International community must act to end Israel’s annexation of occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and defend international law: UN experts
26 July 2023
GENEVA (26 July 2023) – The international community must take steps to prevent Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory or risk being seen as accepting the Israeli Government’s systematic violation of international law, UN experts said today.
“Israel’s continuous annexation of portions of the occupied Palestinian territory, now focusing on large swathes of the West Bank after unlawfully annexing east Jerusalem, suggests that a concrete effort may be under way to annex the entire occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law,” the experts said.
“In 2020, 46 UN experts urged the international community to firmly oppose Israel’s plans for annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. Our call went unheard then and we cannot stay silent now. The tragedy continues to unfold for both Palestinians and Israelis, unequally trapped in the maze of unlawfulness and injustice. Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders, who peacefully bring public attention to these violations, keep being slandered, criminalised or labelled as terrorists,” they said.
In February 2023 Israel’s governing coalition transferred most of the governing powers over the West Bank to the additional minister of defence, effectively designating Bezalel Smotrich, a civilian official, as the de facto governor of the occupied West Bank. The experts noted that the move solidified Israel’s annexation of occupied territory.
“Annexation or acquisition of territory by use of force or threat, is categorically prohibited under international law. It constitutes an act of aggression, a crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and poses a threat to international peace and security. Israel has persistently pursued annexation in many parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. Over the last five decades, Israel has confiscated or endorsed confiscation of Palestinian lands and resources, resulting in over 270 colonies housing 750,000 Israeli settlers,” they said.
While the Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territory enjoy civil and political rights, Palestinians are subject to military rule. “The consolidation of an apartheid regime is an unavoidable consequence of such a system,” the experts added.
“The large majority of Member States of the UN unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its annexation of Ukraine’s eastern parts as an act of aggression”, the experts said, “and they imposed sanctions on Russia to encourage a cessation of this violation of international law”. “By contrast, Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory is obfuscated by political rhetoric, debates and negotiations, which ultimately rest on double standards,” they said.
“This show of à la carte enforcement of international law undermines the foundations of the UN Charter and the promise of universality of international human rights, 75 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the experts said.
They expressed grave concern regarding the escalating scale and brutal nature of violence perpetrated against Palestinian men, women and children, noting the violation of the right to life, among others, as annexation intensifies, and called on Israel to end these violations immediately. “We fear that the spiral of violence will continue unless the primacy of international law as a foundation of peace and security is restored,” the experts said.
They urged Member States of the UN to utilise the range of available legal means to seek an end to these illegal acts.
“Justice must be served, and international law must be upheld without double standards to end this cycle of violence and secure a just and lasting peace for both Palestinians and Israelis,” the experts said.
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 organisation and serve in their individual capacity.