UN Secretary General Concludes Settlements Deny Palestinians Self-Determination

Publication date: 
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The UN Secretary General (SG) Ban Ki-moon recapped in a report released earlier this week, that the applicable international legal framework in relation to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory can be found in international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and although Israel has disputed the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention, determined that “the situation remains one of belligerent military occupation, as recognized by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, to which the Fourth Geneva Convention applies […] explicitly prohibits an occupying Power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. This is an absolute prohibition which does not admit any exceptions.” In addition to its obligations under international humanitarian law, the SG concludes that “Israel has responsibilities under the international human rights treaties that it has ratified […] in respect of acts carried out by Israel in the occupied territories. […] Israel continues to bear responsibility for implementing its human rights obligations in the occupied territories.”

 

The continuation of that transfer and the maintenance and expansion of settlements have severe negative impacts on the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. That right was reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice with regard to its applicability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The right to self-determination is generally understood as having several components, including the right to a demographic and territorial presence, and the right to permanent sovereignty over natural resources. “Those elements are adversely affected not only by the expansion of Israeli settlements but also by the mere presence of the settlements. […] In addition to large areas which have been declared closed military zones, some 43 per cent of the West Bank has been allocated to local and regional settlement councils, with the result that those areas are off-limits to Palestinians. In addition, because settlements are scattered all across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the territory of the Palestinian people is divided into enclaves with little or no territorial contiguity. The fragmentation of the West Bank undermines the possibility of the Palestinian people realizing their right to self-determination through the creation of a viable state.” Stated Ki-moon. The Secretary-General noted that the International Court of Justice described the violation by Israel of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination as the violation of an erga omnes obligation, stating that “violation is a matter of concern to all States.”

 

The SG goes on the determine that forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with international human rights law, in particular the right to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home, and may entail the “destruction of private property, which would raise serious concerns about the violation of the prohibitions on destruction of private property under international humanitarian law, pursuant to article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 46 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, as well as violate article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

 

Secretary General Ki-moon concluded that “Israeli policies resulting in the forcible transfer of civilians within and from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the revocation of residency rights of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, evictions, home demolitions and the planned transfer of Bedouin communities, should be terminated immediately. Israeli planning and zoning policies and practices should be immediately modified to ensure adequate housing for all Palestinian residents of Area C and East Jerusalem.”


 

ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain briefing at the UN General Assembly, October 2012: