A joint press release by NCF and Adalah
Six UN Special Rapporteurs issued a joint letter to Israel in May 2019, recently made public, raising serious concerns about the Israeli government’s plans to forcibly displace 36,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Naqab/Negev. The letter also raised grave concerns regarding the persecution and detention of Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhi’m A-Turi, a Bedouin human rights defender and leader of the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-‘Arāgīb, for his protests against home demolitions and forced evictions.
The letter was signed by the UN human rights experts, namely, the Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights; on adequate housing; on human rights defenders; on internally displaced persons; on minority issues; and on racism and racial discrimination.
The letter follows both a joint submission by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) and the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF) to the UN Special Procedures, regarding the arrest and persecution of Sheikh Sayah, and statements delivered and meetings held in March 2019 by Adalah and NCF with several of the Special Rapporteurs and/or their representatives in Geneva regarding Israel’s mass eviction plans of the Bedouin in the Naqab/Negev.
The Special Rapporteurs noted the announcement of the Authority for Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev (“the Bedouin Authority”) in January 2019 that it plans to “evacuate” 36,000 Bedouin citizens in order to build or expand a highway, a weapons testing facility, a military firing zone, a high voltage electricity line, and a phosphate mine. Adalah and human rights partner organizations are currently challenging several of these “development induced displacement” plans before Israeli courts and land planning committees.
The Special Rapporteurs wrote in their letter: “These massive population transfers suggest that not all viable alternative solutions to avoid forced evictions, a gross violation of human rights which also constitutes internal displacement, have been considered, as required under international human rights law.”
The letter stated that the Israeli government’s demolition of Bedouin homes could “exacerbate the overall sentiment within the Bedouin minority of a continued and mounting persecution” and warned about the “irreparable damage these demolitions and evictions have on the traditional way of life of the Bedouin minority, their livelihoods, their specific forms of living and cultural practices, and their relationship to their land.”
In addition, the Special Rapporteurs expressed serious concern of the arrest and detention of Sheikh Sayah, “which is reportedly linked to his advocacy and work on the Bedouin minority’s land claims, including his and his family’s claim over land in Al-ʿArāgīb region, which was previously expropriated by the Israeli state authorities.”
They added that Sheikh Sayah’s land claim case “is one of several thousand land claims that members of the Bedouin minority have filed since the 1970s, the majority of which have been stalled mainly due to counter claims that the Government of Israel has filed to defend the legality of expropriation of the claimed Bedouin land.”
The Special Rapporteurs requested that the Israeli government provide further information regarding its concerns and urged that “all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations.”
NCF’s International Advocacy and Research Coordinator, Tal Avrech commented on the UN Special Rapporteurs’ statements: “We are pleased that the international community is speaking out about the State of Israel’s policy of expropriation and dispossession of Bedouin land in the Negev/Naqab. The persecution and incarceration of the human rights defender Sheikh Sayah, who is leading a non-violent struggle for his land, is just one of the many violent means the State of Israel uses to demoralize and intimidate its Bedouin citizens.”
Adalah’s Attorney, Myssana Morany commented: “The importance of a communique by six human rights experts to the State of Israel raising grave concerns about human rights violations against Bedouin citizens cannot be overstated. Although Israel withdrew the Prawer Bill, it still treats the Bedouin as nomads and trespassers and continues to implement policies of forced displacement using different tools such as high financial fines and “development” of large-scale projects that will lead to the direct forced transfers of whole villages. These projects will generate a coercive environment rife with human health and environmental risks.”
Read the UN Special Rapporteurs’ Letter: