UN Human Rights Council: Israeli settlements are illegal in International Law

Publication date: 
Friday, February 1, 2013


UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL:

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS ARE ILLEGAL IN INTERNATIONAL LAW

 

This week the International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, convened by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, issued its fact-finding report on Israeli settlements. ICAHD’s former Co-Director Itay Epshtain travelled to Amman last November to give testimony to the fact-finding mission, which was duly incorporated.

 

Entitled “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” it concluded that

 

  • All Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an Occupying Power from transferring its civilian population into an occupied territory. The report calls on Israel to dismantle all its settlements, the construction of which could be considered a war crime falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). If it signs the Rome Statutes, the Palestinian Authority, granted the status of a state by the UN General Assembly vote last November, could bring Israel before the ICC on such charges.

 

(Israel’s argument that there is no occupation and that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply was categorically rejected by the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Ruling on the legality of Israel’s construction of the Wall, which was subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly.)

 

The report also notes that “the settlements are established for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews; settlements are being maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the OPT. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by a strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

 

“The existence of the settlements has had a heavy toll on the rights of the Palestinians. Their rights to freedom of self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom to access places of worship, education, water, housing, adequate standard of living, property, access to 
natural resources and effective remedy are being violated consistently and on a daily basis. The volume of information received on dispossession, evictions, demolitions and displacement points to the magnitude of these practices.”

 

The Mission’s recommendation: Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. In addition it must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT. The Mission further urges Israel to ensure adequate, effective and prompt remedy to all Palestinian victims for the harm suffered as a consequence of human rights violations.

 

  • The UN fact-finding mission also found widespread settler violence directed at Palestinians which was ignored by the Israeli police and occupation authorities. “The Mission has noted that the identities of settlers who are responsible for violence and intimidation are known to the Israeli authorities, yet these acts continue with impunity. The Mission is led to the clear conclusion that there is institutionalized  discrimination against the Palestinian people when it comes to addressing violence. The Mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand.”

 

The Mission’s recommendation: The Mission calls upon the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, including for all acts of settler violence, in a non-discriminatory manner and to put an end to the policy of impunity.

 

  • The Mission was especially troubled at the violence and harassment directed by the Israeli army at Palestinian children. “The Mission is gravely concerned at the high number of children who are apprehended or detained, including for minor offences. They are invariably mistreated, denied due process and fair trial. In violation of international law they are transferred to detention centres in Israel. Children suffer harassment, violence and encounter significant obstacles in attending educational institutions, which limits their right to access education. Israel, the occupying Power is failing in its duty to protect the right to access education of the Palestinian children and failing to facilitate the proper working of educational institutions.”

 

The report also notes that: “Women alone in their homes, the Bedouins and other vulnerable groups are easy targets for settler violence, creating a sense of insecurity amongst the wider Palestinian society.”

 

The Mission’s recommendation: “The Mission urges Israel to put an end to arbitrary arrest and detention of the Palestinian people, especially children, and observe the prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from the OPT to the territory of Israel, according to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

 

  • The report criticizes governments who allow Israel to pursue its settlement policy with no regard for human rights or international law and in no fear of international sanctions. It also calls on private businesses profiting from the Occupation to cease their connections with the illegal settlement enterprise (a key demand of the BDS campaign).

 

The Mission’s recommendation: The Mission calls upon all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State breaching peremptory norms of international law – specifically not to recognize an unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s violations…. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

 

The Israel’s governments response was both predictable and laconic: it labeled the Human Rights Commission “anti-Israel” and accused it of being “out of contact with reality.” In fact, Israel refused to appear this week before the Human Rights Commission for the review of its human rights record, a monitoring process that every country goes through every four years. Israel is the first country to refuse to submit to such a review.

 

For the full report, extremely rich in the details of Israel’s Occupation go to:

 

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session19/FFM/FFMSettlements.pdf

 

For ICAHD’s submission to the fact-finding mission, see:

 

http://www.icahd.org/node/436

 

International law and the workings of the UN are not widely known to most people. For a comprehensive review of Israeli violations over the years, see:

 

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session19/FFM/FFMSelectedConclusionsAndRecommendationsHRM.pdf