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Israel: UN expert warns against Israel’s plans for a six-lane settlement highway in East Jerusalem

GENEVA (13 May 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk today called for an immediate halt to construction of a settlement highway in Beit Safafa (East Jerusalem), also known as the ‘Begin Highway.’ Mr. Falk urged the Israeli Government, in particular the Ministry of Transport, to order a stop to the construction, which if completed, would cut through the community of Beit Safafa and ruin the livelihoods of the 9,300 Palestinian residents.

“The projected six-lane highway extending 1.5km will do irreparable damage to the community, cutting off local roads and blocking access to kindergartens, schools, health clinics, offices, and places of worship,” warned the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

“The residents of Beit Safafa, who were not consulted at any stage of the planning, will be placed in an absurd situation where places within their own community – previously accessible within ten minutes’ walk – would require travel by car on bypass roads and a bridge,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the highway purpose is to annex the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and pave the way for further expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements around East Jerusalem. “It will consolidate the highway network from Gush Etzion settlement in the southern West Bank through West and East Jerusalem, leading to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc and the E1 area,” he said.

Mr. Falk recalled the recent findings* of the International Fact Finding Mission on Israeli settlements, which recommended that private companies should no longer be able to profit from their involvement in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.

“Companies taking part in the construction of the illegal highway in Beit Safafa, under the auspices of the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company and their implementing partner, D.Y. Barazani Ltd., must be held responsible,” the independent expert stressed. “Earth moving equipment of Volvo, CAT, Hyundai and JCB has been seen at the construction sites.”

The Special Rapportuer noted that the road project, which began in September 2012, was challenged in the Jerusalem District Court last December, but the residents’ petition to stop construction was rejected. An appeal filed with the Israeli High Court against the District Court’s decision was also rejected in March 2013. An appeal hearing as to the petition has been scheduled in the High Court for 26 June 2013.

(*) Check the report by the International Fact Finding Mission: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-63_en.pdf

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41 79 509 0557 / kturner@ohchr.org) or Kiyohiko Hasegawa (+41 22 928 9211 / khasegawa@ohchr.org 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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