The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), established in 1993, is the national human rights Institution in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Its mission is to protect, monitor and promote human rights of Palestinians including obstacles and challenges that prohibit Palestinian Authorities (PA) from enforcing the rule of law.
In the oPt, the absence of a functioning legislative power since 2006 has systematised law-making by Presidential decrees and left state institutions to operate without proper oversight and accountability. The independence of the judiciary is also limited. The decade-long intra-Palestinian divide between the West Bank and Gaza Strip adds to the lack of democratic legitimacy of the national institutions.
In the fragile context of oPt, ICHR plays an increasingly important role. It raises citizens’ awareness about their rights and handles their complaints. It also builds capacities of law enforcement bodies and duty bearers on human rights principles. It assesses the treatment of persons in detention, and monitors how Palestinian legislations and policies comply with international law conventions and treaties, as well as the human rights status of vulnerable groups (women, children, persons with disabilities).
Every year, ICHR receives more than 3’000 complaints of human rights violations that mainly relate to police and security forces, but also to other state bodies. The most common complaints are about violations of the right to correct legal proceedings (including through arbitrary detention) and of the right to physical security. ICHR has also been fiercely advocating against torture and the death penalty through campaigns or public events. As a result of this advocacy, the PA acceded in December 2017 to the Optional Protocol against Torture and to the Protocol on the Abolition of the Death Penalty.
ICHR produces an annual report on human rights in Palestine that is widely distributed and referenced by citizens, civil society organisations. ICHR is recognized internationally as an independent body fully complying with the international standards for National Human Rights Institutions, the so-called Paris Principles.
Switzerland is committed to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a negotiated two-state solution. It aims at contributing to the establishment of an independent, viable, contiguous and democratic Palestinian state. Under its engagement on the promotion of and respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law, Switzerland, together with Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway, has supported the ICHR for many years. These like-minded donors are willing to reinforce ICHR capacity to take up the role of National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) against torture, to develop its expertise regarding reporting to ratified conventions and treaties, monitoring government plans, budgets and policies and localizing human rights culture through awareness campaigns. Through this work stream and responding to its obligation to monitor the compliance of PA institutions with their human rights obligations, ICHR already produced a shadow report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 2018.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) is respected by all Palestinian duty-bearers and is viewed as a non-partisan, autonomous, neutral and professional national human rights institution.
ICHR works at different levels such as at legislations, policies and regulations to ensure that human rights are brought into reality: It also directly reaches out to individuals (community members, school and university students, civil society organisations, security agencies staff and public sector servants) through awareness raising activities.
The National educational curriculum has integrated Human rights concepts including international conventions as key references in certain grades.
ICHR reviewed selected legislations, policies and regulations from a human rights point of view, such as the Presidential Decree on social security, or the policies to organize the Juvenile Justice Sector.
Citizen’s economic, cultural and social rights were incorporated into the formulation of the National Policy Agenda (201–2022).
ICHR’s shadow report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (July 2018) highlights important issues such as the safety of women and girls, their access to education, the high unemployment levels of women in particular, the need to adjust social and cultural behavioral patterns among men and women.
“We feel good when we can prevent acts of torture. Through our monitoring work, we were able to document a number of incidents… We visited the detention centre several times, intervened at the official level and were able to stop the use of torture…”. An ICHR Director in the West Bank.