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21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem

24 July 2014

On Wednesday, 23rd of July, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva held a special session on the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem. Recently, WILPF has released a Position Statement and in the last day sent an Open Letter to the 15 Member States of the UN Security Council as well as the Israeli and Palestinian Missions.

This blog is a summary of the 21st Special Session on the UN Human Rights Council that took place in Geneva yesterday.

In her opening statement, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke to the Council about the heavy impact of Israel’s military operation “Protective Edge,” that resulted in the death of more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 74 women and 147 children. She told the Council that there was a “strong possibility that international law had been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” condemning both Israel and Hamas for the “life of chronic insecurity and recurring escalation in hostilities,” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Kyung-Wha Kang, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator condemned the assault as well, and told the Council that at least 18 medical facilities, including five UNRWA health clinics, had been hit by airstrikes and shellings since the beginning of the operation. He spoke about the destruction of Gaza’s already poor infrastructure and the severe impact of the seven-year blockade that had destroyed Gaza’s economy causing high unemployment and a growing dependence on international assistance.

In his statement to the Council, the Israeli Ambassador, Eviatar Manor, told the Council that Israel was doing its duty of protecting its people. He mentioned that the Human Rights Council has failed to protect Israel against Hamas and said that the Council would gain “its moral authority” when condemning Hamas as well. He criticised the Council for holding this special session, calling this decision “misguided, ill-conceived and counterproductive” to the ceasefire efforts.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, Riad Malki, condemns the actions of Israel and said that the fundamental right to life of the Palestinians was severely endangered. He accused Israel of violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions saying that Israel is punishing 1.8 million citizens in Gaza.

In the general debate, most countries condemned the Israeli assault and supported the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire.  Similarly, a few members showed disappointed in the UN Security Council’s inability to draft a resolution to protect the Palestinians. Canada, the US, Italy on behalf of the EU and the UK were among the countries that condemned the firing of missiles by Hamas and emphasised their support to Israel’s right to defend itself.

After statements and debate by the Member States, civil society added their condemnation of the Israeli operation. In a Joint statement submitted by the Union of Arab Jurists, the General Arab Women Federation, the Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, Israel was accused of violating international law. It was only, UN watch, Europe Union of Jewish Students, World Jewish Congress and Amuta for NGO Responsibility that defended Israel’s operation in Gaza. Though several women rights activists were present, the gender aspect of this conflict was overshadowed by the gravity of the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a whole.

The six hour long session ended with the vote on resolution (A/HRC/S-21/L.1) that ensures the respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The resolution was adapted by a vote of 29 States in favour, 1 against and 17 abstentions. The United States was the only country that voted against the resolution calling it one sided and the EU as whole abstained.

The resolution entails a dispatch of an independent, international Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and the international human rights law in the context of the military operation and to report to the Council in its twenty-eighth session.

The resolution also recommends that the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as depository of the Forth Geneva Convention, reconvene the conference of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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