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Israeli Settlements Amount to a War Crime, Special Rapporteur Tells Human Rights Council

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9 July 2021

9 July 2021

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, who said that in his report, he examined whether the Israeli settlements were in violation of the absolute prohibition against “settler implantation” in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  He concluded that the Israeli settlements did amount to a war crime. 

Mr. Lynk regretted the fact that Israel had taken no steps to engage with his mandate, nor granted him access to the occupied Palestinian territory.  Turning to the human rights situation in Palestine recently, he said that in East Jerusalem, Israeli settler organizations sought to evict Palestinian families from their homes.  Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfer of the protected population was prohibited, and the occupying power was forbidden from applying its own laws to the occupied territory.  

Israel was not present to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said the silence of some countries on this agenda item disqualified them from talking about any other violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law anywhere in the world; it exposed their double standards and encouraged the occupying power to continue its daily violations.  In reaction to the colonial settlements, the international community must take the necessary measures to punish this colonial regime, hold it accountable, isolate it, boycott its products, impose economic and political sanctions, and refuse to deal with any Israeli Government that entrenched apartheid. 

In the discussion, some speakers reiterated that settlements were illegal under international law, regretting the lack of Israel’s cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.  Some speakers recognised Israel’s right to self-defence, underlining that this right must be exercised in a proportionate manner.  Others condemned the demographic social engineering that Israel was continuing to freely exercise in the occupied Palestinian territory, amounting to ethnic cleansing: the Palestinian cause was universal and just.  Many speakers decried the illegal evictions that prevented the establishment of a Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem as part of a two-State solution.  The continued colonisation was a war crime.  Some speakers urged the Council to abolish item 7, as it was an unacceptable platform where biased resolutions targeting Israel abounded.  During the May conflicts, anti-Semitism rose around the world.  Some drew a contrast between the autocratic practices of the Palestinian authorities which had led to protestations on the ground, and the democratic nature of Israel. 

Speaking were the European Union, Egypt on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Mauritania on behalf of the Group of African States, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Bahrain, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iraq, Syria, China, Maldives, Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria, Iran, Venezuela, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Botswana, Namibia, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ireland, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Mauritania, Russian Federation, Djibouti, Tunisia, Yemen, and Chile.

The following national human rights institutions and civil society organizations also took the floor: Independent Commission for Human Rights of Palestine; Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man; Norwegian Refugee Council; World Jewish Congress; Centre Europe - Tiers Monde; Institute for NGO Research; Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling; United Nations Watch; Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy; Defence for Children International; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; and Human Rights Now.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-seventh regular session can be found here

The Council will next meet on Monday, 12 July at 9 a.m. to consider the voting modalities for the forty-seventh session.  The Council will then hold the annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity building, followed by an interactive dialogue under agenda item 9 with the High Commissioner on her report on systemic racism.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied by Israel since 1967

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 (A/HRC/47/57).

Presentation of the Report

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, regretted the fact that Israel had taken no steps to engage with his mandate, nor granted him access to the occupied Palestinian territory, which was important for the fulfilment of his mandate.  Turning to the human rights situation in Palestine recently, he said that in East Jerusalem, Israeli settler organizations sought to evict Palestinian families from their homes, primarily in the neighbourhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.  Discriminatory Israeli property laws permitted Israeli Jews to reclaim properties lost in the 1948 war, but prevented Palestinians from doing the same.  Israeli courts had been enforcing those laws.  However, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfer of the protected population was prohibited, and the occupying power was forbidden from applying its own laws to the occupied territory.   In mid-May, 11 days of heavy bombardment of Gaza had resulted in more than 250 Palestinians being killed, including 66 children and 40 women.  Ten Israeli citizens and residents had died as a result of Palestinian rockets. 

In his report, he examined whether the Israeli settlements were in violation of the absolute prohibition against “settler implantation” in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  The creation of demographic facts on the ground to solidify a permanent presence, a consolidation of alien political control and an illegitimate claim of sovereignty, trampled upon the fundamental precepts of modern international humanitarian and human rights law, he said.  In his report, he concluded that the Israeli settlements did amount to a war crime.  He called upon the international community to fully support the work of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as to develop a menu of accountability measures to be applied to Israel should it continue to defy international law, including reviewing trade, investment and cultural agreements, and ending arms sales with Israel.  The international community needed to ensure full accountability of Israeli political, military and administrative officials who were responsible for grave breaches of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory. 

Statement by Country Concerned

Israel was not present to take the floor as a country concerned.

State of Palestine, speaking as a country concerned, said the silence of some countries on this agenda item disqualified them from talking about any other violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law anywhere in the world; it exposed their double standards and encouraged the occupying power to continue its daily violations.  In reaction to the colonial settlements, the international community must take the necessary measures to punish this colonial regime, hold it accountable, isolate it, boycott its products, impose economic and political sanctions, and refuse to deal with any Israeli Government that entrenched apartheid.  As recommended by the Special Rapporteur, it was urgent to update the database of companies operating in settlements and to abide by Human Rights Council resolution 36/31.  The people of Palestine aspired to get rid of colonialism and the apartheid system; they called on the international community to assume its legal and moral responsibilities by addressing the root causes of their suffering.

Discussion

Some speakers reiterated that settlements were illegal under international law, regretting the lack of Israel’s cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.  Some speakers recognised Israel’s right to self-defence, underlining that this right must be exercised in a proportionate manner.  Others condemned the demographic social engineering that Israel was continuing to freely exercise in the occupied Palestinian territory, amounting to ethnic cleansing: the Palestinian cause was universal and just.  Many speakers decried the illegal evictions that prevented the establishment of a Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem as part of a two-State solution.  The international community still had not established mechanisms to make Israel accountable for the violations it committed under international law.  This was the fourth war in Gaza since 2008, and the cycle of violence would continue unless root causes were addressed; speakers highlighted that Israel’s illegal demolitions were preventing these negotiations from taking place.  Speakers said that the continued colonisation was a war crime and denounced the construction of new Israeli colonies. 

Drawing attention to Sheikh Jarrah, Batn al-Hawa, and al-Bustan, where Palestinians faced imminent expulsion, several speakers urged support for accountability mechanisms, including an investigation by the International Criminal Court, the newly established Commission of Inquiry, and annual updates of the United Nations database.  Many speakers said that settlements violated international humanitarian law.  They amounted to aggressions.  Under international law, third States should impose lawful countermeasures on States that were responsible for these aggressions.  In addition to confiscation of land, tons of agricultural assets were destroyed during the Israeli military attack on Gaza in May 2021; the human rights mechanisms should examine the violations of the rights of peasants.  Some speakers urged the Council to abolish item 7, as it was an unacceptable platform where biased resolutions targeting Israel abounded.  During the May conflicts, anti-Semitism rose around the world.  Some drew a contrast between the autocratic practices of the Palestinian authorities which had led to protestations on the ground, and the democratic nature of Israel.  In the first six months of this year, Israel had killed nine children in the West Bank; the root of the violence was systemic violence against Palestinians, including forced displacement, apartheid conditions, and widespread poverty.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, wanted to draw the attention of the international community to the destruction of Hamsa in the Northern Jordan Valley, where on Wednesday this week, Israel had demolished 27 residential shelters, confiscated community belongings, food, water, and clothing, leaving the community without sustenance and shelter - this was unlawful and heartless.  Previously Israel had already demolished 55 structures there.  Hamsa was only one of such communities that were vulnerable to the Israeli military that claimed whole territories and carried out demolitions in the Jordan Valley - meanwhile illegal Israeli settlements in the area remained undisturbed.  The 54-year-old occupation was paradoxically thick with laws, yet lawless.  Israel had pursued the policy of de facto annexation since 1967 to the point that the prospect of a two-State solution had all but vanished.  A new outcome built on sturdy foundations of international law would recognise the deeply asymmetrical nature of the conflict, understanding that the international community must impose an escalating economic cost on Israel’s policies.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/07/les-colonies-israeliennes-constituent-un-crime-de-guerre-selon


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