces to stop all forms of targeting of rehabilitation and educational institutions designed for disabled persons, including sport clubs;
3- Calls for an immediate end to all forms of grave violations committed against Palestinian 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;
4- Calls upon the international community to ensure Israel’s respect for international human rights, especially those pertaining to the rights of disabled persons;
5- Calls for an immediate end to the ongoing internal division that has had a catastrophic impact on the rights of Palestinians in general and on the rights of disabled persons in particular;
6- Urges the 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;
7- 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.