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Human Rights Film Network Calls for Permanent Ceasefire and Protection of Civilians

December 1, 2023 - The Human Rights Film Network (HRFN), comprised of around 50 human rights film festivals from around the world, joins major international human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as cultural and film collectives and millions of voices around the world, in urgently calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire on all parts and the protection of all civilians in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The HRFN strives to promote a broad concept of human rights, based on international standards as embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Law by promoting exchange, communication and collaboration regarding the representation of human rights issues in moving pictures.

With several festivals from the region among our Network, including one in Gaza, we support and are in solidarity with our members and their families suffering from the direct impact of the bombings and attacks in the Palestinian Territories and the region.

In addition to the ceasefire, we call for an end to the siege imposed by Israel on Gaza that will allow Palestinian civilians to access lifesaving humanitarian aid and prevent thousands of additional Palestinian civilians from being killed by Israel's bombardment of Gaza and by the absence of access to food, water, medicine and fuel.

At the time of this publication the death toll in Gaza stands at over 15.000, the majority children, women and the elderly. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed the West Bank. Around 1.200 civilians were killed in Israel. We mourn each and every life lost, as well as those forever changed by trauma and loss.

We understand the immense polarization that currently exists within the world of film, art and culture regarding responses to the events this past month. As a geographically and culturally diverse network of festivals that use film as a tool to raise awareness, educate and promote discussion on human rights, as well as elevate the voices of oppressed and marginalized communities, we recognize the enormous pain and deep trauma suffered by civilians in Palestine, Israel and around the world. Our collective experience delivering human rights-themed films to diverse audiences in many parts of the world, including many on the Israel-Palestine conflict, makes us appreciate now more than ever the critical importance of an inclusive, human rights-centered approach to this issue.

In recent days, over 30 UN experts have called on the international community to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people, and human rights monitors are raising the alarm on ethnic cleansing in Gaza, as over a million civilians are forcibly displaced from their homes and communities under the threat of death and have no safe haven to flee to inside the territory -- with schools, hospitals and other shelters also under attack.

In light of this, we echo calls by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights among others to "protect the lives of civilians caught up in the armed hostilities as required by International Law", including Palestinian and Israeli civilians. As Human Rights Watch said, “willfully impeding relief supplies is a war crime, as is collectively punishing civilians for the actions of armed groups”. We join the chorus of voices around the world asking Hamas to immediately release all Israeli and international hostages in Gaza. We ask for Israel to release thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, held under administrative detention.

In the spirit of our shared mission, we support calls by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, as well as human rights organisations including B’Tselem and many others, to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories as defined by International Law, as well as the siege on Gaza, to restore universal human rights for the Palestinian people, and for both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and enjoy full self-determination as a means of achieving lasting justice and peace in the region.

The raw material from which our festivals are built consists of films that tell powerful stories about people and movements that are often underrepresented and underreported in the media, and our impact rests on screening these films and sparking discussion and engagement with these human rights issues among our audiences. We urge for the protection of Palestinian journalists in Gaza, who have been killed in record numbers as they report from there. As Reporters without Borders has stated, "Journalism is in the process of being eradicated in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s refusal to heed calls to protect media personnel". We add our voices to RSF's call to allow international media to enter Gaza and independently report from the territory in the same way that international journalists are also reporting on the conflict from other locations.

To highlight and call attention to the human rights and humanitarian catastrophe, Network festivals will be holding special thematic editions and screenings.

Karama Jordan, taking place on December 5-12th, will dedicate its upcoming edition to Palestine: "Karama HRFF in its 14th year is not just another edition; it is a special tribute to Gaza-Palestine—a heroic city and its resilient people... This special edition, titled 'Palestine', serves as a protest and a demonstration of solidarity with one of the most just causes in our modern history." The Western Sahara International Film Festival (FiSahara) will also open a Palestine window at its Madrid edition on December 15-17. Another special screening on Palestine is organized by Puñawaki the Seventh Eye is Yours (Sucre, Bolivia) on December 8th. More initiatives will follow.


Human Rights Film Network

While all members of the HRFN are united by the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the defense of human rights, they are diverse in their composition, focus, perspectives, institutional constraints, as well as the geographic and political context they operate in, with some working in extremely challenging ecosystems and conditions.

 *Reflecting the complexity of the situation and other factors, the following festivals are not signatories on this statement. All strongly reaffirm their support and concern for our colleagues and their communities in the region and unequivocally support human rights for all affected by this crisis.

  • ACT Human Rights Film Festival, United States
  • Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Ukraine
  • International Human Rights Film Festival, Albania
  • Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival, Germany
  • Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Hungary