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Legal Complication

Legal Complication and Misinterpretation of Rights

This link provides access to the interpretations of the United Nations Refugee Agency. It should be considered here that the Agency can change its interpretations, but…

Any interpretation from the United Nations Refugee Agency to the international Convention for Refugees that results in the unfulfillment of the assignments stated in the Convention would be a contravention to the principle of the international legislation of human rights. It would be a real disregard to the rights of refugees, and not just a limited adverse action. This is caused by an incorrect interpretation of the law. The following are the reasons:

The international law which determines the rights of refugees and states’ obligations towards them is the 1951′s Geneva Refugee Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This law, in combination with the 1967′s draft, includes an article, (1-D), that sets forth the following provisions:

Article (1-D) Clause No. 1:

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

Article (1-D) Clause No. 2:

When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.

The implication of Article (1-D) and other conventions do emphasize that Article (1-D)applies only to the Palestinians. Other conventions include: the Convention of the Refugee Agency, Statutes of UNRWA, and the United Nations Resolution 194, which is one of the documents used by the international UNCCP towards Palestine. The Refugee Agency interprets two words in Article (1-D), protection or assistance, by restricting them to the laws and work system of UNRWA, which is an international agency whose duty is only to provide assistance and relief to refugees. This is the statement of the General Assembly’s Resolution 302. UNRWA was not officially charged with the task of protection, originally assigned to the UNCCP.

The two words, protection and assistance, have completely different meanings in the statute for refugees. In the statutes of UNRWA, the definition of refugees applied to the Palestinians is a narrow one, in accordance with its assignment of providing assistance. But the rights of Palestinian refugees are not confined to assistance (food, housing, livelihood). This is in accordance with the provisions of the relevant General Assembly’s Resolutions,Resolutions 181and 194. Based on a recommendation in the latter Resolution, an independent “protection” agency, the international UNCCP, was established. It was entrusted with protecting the rights of the Palestinian refugees and settling their status by one of the three solutions documented by the Resolution: With complete free choice and independent will, a refugee chooses to be returned to his country of origin, resettling him in the hosting country (incorporated into the new community), or resettling him in another country. So, UNCCP is entrusted with implementing the task of protection, which was previously entrusted to the Refugee Agency, only with very limited authorization in terms of the requirements of a fair solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.

In Clause No. 2 of Article (1-D), the Convention determined that the settlement of the status of those individuals, falling under this Article, shall be dependent on the related resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. As the status of refugees is not yet settled in accordance with the relevant Resolution of the United Nations, and there is no alternative system to provide refugees with protection, the tasks of which are assigned to UNCCP, this causes the status of refugees to fall under the definition mentioned in Clause No. 2 of Article (1-D), and nullifies the exception determined in Clause No. 7 of the Basic System of the United Nations Refugee Agency:

“The trusteeship of the High Commissioner…. c) Continues having the protection or assistance from other agencies or bodies of the United Nations”.

We also notice the word “or” in Article (1-D): “When such protection or assistance has ceased”. In Article (1-D), the international Convention for Refugees states: “…without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations….”. It implies that the Palestinian refugee is still deem so, a refugee, the matter which authorizes him to continue availing himself of and enjoying the international assistance and protection as well as benefits resulting from the international Convention for Refugees. Of course, his position will not come to a solution unless it is in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.

In fact, the authorization of the Refugee Agency, as equivalent to the Statute for Refugees, adopts a comprehensive program of assistance and protection for the refugees described in the Statute for Refugees. That system ensures the refugees all the rights included in the international laws. Also, its authorization recommends the representation of refugees and talking on behalf of them in order to secure protection needed to them.

On the other hand, the definition of the term “refugee” applied by UNRWA, the one adopted by the Agency when interpreting the international Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, is applicable only to individuals from Palestine who fulfill certain standards and are in “need” to such help. With this restriction of rights just to assistance and the statutes of UNRWA, rights are ignored that are fundamentally admitted, relevant to their rights and referred to in Clause No. 2 of Article (1-D); restrictions are laid upon the rights of refugees recognized by the Convention; and the Palestinian refugees are treated, based on its interpretations of the law, as being excluded inside the international system from the comprehensive coverage of rights of protection, just as done with other refugees all over the world, and not having the same system of guarantees and assurance of their rights or the same assistance and aids provided to them.

that is on the contrary to the Convention which emphasizes and ensures in the given Article that if either of the two agencies failed to accomplish its assigned role prior to any final solution to the position of refugees, then the task is moved to the Agency to compensate, and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is implemented, immediately, completely, and with no pre-conditions or restrictions on a refugee.

By imposing that restriction on rights in relation to which the Convention determines in its script the conditions and causes of entitlement, i.e. identical to the definition mentioned in the Convention, the Palestinian refugees are not enjoying equality before the law (under these interpretations) to be provided with protection compared to the protection provided to other Non-Palestinian refugees.

This is a discrimination from the Agency in providing its protection to individuals who fulfill the description and cause of being entitled with protection and assistance. Pre-restrictions are imposed for obtaining the rights prescribed by the international Convention for Refugees. Such interpretations enforced by the Agency and its restriction of the rights of the Palestinian refugees to an inferior level than the rights secured to other refugees are a formal act of contempt to the civil and political rights of refugees. In deed, it is a destruction to the principle of establishing justice and equality among people, which is called for by the international legislation of human rights. It also runs against what is stipulated by the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights:

Article 5:

1. Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.

2. There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the fundamental human rights recognized or existing in any State Party to the present Covenant pursuant to law, conventions, regulations or custom on the pretext that the present Covenant does not recognize such rights or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent.

Article 26:

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Such interpretations as these contradict with what is called for by the principles included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 2:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 7:

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 28:

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

So, it is clear that the Refugee Agency, both in its interpretations of the rights of the Palestinian refugees and even in its application of these interpretations, adopts selective policies, treating the Palestinian refugees on the basis of dissociated rights. They are treated as having no rights inside the international community to be covered by the comprehensive system for guarantees of rights as secured to other refugees. The reluctance of the United Nations Refugee Agency to accomplish the assignment stipulated by the Convention, setting restrictions and conditions for the Palestinian refugees to get its protection, restricting their rights to a lower level than rights and guarantees entitled to other refugees, and ignoring the relevant Resolutions and their subsequent works, all that involve rejection of the rights of the Palestinian refugees, infringement of the Resolutions related to their rights, deliberate ignoring of rights approved by international legislations, and destruction to the principle of justice and equality.

It is recommended to read through the abstract of a study submitted by the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees’ Rights (BADIL).

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