London, 16 May 2023- Today, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) released a report on Israel’s recent procedures on the entry and residence of foreign nationals in the West Bank. These procedures severely restrict the ability of foreign nationals, including millions of people with Palestinian heritage, to visit, work in, study or volunteer in the Occupied West Bank.
The new procedures, known as ‘COGAT 22’, were issued by the Israeli military body known as Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories. The procedures are confusing, complex and arbitrary, which allows broad discretion to Israeli army officials to deny entry, often on the basis of profiling individuals based on racial and ethnic origin. The process is further exacerbated by the fact that there are no clear routes for appeal.
The COGAT 22 procedures formalise shocking mass surveillance tactics, designed to restrict, track, and trace the travel of foreign nationals to the Occupied West Bank, particularly those with family and business connections to the West Bank. Personal data on land claims, inheritance, and even the names and national ID numbers of relatives can be recorded, with complete disregard for people’s privacy and dignity.
Speakers at the event held at 33 Bedford Row, included Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; Stephen Cragg KC, from Doughty Street Chambers, representing Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) and Dania Abul Haj, Legal Researcher at ICJP.
The report demonstrates how the regulations are incompatible with Israel’s duties and obligations arising out of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the rights to privacy and family life, freedom of movement, economic development, education, and the enjoyment of cultural rights.
COGAT 22 is a clear attempt to further Israel’s control over the Occupied West Bank and contributes to the further entrenchment of occupation, annexation and apartheid. By preventing Palestinian families where at least one member is a foreign national from being able to live together, Israel is creating a coercive environment designed to cause a ‘silent transfer’, by harassing entire families to leave the West Bank. Moreover, the COGAT 22 rules strengthen the environment of surveillance and control maintained by the Israeli military regime that makes day-to-day life in the West Bank unliveable.
The report calls on Israel to conduct a review of their non-compliance with international law, amend or repeal COGAT 22 procedures, and remove all arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian people’s rights and all visitors to the Occupied West Bank. ICJP also call on the international community, including Third States such as the UK, to publicly condemn the procedures, call for a review of Israel’s international obligations and monitor and protect the rights of their own citizens whose rights are infringed under these measures.
The launch event was attended by a group of organisations concerned with the right of entry including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Palestinian Committee, Council for Arab-British Understanding, Makan and Friends of Birzeit University. BHRC was also in attendance and members of the BHRC provided legal expertise in support of the drafting of the report.
Tayab Ali, Co-Director at ICJP, said:
“COGAT 22 is a draconian development that is designed to disrupt people’s lives, strip people of their rights and segregate people from one another. It is a classic tactic of divide and conquer and an entrenchment of Israeli apartheid. However, these new regulations simply formalise a reality that Palestinian people have been forced to live with for years.
It gives a totally blank check to border guards, as there is no requirement to provide any reasons in cases of denial of entry. It is a bureaucratic nightmare designed to tie people’s ankles together with red tape.
We are pleased to release this report so that there is better understanding of the repression of the right to entry that West Bank visitors are subjected to. It cuts West Bank Palestinians off from the rest of the world, so it is imperative that the international community holds Israel accountable for these arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on the exercise of people’s rights.”
Notes for editors
- The full copy of the report will be available here on 19th May 2023.
- For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact: Jonathan Purcell, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, at [email protected].