Briefing notes on Occupied Palestinian territory / West Bank, Saudi Arabia and Egypt

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
11 Geneva 2011

(1) Occupied Palestinian territory / West Bank
The UN human rights office is concerned about a spike in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank since the beginning of September. We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Palestinian village of Qusra, which lies close to Nablus in the northern West Bank. Qusra has been targeted by settlers at least six times in the past six weeks. The attacks took various forms and are emblematic of the phenomenon of settler violence throughout the West Bank. They resulted in substantial property loss and damage in addition to cases of serious physical injury. A mosque was torched, hundreds of trees were cut down and a Palestinian civilian was killed following the intervention of an IDF unit. Palestinians from this village have in the past already lost access to hundreds of acres of land due to settlement expansion and erection of outposts.

Two of the most recent examples include the shooting dead of a Palestinian civilian by an IDF soldier in Qusra on 23 September. On the same day, two Palestinian minors were detained for two hours during which they were allegedly beaten up and humiliated by the IDF soldiers before being released. In the early morning of 6 October, Palestinians from the village discovered at least two hundred trees belonging to four different families had been cut down. The trees represented the main source of income for the families.

A report by the Secretary-General entitled “Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” is due to be released in the next few days. It addresses the continuation of Israeli settlement construction and its impact on the human rights of the residents including violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property and the lack of accountability for settler violence. The report was prepared by the UN human rights office in the occupied Palestinian territory in cooperation with various other United Nations entities.

We call on the Government of Israel to fulfil its obligation under international human rights and international humanitarian law to protect Palestinian civilians and property in the occupied Palestinian territory. More needs to be done to effectively prevent attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians and, when they do occur, they should be properly investigated by the Israeli authorities. Victims should also be appropriately compensated for their losses. With the olive harvest season beginning in a few days time, we urge the Israeli authorities to take effective measures to stop attacks by settlers in the occupied West Bank.

(2) Saudi Arabia
We are deeply distressed at the public execution in Saudi Arabia last Friday of 10 men, eight of whom were foreign migrant workers. We note that, of the at least 58 people reportedly executed in Saudi Arabia this year, 20 were migrant workers.

We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all other States that still maintain the death penalty to respect international standards that provide safeguards to ensure protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. About 140 of the 193 Member States of the United Nations are believed to have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either legally or in practice. We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join these states and establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

(3) Egypt
At least 24 people are reported to have been killed - mostly Christians - and hundreds injured as a result of the protest against a church attack in Aswan turning violent in Cairo on Sunday. Eyewitnesses to the incident claimed to have seen military vehicles driving into the crowd of protestors and running over some demonstrators. Several of the dead were found to have crushed limbs and others reportedly had bullet wounds.

We express our regret over the loss of life as well as over those injured while attempting to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. We recall that the Egyptian revolution was achieved through non-violence and responsible assembly and expression. We urge the authorities to ensure the protection of all, including minority groups, in their rightful exercise of such freedoms.

We call on the authorities to investigate and to ensure the impartiality and independence of the investigation.
For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

Follow us on social media: