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Israeli annexation of parts of the Palestinian West Bank would break international law – UN experts call on the international community to ensure accountability

GENEVA (16 June 2020) – The agreement by the new coalition Government of Israel to annex significant parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank after 1 July would violate a cornerstone principle of international law and must be meaningfully opposed by the international community, UN experts said today. Forty-seven of the independent Special Procedures mandates appointed by the Human Rights Council issued the following statement:

“The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible. The international community has prohibited annexation precisely because it incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering.

Israel’s stated plans for annexation would extend sovereignty over most of the Jordan Valley and all of the more than 235 illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This would amount to approximately 30 percent of the West Bank. The annexation of this territory was endorsed by the American Peace to Prosperity Plan, released in late January 2020.

The United Nations has stated on many occasions that the 53-year-old Israeli occupation is the source of profound human rights violations against the Palestinian people. These violations include land confiscation, settler violence, discriminatory planning laws, the confiscation of natural resources, home demolitions, forcible population transfer, excessive use of force and torture, labour exploitation, extensive infringements of privacy rights, restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, the targeting of women activists and journalists, the detention of children, poisoning by exposure to toxic wastes, forced evictions and displacement, economic deprivation and extreme poverty, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of movement, food insecurity, discriminatory law enforcement and the imposition of a two-tier system of disparate political, legal, social, cultural and economic rights based on ethnicity and nationality. Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, are slandered, criminalised or labeled as terrorists. Above all, the Israeli occupation has meant the denial of the right of Palestinian self-determination.

These human rights violations would only intensify after annexation. What would be left of the West Bank would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world. Israel has recently promised that it will maintain permanent security control between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Thus, the morning after annexation would be the crystallisation of an already unjust reality: two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights. This is a vision of a 21st century apartheid.

Twice before, Israel has annexed occupied land – East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. On both occasions, the UN Security Council immediately condemned the annexations as unlawful but took no meaningful countermeasures to oppose Israel’s actions.

Similarly, the Security Council has repeatedly criticised the Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation under international law. Yet, Israel’s defiance of these resolutions and its ongoing entrenchment of the settlements has gone unanswered by the international community.

This time must be different. The international community has solemn legal and political responsibilities to defend a rules-based international order, to oppose violations of human rights and fundamental principles of international law and to give effect to its many resolutions critical of Israel’s conduct of this protracted occupation. In particular, states have a duty not to recognise, aid or assist another state in any form of illegal activity, such as annexation or the creation of civilian settlements in occupied territory. The lessons from the past are clear: Criticism without consequences will neither forestall annexation nor end the occupation.

Accountability and an end to impunity must become an immediate priority for the international community. Available to it is a broad menu of accountability measures that have been widely and successfully applied by the UN Security Council in other international crises over the past 60 years. The accountability measures that are selected must be taken in full conformity with international law, be proportionate, effective, subject to regular review, consistent with human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, and designed to undo the annexations and bring the occupation and the conflict to a just and durable conclusion. Palestinians and Israelis deserve no less.

We express great regret about the role of the United States of America in supporting and encouraging Israel’s unlawful plans for the further annexation of occupied territory. On many occasions over the past 75 years, the United States has played an important role in the advancement of global human rights. On this occasion, it should be ardently opposing the imminent breach of a fundamental principle of international law, rather than actively abetting its violation.”

ENDS

(*) The experts:

Mr. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Ahmed Reid (Chair), Ms. Dominique Day, Mr. Michal Balcerzak, Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III, and Mr. Sabelo Gumedze, Working Group of experts on people of African descent;Ms. Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Ms Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, Ms. Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Mr. Aristide NONONSI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan; Mr. Alioune Tine,Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali; Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes; Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Mr. Chris Kwaja (Chair), Ms. Jelena Aparac, Ms. Lilian Bobea, Mr. Saeed Mokbil,Ms. Sorcha MacLeod, Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; Ms. Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; Mr. David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mr. Diego García-Sayán, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; (Chair) Ms. Elizabeth Broderick (Vice Chair) Ms. Melissa Upreti, Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Ivana Radačić, Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Githu Muigai (Chair), Ms. Anita Ramasastry (Vice-chair), Mr. Dante Pesce, Ms. Elżbieta Karska, and Mr. Surya Deva, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights; Ms. Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Mr. Joe Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Mr. José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Chair), Ms. Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomey (Vice-Chair), Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, and Mr. Sètondji Adjovi, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Ms. Kombou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Léo Heller,Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation; Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children; Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity,Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism; Mr. Thomas Andrews. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Mr. Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms. Yuefen LI, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights; Mr. Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic

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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