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28 October 2013
Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Geneva, 21 October–1 November 2013
National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21*
I. Methodology and consultation process
1. The Report of the State of Israel was prepared in line with guidelines set out in Resolution 16/21 (A/HRC/RES/16/21) and its Annex, and Decision 17/119 (A/HRC/DEC/17/119) of the UN Human Rights Council. The report is based on the results of consultations between a wide range of government ministries and agencies.
II. Normative and institutional developments
A. International instruments
2. Further to Recommendation 2 (Mexico, Romania), on 28 September 2012 Israel ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) marking the successful end of a lengthy process of internal discussions.
3. The ratification signifies another milestone in the promotion of disability rights agenda in Israel throughout the last decade, which started with the Israeli Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law 5758-1998 and continued with the establishment of the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities in August, 2000.
4. In order to enforce and enhance accessibility compliance, an Inspection Department was established in 2008 under the auspices of the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This department currently employs nine inspectors, acting mainly in the fields of public transportation, telecommunication and planning and building. The Commission also employs four attorneys in its legal department and a fifth attorney who handles accessibility queries.
5. Since the submission of Israel's 2008 UPR national report, Israel has enacted an additional 9 sets of regulations mandating accessibility to all existing and new public buildings and services. Another set of regulations mandating accessibility to other public places such as beaches, parks, zoos and graveyards was finalized in Sept. 2013. Largely due to the enforcement efforts of the Commission and the courts, significant achievements may be noted:
(a) 70% of municipal buses in Israel are now accessible to people with sight, hearing, cognitive and mobility disabilities. This accessibility includes vocal announcement of bus stops, ramps, accessible signage, and wheelchair fastening belts.
(b) 60% of municipal bus stops, train stations and airports countrywide are accessible to persons with mobility disabilities.
(c) The Commission has informed all planning and building committees in Israel about their duties under the accessibility laws and regulations. Sample inspections have shown that, currently the committees have complied with the accessibility laws in about half of the cases.
(d) All major cell phone and telecommunications companies now offer disability-accessible phones, as well as telecommunications relay services for persons with hearing disabilities.
(e) The National Insurance Law (Amendment no. 109) 5768-2008 enables persons with disabilities to earn a monthly salary relative to their level of disability, without having to forgo their disability benefit, thus creating a powerful incentive to reenter the work force.
6. In addition to the aforementioned information, in 2012, the Civil Service had designated for the first time 90 positions for persons with disabilities, for the first time. A circular regarding these positions was disseminated to all Government Ministries. This was done in order to better integrate persons with disabilities in the labour market.
7. Israel's Commissioner for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Ahiya Kamara, was elected in September 2012 to the General Assembly to the Bureau of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for a term of two years. Israel has been involved in organizing side events, with the help of Israeli NGOs and human rights organizations, during recent annual sessions of the Conference of State Parties to CRPD. Two examples of such events are "Access to Justice in the Criminal System for Persons with Disabilities", together with the Israeli Bizchut, The Israeli Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities (13.9.2012); and "Persons with Disabilities' role in Developing Accessible Environments", with the International Disability Alliance (17.7.2013).
8. MASHAV - Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was involved in sharing Israel's knowledge and expertise on issues pertaining to persons with disabilities. In 2010-2011 MASHAV organized several workshops on equal educational opportunities for preschoolers with special need for Latin American decision makers and NGOs. Similarly, in 2011-2012 MASHAV worked in cooperation with the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe and INAPAM (Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores), the umbrella organization for older people in Mexico, to focus on the special needs of the elderly and disabled within the community.
B. Engagement and dialogue on human rights issues with International Bodies and NGOs
9. Further to Recommendations 7, 40 (Latvia, Jordan, Brazil, Azerbaijan), Israel has been regularly subject to significant, and often politically motivated scrutiny over the years, disproportional to the international attention received by other world regions. Nevertheless, Israel regularly cooperates with various international and domestic bodies and NGOs that deal with human rights issues. Israel complies with requests for dialogue as an expression of its appreciation for transparency and dialogue in a democratic society. This includes intensive relations with a variety of human rights bodies, compilation of detailed State reports and interactive dialogues with high ranking delegations who visit Israel. In 2008-2013 Israel was visited by a number of UNHRC Special Rapporteurs including the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (30.1–12.2.2012); the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (6-18.11.2011); and The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (20–27.1.2008). Israel also hosted visits by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (2–6.2.2009) and by the Program Officer in the Office of the Special Representative for Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (14–16.1.2013).
10. Israel is making genuine efforts to involve civil society in the process of articulating its periodic reports to all human rights treaty bodies. In addition to letters that are sent out to all the relevant Ministries and Governmental bodies, letters are also sent out to the relevant and leading NGOs, inviting them to submit comments prior to the compilation of the report through direct application, Moreover a general invitation to submit remarks is posted on the Ministry of Justice web site.
11. Israel is one of four states representing WEOG in the NGO Committee for two consecutive terms. Mission member, Mr. Yoni Ish Hurwitz, served as the 2012 Vice Chair and Rapporteur of the Committee on behalf of WEOG. During this period, Israel has helped NGOs from various countries receive “ECOSOC consultative status.” One key area of focus has been promoting the inclusion of LGBT organizations. In May 2013, together with the US, Belgium and Bulgaria, we successfully lobbied for two LGBT organizations from Austria and Australia to receive ECOSOC consultative status.
12. Since 2012, Government representatives participate in a project initiated by the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Law, with the aim of improving the cooperation between State authorities and civil society organizations in the working process of reporting to the UN human rights treaty bodies. Although civil society has always been invited to submit information in the process of preparing reports to treaty bodies, this innovative enhanced dialogue is the first of its kind in Israel. The first part of the project entailed creating a joint forum, attended by representatives of various state authorities, scholars and representatives of civil society organizations, which conducts an ongoing symposium to improve the cooperation between the parties in composing State reports that are submitted to these committees. The second stage includes inviting the civil society organizations participating in the project to comment on the State's draft report prior to its submission to the Committee. The first report that was chosen for this project is the 4th Periodic Report by the State of Israel to the ICCPR Committee. The overarching purpose of the project is to increase civil society's involvement in the process of forming the reports, and ultimately to enhance cooperation in implementing those human rights conventions in Israel.
13. In 2012, the concluding observations relating to Israel by the various human rights treaty bodies from 2007 onwards were translated to Hebrew and published on the Ministry of Justice website. Where available, links to UN translation into Arabic of these concluding observations were also published.
14. Human rights are given an additional valuable form, and are further entrenched into domestic law, by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has relied in a number of landmark cases on international human rights law, including citing international and regional human rights treaties and their interpretation by treaty bodies. Such cases include H.C.J. 5373/08 Abu Libdeh et. al. v. The Minister of Education (6.2.2011) (the right to education); H.C.J. 10662/04 Salah Hassan v. The National Insurance Institute (NII) (28.2.2012) (the contours of social and economic rights, primarily the right to a minimum standard of living); H.C.J. 7426/08 Tabeka v. The Minister of Education et. al. (31.8.2010) (the freedom from discrimination in education); H.C.J. 1181/03 Bar Ilan University v. The National Labour Court (28.4.2011) (the right to unionize and retirement rights); and H.C.J. 11437/05 Kav-Laoved v. The Ministry of Interior (13.4.2011) (rights of women migrant workers).
15. Further to Recommendation 12 (Austria), the State of Israel places no specific restrictions on the right of organizations to engage in activities for the promotion and observance of human rights. For legal purposes, these organizations are indistinguishable from any other organization: to the extent that they are registered as associations, they must comply with applicable law; in every other sense, human rights defenders fully enjoy the freedom to associate and to pursue their various aims. There are nearly 15,000 Israeli registered organizations working freely and fruitfully in the promotion of all human rights including gender equality, sustainable development, health, welfare, and education. It is worth noting that virtually any person or group who claims an interest may petition either an Administrative Court, or Israel's highest civil instance, the Supreme Court residing as the High Court of Justice, including the residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and any NGO. The organizations' complete access to the Courts has proven highly effective in guaranteeing human rights promotion and protection.
16. Further to Recommendations 3, 6 (Azerbaijan, France), in 2001 Israel established a joint inter-ministerial committee, headed by the Deputy Attorney General (Legal Advice), for reviewing and implementing concluding observations of human rights treaty bodies. This inter-ministerial team meets periodically and has promoted several significant changes in regard to various human rights issues.
C. Newly established institutions for protection and promotion of human rights
17. The Freedom of Information Unit – established within the Ministry of Justice, by Government Resolution no. 2950 of March 6, 2011. The establishment of a central unit aimed at promoting transparency is an expression of Israel's adherence to the value of open governance. The principle of transparency and the right of citizens to obtain information from government authorities has been enshrined in case law since the mid 1960's. The Unit constitutes a center of professional knowledge in the field of freedom of information and gathers relevant information, conducts public awareness campaigns and trains civil servants and other public employees. The Unit's primary role is to manage the work of freedom of information officers in the various Government Ministries and handle public complaints concerning freedom of information in the various Ministries as well as rectifying the errors discovered in the process. The Unit submits annual reports to the Government on the compliance of Israeli Ministries and other authorities with the provisions of the law. The first report was submitted in May 2013. The Courts have also played a key role in developing the freedom of information in Israel. In August 2012 the Supreme Court accepted an appeal by the NGO, Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel to publish the results of national assessment scores of elementary and middle school students. The former Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Justice Eliezer Rivlin, emphasized: "Information is the property of the public held in trust by the authorities, so that the authorities cannot decide for the public if exposure to said information would benefit them… A Government which takes the liberty to determine what is best for its citizens to know will end up deciding what is best for its citizens to think - and nothing contradicts true democracy more than this." (A.A. 1245/12 The Movement for Freedom of Information v. The Ministry of Education (23.8.2012)).
18. The Inspector for Complaints Against the Israel Security Agency (ISA) Interrogators – Following comprehensive deliberations, the Attorney General announced in November 2010, that the Inspector for Complaints against ISA Interrogators, which has been an administrative part of the Israel Security Agency, would become part of the Ministry of Justice and be subordinated - administratively and organizationally - to the Director General of the Ministry of Justice, as an external inspector. Israel is pleased to announce that the procedure of transferring the Inspector to the Ministry of Justice is nearing completion. In June 2013, Colonel (Ret.) Jana Modzgvrishvily was chosen to serve as the Inspector. Following this nomination, the Ministry of Justice is operating to create the additional required positions. Following the completion of the manning of these positions, the unit in the ISA will be dispersed.
19. Witness Protection Authority – established in 2008 within the Ministry of Public Security, pursuant to the Witness Protection Program Law 5769-2008. The Authority protects witnesses and their families prior to, during and after trial. The Authority is responsible for formulating policies for the protection of witnesses at risk, setting criteria for assessing threats and developing tools to protect witnesses based on those assessments. The Authority is also responsible for initiating relevant legislation and promoting international cooperation with foreign States. In April 2010, the Authority completed its initial phase of deployment and now has more than a dozen witnesses under its protection. Witnesses who do not meet the criteria for this heightened protection by the Authority are still provided protection by the Police or the Israeli Prisons Service (IPS).
20. National Council for Nutrition Security – established in 2011 within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, and tasked with the promotion and implementation of a national nutrition security plan for the Israeli population. The Council is chaired by Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, a professor of health economics and policy at Ben-Gurion University. The Government of Israel has allocated NIS 200 Million ($56 Million) for nutrition security which will be distributed based on the recommendations of the Council scheduled to be published in 2014.
III. Promotion and protection of human rights – progress and best practices
A. Gender based equality
21. Further to Recommendation 9 (Azerbaijan, Guatemala) Israel has been committed to gender equality ever since its establishment, and continues to promote and aspire to full and real equality in all aspects of life. While Israel, like many societies faces real challenges on gender equality issues, major progress has been made in recent years towards gender equality in the workplace and appropriate representation of women.
22. The Knesset enacted the Expansion of the Appropriate Representation of Women Law (Legislative Amendments) 5771-2011 which obligates appropriate representation for women in inquiry commissions and national examination committees. According to the new Lawthe Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister Office (the "Authority") will establish a list of women who are suitable and qualified applicants to take part in such committees. According to Section 3(4)(3) to the amendment, a woman who consider herself as suitable to be included in the Authority's list may apply to the Authority in order to be included, specifying her education, experience and training.
23. With the establishment of the 19th Knesset in February 2013, the percentage of female MK's increased from 19% to 22.5%. There are four female Ministers in Israel's new government, an increase from 9.7% (in the former Government) to 18%. There has been a significant increase of women in Israel's civil service. Currently, women comprise 64% of all civil servants. As of 2011, the percentage of women in high ranking positions in the civil service has risen to 32.6%. In government corporations, the percentage of female directors was 39% in 2011 and by the end of 2012 women comprised 42% of the directorates.
24. Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that according to the Equal Pay Law 5756-1996, once a female employee proved that her salary was significantly lower than that of a male employee performing the same task, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to prove that the difference in salary could be justified. If the employer fails to justify such difference a prima facie case of gender discrimination would be established. The former President of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch determined: "The principle of equality and the prohibition against discrimination are essential principles in our legal system and serve as a prerequisite for any democracy based on fairness and justice." (H.C.J. 1758/11 Orit Goren et. al. v. Home Center (Do It Yourself) Ltd., et. al. (17.5.2012)).
25. One of Israel's challenges in the area of gender based equality has been recent attempts by some groups to exclude women from the public sphere, within certain religious communities. The Government in December 2011 formed an inter-ministerial team whose task was to recommend various solutions for this problem. In close proximity, on January 5, 2012, the Attorney General appointed a team headed by the Deputy Attorney General (Civilian Affairs), to examine the legal aspects and ramifications of marginalization of women from the public sphere. The inter-ministerial team concluded its work and reported its recommendations to the Government on March 11, 2012. The Ministry of Justice's team submitted its own report to the Attorney General in March 2013 and in a meeting held on May 6, 2013, the Attorney General decided to adopt the team's recommendations urging local authorities to act swiftly and without delay to end all expressions of exclusion of women as they manifest in their respective jurisdictions. The work of both teams and other Israeli authorities has shown significant progress in a number of fields:
(a) The Attorney General ruled illegal the policy practiced by the Jerusalem-based ultra-orthodox radio station Kol Barama, which bars songs performed by women from its playlist and will not hire women as on-air presenters. The attorney General ordered the Second Television and Radio Authority, which has jurisdiction over local media stations, to end its negotiations with the radio station on the matter within six months, further stating that unless Kol Barama ends its discrimination against women, it will be taken off the air;
(b) Following some incidents of separation of women and men during funerals, the Director-General of the Ministry of Religious Services published in March 2012 a memorandum emphasizing the illegality of coercing gender separation in cemeteries, including the ban placed on women delivering a eulogy;
(c) Following a Supreme Court judgment from January 2011, all buses now include signs clarifying each passenger's right to sit wherever he/she wishes and that harassing a passenger in this regard may constitute a criminal offence (H.C.J. 746/07 Naomi Ragen et. al. v. The Ministry of Transport and Road Safety et. al. (5.1.2011)).
26. A very recent and significant example of the prominent role played by the Israeli judiciary in safeguarding women's rights and the rule of law is the conviction of the then incumbent President of the State of Israel, Moshe Katzav, of committing serious sex offences. On 30 December 2010, the Tel Aviv District Court found Mr. Katzav guilty of several serious sex offences, including rape. (S.Cr.C 1015/09 The State of Israel v. Moshe Katzav (30.12.10)). On March 22, 2011, the Court sentenced Mr. Katzav to seven years imprisonment, two years suspended imprisonment and compensation in the amount of 125,000 to his victims. In May 2011, Mr. Katzav appealed against his conviction and sentence and on November 10, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected his appeal.
B. Minority rights
27. Further to Recommendations 28, 29 (United Kingdom, Finland, Canada), Israel sees it as a national priority to increase equality between different communities in its diverse population. As noted by Israel in its first UPR presentation this challenge receives continued attention. In recent years, Israel has adopted long term programs, the total cost of which surpasses NIS 3 Billion ($831.4 Million).
28. Public Representation: Since 1994, the Government has been taking affirmative action measures to enhance the integration of Arab, Bedouin, Druze and Circassian populations into the Civil Service, including issuing legislative amendments and publishing tenders for mid-level positions solely to members of minority communities. Data indicates a steady increase in the rates of Arab, Druze and Circassian employees in the Civil Service. In December 2012, 8.4% of all the Civil Service employees were Arabs, including Bedouins, Druze and Circassians in comparison to 6.17% in 2007, 6.67% in 2008, 6.97% in 2009 and 7.52% in 2010. The number of Arab and Druze women employed in the Civil Service has also significantly increased in recent years. In 2011, there has been an increase of 30.6% in the rate of Arab and Druze women employed in the Civil Service in comparison to 2008.
29. The Knesset enacted the Expansion of Adequate Representation for Persons of the Ethiopian Community in the Civil Service (Legislative Amendments) Law 5772-2011 and the Expansion of Adequate Representation for Persons of the Druze Community in the Civil Service (Legislative Amendments) Law 5772-2012. These laws dramatically expand the affirmative action scheme applicable to persons of the Druze community and individuals who were born in Ethiopia or who have at least one parent born in Ethiopia. The new legislation requires Government Ministries and agencies, government corporations with more than 50 employees, and municipalities to apply the law regarding hiring for all positions and ranks. Furthermore Government Resolution 2506 from November 2010 which designated 30 positions (13 of which are new positions) in the Civil Service to persons from the Ethiopian population will be implemented during 2013. Currently the Ethiopian population constituted 1.5% of the Israeli population which actually closely parallels its representation in the Civil Service.
30. Economic, Social and Cultural Programs for the Arab Community –
(a) The Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian populations within the Ministry of the Economy, created in 2011 a program aimed at the development of industrial zones in the Arab population. The program is expected to increase employment opportunities in 13 Arab communities and villages. In some of the towns new industrial zones were established and in others existing industrial zones were expanded and upgraded. The budget for the five year program is NIS 81.5 Million ($22 Million). An additional NIS 15 Million ($4 Million) will be used for the establishment of regional financial companies.
(b) A professional team was established in 2011 to examine barriers to broader participation by the Arab population in higher education. The team issued an interim report that included recommendations for a holistic support system, including establishing a national center for information, strengthening pre-academic preparatory programs, strengthening assistance to the Arab population during academic studies and supporting programs to reduce student dropout from academic institutions. To implement the recommendations NIS 305 Million ($84.53 Million) has been allocated for a five-year period.
(c) The Government approved in September 2010 Resolution no. 2289 which introduced a multi-year plan for the integration of women of minority populations in higher education institutions. The Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Localities, including Druze and Circassian was tasked with the execution of this plan with a budget of NIS 4 Million ($1.14 Million). The plan, intended for up to 500 Arab girls, includes preparations for entry examinations for higher institutions, strengthening English and Hebrew language skills, creation of support groups, and employment guidance workshops at the end of the studies.
(d) The Ministry of Culture initiated and funded in 2008 the establishment of a new museum dedicated to the Arab culture. The Ministry allocated NIS 600,000 ($162,000) for the purpose of acquiring the collection of the museum, which will be based in Um Al-Fahm, and for locating additional contributors.
31. Economic, Social and Cultural Programs for the Druze and Circassian Communities –
(a) Government Resolution no. 2861 of February 2011 launched a comprehensive four-year program (2011-2014) for the promotion of economic development and advancement of the Druze and Circassian populations. The program aims at investing primarily in employment, education, infrastructure and transportation. The Program's total budget is NIS 680 Million ($184 Million).
(b) The Knesset enacted in 2007 the Druze Cultural Heritage Center Law 5767-2007 aimed at facilitating the establishment of a Druze Cultural Heritage Center. The Center, which location and structure are still under development, will promote research and organize educational programs. It will also coordinate different activities including tours, lectures, conferences and exhibitions geared towards developing, enriching and promoting knowledge relating to the different aspects of the Druze culture, history and heritage.
32. Economic, Social and Cultural Programs for the Ethiopian Community –
(a) The Government approved Resolution 4624 in May 2012 "Improvement of the Absorption of Persons from Ethiopia". Additional support and budgets will be allocated to assist the Ethiopian population in housing, employment, adequate representation in the Civil Service, awareness raising and increasing access to religious services.
(b) The Knesset enacted in April 2012, the Ethiopian Jewish Community Heritage Center Law 5772-2012, aimed at establishing a center for research and commemoration of the Ethiopian community's heritage and an archive. The center will collect and map archive materials concerning the Ethiopian community and will centralize research activities concerning this community. The Law established the Center's Council, which is composed of 13 members, at least one third of which are required to be of Ethiopian origin or their descendants. As of June 2013, the Center's Council is in advanced stages of appointment and will begin its activity as soon as all its members are appointed.
(c) The Knesset enacted in July 2008 the Sigd National Holiday Law 5768-2008, to be celebrated every year on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (scheduled in 2013 for 31 October). The Sigd is a traditional Ethiopian fast day, dedicated to prayers and giving of thanks. The Ethiopian community celebrates the holiday by holding a large ceremony on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, followed by a procession to the Western Wall.
(d) The Ministry of Culture initiated in 2012 an Ethiopian culture festival in 12 cities and localities with large Ethiopian communities. The festival included music, dance shows, exhibitions of Ethiopian artists, traditional Ethiopian food and clothing fairs.
(e) In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in a case which dealt with the insufficient integration of Ethiopian pupils into educational programs within the city of Petah Tikvah. The Court noted that "the right for education and the right for equality in education are constitutional rights" (H.C.J. 7426/08 Tebeka- Advocacy for Equality & Justice for Ethiopian Israelis v. The Minister of Education et. al. (31.8.2010)).
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