Global action needed on growing Israeli settlement moves, says UN rights expert
30 January 2019
GENEVA (30 January 2019) – The international community must take decisive action in response to Israel’s recent intensification of settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which amounts to a clear rebuff of a two-state solution, says a UN human rights expert.
“If these further settlements steps by Israel are left unanswered by the international community, we will be driving past the last exit on the road to annexation,” said the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk.
“The global community has repeatedly affirmed that the Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The settlements are also a presumptive war crime under the 1998 Statute of Rome, and as I have noted many times before, settlements are the source of a range of persistent human rights violations,” said the UN expert.
The last year has seen a marked rise in incidents of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. “In many cases, Israeli forces, obligated to protect the Palestinian population under international humanitarian law, stand idly by while olive trees are destroyed, livelihoods are damaged, and even while people are injured or, at worst, killed. The events in the West Bank village of Al Mughayyir on 26 January are a sobering example of this extremely troubling phenomenon, where a Palestinian villager was shot dead in the presence of Israeli settlers and soldiers. These incidents not only violate numerous human rights such as the rights to life, security of the person, and freedom of movement of Palestinians, but also serve to expand the area of land over which Israeli settlers have control,” Mr. Lynk observed.
“It is impossible to square the international community’s rhetorical support for a genuine two-state solution with its persistent unwillingness to confront Israel with any meaningful injunctions to halt and reverse these steps towards annexation.
“The Israeli settlements are the engine of the 51-year long occupation. This occupation will not die of old age, but only with the resolute imposition of consequences on Israel for ignoring international law and numerous United Nations resolutions,” Mr. Lynk added.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted that, on 8 January, Israel opened Route 4370, which links Jerusalem to the settlements north and east of the city. Dubbed the “apartheid road” by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, it consists of two parallel roads – one for Israelis and the other for Palestinians in the West Bank – with a dividing wall between them.
Route 4370 is an integral part of the two-tier network of segregated highways in the occupied West Bank in support of the settlements. “I agree with human rights defenders who have pointed out that the road is part of Israel’s long-term strategy to ensure contiguity between Jerusalem and surrounding settlements, and to consolidate Israel’s claim for sovereignty over Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank.”
The Special Rapporteur also expressed alarm over the issuing of building tenders to construct settlement units. According to Peace Now, 3,154 tenders were issued in 2017. In 2018, that figure passed 3,800, the highest number since Peace Now began compiling data in 2002.
Mr. Lynk also criticized recent moves by the Israeli Government to expand existing settlements near Bethlehem and Ramallah, and condemned the threatened eviction of Palestinian refugees from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, where they would be replaced by Israeli settlers.
“The forced transfer of protected people under occupation is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime. It is also likely that it violates the guaranteed international rights to privacy and adequate housing,” he said.
“All these measures, together with recent Knesset legislation enacted with the purpose of legalizing settlement outposts in the West Bank and to allow for the confiscation of private Palestinian property, are not only illegal, but they contribute immensely to the immeasurable hardship experienced by all those living under this endless occupation,” Mr. Lynk added.
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.