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“No end in sight,” says UN human rights expert after five decades of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory

GENEVA (19 May 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of   human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, has expressed his deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in the OPT, on the eve of the 50th year of the Israeli occupation.

“Occupations are inherently temporary and short-term under international law, yet this occupation – after 5 decades – has no end in sight. Indeed, it is deeply entrenched, and Israel, the occupying power, shows many signs of wanting to make it permanent,” said Mr. Lynk.

“The systemic human rights violations that accompany this occupation – collective punishment, confiscation of property, excessive use of force and unlawful killings, lack of freedom of movement and steady settlement expansion, among others – are intensifying an already perilous situation,” he warned.

The human right expert was speaking after a five-day mission to Amman, Jordan, where he met with human rights groups, UN officials and senior Palestinian government officials to discuss the human rights situation. Israel has not permitted the Special Rapporteur to visit the OPT since he assumed his Mandate in May 2016.

“It is with great concern that I look towards the future of Gaza, with all the reports I received this week indicating that the situation in the Strip is extremely dire,” Mr. Lynk stressed. “The ongoing electricity crisis has created an untenable situation, with predictions that by mid-June, a significant proportion of essential health, sanitation and water services may be inoperable.”

“I am struck by the depth of hopelessness and frustration in Gaza that has been described to me this week,” the Rapporteur noted. “After ten years of closure, I call upon Israel and the international community to turn your urgent attention to this situation, which cannot and should not be ignored any longer. The human rights of the residents of Gaza must be respected - this is the only path forward.”

The human rights expert also expressed deep concern about the situation in the West Bank. He noted that Israel controls Area C in its entirety, which makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, and which completely surrounds the Palestinian-controlled areas.

“Significant settlement construction has recently been announced, settlers enjoy four times the allocation of West Bank water that Palestinians receive, environmental degradation is spreading, and home demolitions are steadily increasing, all contributing to a situation in which many feel the path to peace is more and more difficult,” he said.

“I am particularly worried about the Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem periphery, who face the continued threat of displacement and destruction of their homes and livelihoods by the Israeli authorities,” said the expert. “Any displacement that occurs as a result of this coercive environment would amount to forcible transfer, which as I noted in my first report is a violation of international law.”

The Special Rapporteur drew attention to the current situation in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian Jerusalemites are confined to living in 13% of the area, while facing a consistent threat of losing their residency rights and considerable obstacles when applying for building permits.

“Israel has never recognized this part of the city as occupied territory, and the Jerusalem municipality treats its Palestinian residents in a highly discriminatory fashion when providing services,” he underscored.

“Protracted occupations are an abnormality and an anachronism in our modern world,” Mr. Lynk said. “In an era where almost the entire world lives as citizens in sovereign states of their own, it is beyond time that the international community deliver on its solemn promise of self-determination for the Palestinians.”

Mr. Michael Lynk (Canada) was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights.  Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. As well, he worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Special Rapporteur’s last report to the UN Human Rights Council.

UN Human Rights, country pages: Occupied Palestinian Territories -- Israel

For more information and media requests, please contact Katharine Marshall (+41 79 444 4917 / kmarshall@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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