December 10th, 2006

Press Release

On the Occasion of the "International Human Rights Day"

Occupation and Siege are a Systematic Policy of Impoverishment of Palestinian People
Today marks the 58th anniversary of the International Human Rights day. It is the day the UN declared the issuance of the "International Declarations of Human Rights" to put new international foundations for enforcing and respecting the sacred life and dignity of human beings.

It might be a co-incidence for the birth of this declaration with the anniversary of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, still experienced by Palestinians up until today.

This year, the occasion is designated to focus on efforts of eliminating poverty worldwide under the theme "Fighting Poverty is a Matter of Obligation not Charity" for the mere fact that poverty is a genuine dilemma penetrating all over the world, particularity in developing countries.

This occasion comes as Palestine and the whole region are immersed in continuing incidents of violence, political instability, and violations of human rights. Although the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza led to absence of the physical existence of Israeli army from inside Gaza, it did not end the effective control of Palestinian civilian life; thus converting Gaza into a big prison with tremendous political, and socio-economical problems and challenges.

Israel has continued its policies of assassination, closures, expansion of settlements, and building the separation wall in the West Bank. Israel continued with its policy of strict political and economical siege, through policies of closures, restrictions, and more than 520 checkpoints partitioning the whole OPT and restricting freedom of movement. Israel persisted to use the policies of political assassinations, targeting innocent civilians and objects, confiscating land, uprooting trees, demolishing homes, and preventing citizens from using their natural resources such as land, water, and fishing wealth.

All such measures lead to impoverishment of Palestinian people through systematic policies of deprivation of resources including; natural resources and developmental and humanitarian assistance provided to Palestinians by the international community. In a recent report published by UNRWA, it was indicated that more than 64% of Palestinians live under poverty line. The report also mentioned that the conditions are alarming, where more than one million Palestinians in the OPT live in extreme poverty.

The unjust siege imposed by the international community, following the Palestinian democratic elections and the constitution of the Palestinian government by Hamas, contributed further to a huge increase in poverty and unemployment amongst Palestinians, particularly after the inability of the PA to pay the salaries of more than 160,000 public servants for the last 10 month. Consequently, such situation led to dangerous humanitarian and psychological repercussions.

Poverty has serious negative consequences on the psychosocial functioning of individuals, leading to an increase in mental disorders in general. For poor people, there is more increase in depression, anxiety, and somatization disorders. Moreover, poverty contributes to an increase in the rate of relapses among mental health patients.

The psychological suffering is reflected in the high levels of domestic, tribal, and community violence in general. Such violence is the main factor in the continuation of violence and instability in the whole region.

The international community has a responsibility today more than ever to find new mechanisms to enforce international law and ensure adherence to it. They should work on ensuring that all human beings, wherever they are, have equal opportunities and access to resources, which will lead to enforcement and protection of human rights, dignity, and achieving security & peace worldwide.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, we at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, call upon the international community, especially the signatories of the 4th Geneva Convention, and human rights organizations to fulfill their responsibilities and urge all countries to respect articles of international law. We, also, urge them to pressure Israel to prevent its continued violations of Palestinian human rights with all of its forms, and to urgently act on lifting the political and economical siege imposed on the Palestinian People.

Again, on the International Human Rights Day, we hope to convert the slogan "Fighting Poverty is a Matter of Obligation not Charity" into a reality.

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme