December 5, 2013
Yesterday, 03 December 2013, marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the General Assembly proclaimed 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons (Resolution 47/3). This resolution came so as to stress the importance of respecting, advocating and protecting the rights of disabled persons worldwide. Such rights are based on the general principles of human rights, including the International Bill of Human Rights, which contribute to realizing equality between people without discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, color or social standing. This occasion coincides with the slogan proclaimed by the UN this year in order to break barriers and open doors for a society that embraces everyone. The deterioration of disabled persons’ rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) systemically continues as a result of the Israeli serious violations against Palestinian rights, in addition to the ongoing internal split, especially in light of non-application of Law No. 4 of 1999 on the right of persons with disabilities and international standards of human rights, including the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
According to data available at the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of disabled persons has mounted to around 113,000 persons, forming around 2.7% of the total population. 75,000 of whom live in the West Bank, making up 2.9% of the West Bank total population, and around 38,000 live in the Gaza Strip, making up 2.4% of the Gaza strip total population. The percentage of disability among males is 2.9% compared to 2.5% among females. The above data indicates a steady rise in the number of disabled persons in the oPt due to sustaining injuries resulting from the Israeli military attacks since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. According to documentation of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000, Israeli forces and settlers have killed 7,017 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including 5,340 ones in the Gaza strip, and 1,790 ones in the West Bank. 94 civilians have sustained disabilities, including 15 children and 7 females. Moreover, around 21,496 Palestinians were injured, including 18,262 ones who were injured during al-Intifada and Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. More than 600 persons suffered various disabilities especially during the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive and latest Israeli offensive in 2012. Dozens of injured persons had to undergo amputations of the lower or higher limbs or even both of them. Additionally, the number of persons with disabilities who were injured in the Gaza Strip mounted to more than 110.
In the Gaza Strip, the rights of disabled persons have continued to deteriorate due to the ongoing Israeli policy of imposing the illegal closure, which is a form of collective punishment banned under the international humanitarian law. Conditions of the disabled persons have worsened due to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip resulting from the Israeli-imposed tightened restrictions on the freedom of movement of people in addition to the serious and catastrophic shortage of fuel and power supplies, medicines and medical supplies, including assisting medical devices. This affects the major services offered to disabled persons and denies them access to services of health, water, clean drinking water, environmental health and education and rehabilitation. Care and rehabilitation associations for persons with disabilities suffer from ongoing crises due to the daily outages of electricity for long hours – around 12-16 hours daily. These associations fail to offer health services and rehabilitation, which depend on electricity supply. On the other hand, hundreds of disabled persons are not able to come from their houses to these associations or practice their normal life due to their inability to move, especially persons with mental and physical disabilities who depend on assisting devices when moving. The Gaza hospitals are unable to provide many health services to disabled persons due to the ongoing electricity outages in these facilities resulting in not turning on hundreds of medical devices required for disabled persons in different medical departments. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 has resulted in the ongoing deterioration of economic and social conditions of disabled Palestinian persons as they and their families suffer extreme poverty and lack of care and rehabilitation services and necessary medical devices.
Persons with disabilities have suffered the implications of the Palestinian political split for the last 7 years at the level of enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The economic and social conditions of them increasingly deteriorate due to the non-application of the Palestinian Law no. 4 of 1999 on the rights of disabled persons and absence of well to promote and protect their rights under the international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Standards of living, which these persons and their families should enjoy, have aggravated due to irregular payment of social allowances to them for long periods, which may extend to 4 consecutive months, despite their low financial value. Disabled persons still suffer poor services included in the card of persons with disabilities in the Palestinian law such as health care services, rehabilitation, education, employment, training, adequate facilities and the easy access to them in addition to their rights in the fields of entertainment, sports, and participation in the cultural life in society. 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 13 years.
The situation of the rights of disabled persons has deteriorated due to 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 deny the disabled persons their rights, especially the rights codified in the international instruments relevant to the disabled persons’ rights in general.
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 ensure Israel’s respect for international human rights, especially those pertaining to the rights of disabled persons;
3. 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; and
4. Urges the Palestinian Authority 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.