GENEVA (14 February 2020) – An independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council applauded the release of a database on business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank "as an important initial step towards accountability and the end to impunity".
Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, said: "While the release of the database will not, by itself, bring an end to the illegal settlements and their serious impact upon human rights, it does signal that sustained defiance by an occupying power will not go unanswered."
The expert said that the 240 Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory have been repeatedly determined to be a 'flagrant violation under international law' by the international community.
"The Israeli settlements are a significant source of human rights violations against the protected Palestinian population in the occupied territory," said Lynk. "Because of the settlements, thousands of hectares of Palestinian land have been expropriated, thousands of Palestinian homes and properties have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced, natural resources are confiscated, freedom of movement is curtailed, and the land base for a genuine Palestinian state and a viable economy is undermined.
"These Israeli settlements are supported by the economic activity of scores of Israeli and foreign companies," Lynk said. "Without these investments, wineries, factories, corporate supply and purchase agreements, banking operations and support services, many of the settlements would not be financially and operationally sustainable. And without the settlements, the five-decade-long Israeli occupation would lose its colonial raison d'être."
Hundreds of millions of dollars (US) of goods produced by Israeli settlements are exported to international markets each year. "The international community has rightly condemned the illegal status and harmful impact of the Israeli settlements," the Special Rapporteur said. "But by engaging in trade and commerce with the settlements, the international community sustains their viability and undercuts its own pronouncements."
Lynk noted that the database was developed and released within the broader context of the United Nations' efforts to promote strong business practices with respect to human rights. In 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to address human rights abuses committed during business operations. Among other features, the Guiding Principles recognize that businesses have the responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate, and states have the duty to protect against human rights abuses by all actors in society, including businesses.
The Special Rapporteur called for the database to become a living tool, with sufficient resources to be updated annually. To this end, he urged the Human Rights Council to renew the resolution supporting further work on the database. As well, he welcomed the recommendation in the High Commissioner's report that an expert committee should be established to report to the Human Rights Council with recommendations on its updating. In welcoming this recommendation, the Special Rapporteur urged the Human Rights Council to explore whether the database has captured all meaningful business enterprise activity in the occupied Palestinian territory which sustains the Israeli settlement project.
Finally, the Special Rapporteur called upon the member states of the United Nations to enact domestic legislation that would ban the importation of goods produced in illegal settlements domiciled in any occupied territory. "Given the designation of civilian settlements in occupied territory as a war crime under the 1998 Rome Statute, it is imperative that states accept their international legal responsibilities and end all trade with these sources of human rights violations."
Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory 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. He also 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.
UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel
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