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UN expert welcomes ruling on labelling of Israeli settlements products by European Court of Justice

GENEVA (15 November 2019) – A UN expert has applauded the 12 November 2019 ruling by the European Court of Justice which held that food products produced by Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory must indicate that they originate from a settlement, and not as a "product of Israel".

"This judgement is principled, and an important first step to building a legal culture of accountability when it comes to Israel's settlements," said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

"These settlements are illegal under international law. They are a purported war crime under the Statute of Rome. So, at the very least, European consumers must have accurate information before them when they make purchasing choices."

The ruling by the Court accepted that consumers' choices can be influenced by a range of factors, including health, environmental, social and ethical considerations. It observed that food law in Europe prohibits any practices which may mislead the consumer. 

"Importantly, the Court pointed out that the European Union has committed itself to the strict observance of international law," said the Special Rapporteur. "According to international law, the Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition against civilian settlements in occupied territory, and they obstruct the right of the Palestinian people to enjoy self-determination."

The ruling by the European Court of Justice follows a similar judgement in Kattenburg v. Canada by the Federal Court of Canada in June 2019. The Government of Canada is appealing the decision to the Federal Court of Canada. 

The Special Rapporteur noted that a study released earlier this week by the European Middle East Project concluded that the European Union has largely failed to enforce its 2015 decision to require the accurate labelling of products from the Israeli settlements.

The study – which examined wines produced in Israeli settlements in the Syrian Golan Heights and the West Bank – found that only 10 percent of these wines on sale in the EU had correct or partially correct origin labelling in line with EU rules: "Product of West Bank/Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)."

"This is a disappointing finding regarding the enforcement efforts of the European Union," said Lynk. "If the Green Line (Israel's pre-1967 border) is supposed to be a red line, why does the European Union not take its own rules seriously?"

The Special Rapporteur stated that the international community, including the European Union, must now turn its attention to prohibiting all Israeli settlement goods and services from entering domestic markets.

"The United Nations Security Council, almost 40 years ago – in resolution 465 – called upon all UN members: 'not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with the settlements in the occupied territories.' Anything short of ending trade with, and investment in, the Israeli settlements provides them with the economic oxygen to continue to grow," he said. "The international community cannot call these settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace, and yet provide them with the economic means to thrive." 

ENDS

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  

For more information and media requests, please contact Abigail Eshel (+41 (0) 22 917 4148) aeshel@ohchr.org

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Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383  jlaurence@ohchr.org 

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