Geneva, 29 November 2010
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 wishes to express sympathy for the Palestinian people who continue after more than 43 years to live under Israeli occupation that daily violates many of their fundamental and inalienable human rights. Above all, the failure to resolve the underlying conflict between Palestine and Israel in such a manner as to realize after decades of delay the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is of urgent concern. It should be observed, also, that negotiation between the parties to the conflict needs to be guided by the implementation of several principles of international law if a settlement of the conflict is to achieve Palestinian self-determination. These principles, as set forth in the General Assembly Resolution 48/158, 20 December 1993, include the following: (1) withdrawal from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem; (2) resolving the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 181 and subsequent resolutions; (3) dismantling settlements established during the occupation; (4) fixing of secure and internationally recognized borders; (5) guaranteeing free access to sacred sites and religious buildings throughout historic Palestine. A peace process that does not heed these guidelines, with appropriate degrees of flexible implementation, cannot realize either self-determination for the Palestinian people or peace with security and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.
The ongoing realities of the occupation have cumulatively altered the character of the Palestinian territories, especially due to the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements which are unlawful under the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits transfer of population from the occupying power to the occupied territory, that disallows the construction of a separation wall on occupied Palestinian territory held unlawful by a 14-1 vote of the judges comprising the International Court of Justice in 2004, that is an unlawful result of an Israeli-only road network in the West Bank, and of a proposed rail connection, linking large settlements to pre-1967 Israel, and that is a consequence of concerted and accelerated Israeli annexationist efforts in East Jerusalem by expanding existing settlements and interfering in a variety of coercive and cruel ways with the residence rights of Palestinians.
Finally, on this day of solidarity it is important to ponder the special consequences of prolonged occupation and refugee status, which inflicts serious physical and mental harm on Palestinians living under occupation. International humanitarian law was developed under the assumption that occupation would be temporary and short-lived. The Palestinian experience suggests the need for a new protocol of international humanitarian law that addresses the distinctive situation of prolonged occupation and refugee status, imposing some outer time limit after which further occupation becomes a distinct violation of international law, and if not promptly corrected, constitutes a new type of crime against humanity. The United Nations and the international community as a whole will be judged in the future by whether effective action is now taken to end the humanitarian catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people. In this respect, the United Nations, the governments and the peoples of the world will all be judged complicit to the extent that this persistent violation of fundamental human rights is endured without taking the necessary steps in a spirit of urgency and commitment to bring this abusive occupation to an end and achieve Palestinian self-determination in accordance with international law and the dictates of global justice.