Israeli settlements should be classified as war crimes, says UN expert: Occupied Palestinian Territory

OHCHR

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, today called on the international community to designate the creation of Israeli settlements as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

Lynk said the Israeli settlements violate the absolute prohibition against the transfer by an occupying power of parts of its civilian population into an occupied territory. The international community designated this practice as a war crime when it adopted the Rome Statute in 1998. 

“For Israel, the settlements serve two related purposes. One is to guarantee that the occupied territory will remain under Israeli control in perpetuity. The second purpose is to ensure that there will never be a genuine Palestinian state,” Lynk told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

“These are exactly the reasons why the international community agreed to prohibit the practice of settler implantation when it created the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949 and the Rome Statute in 1998.” 

He said the Israeli settlements were “the engine of Israel’s 54-year-old occupation, the longest in the modern world”. There are now close to 300 settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with more than 680,000 Israeli settlers.

Lynk said that the illegality of the Israeli settlements is one of the most settled and uncontentious issues in modern international law and diplomacy. Their illegality has been confirmed by the United Nations Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and by many international and regional human rights organizations.  

“It is a tragic paradox that, while the Israeli settlements are clearly prohibited by international law, the international community has been remarkably reluctant to enforce its own laws,” he said. 

“In December 2016, the UN Security Council reiterated its long-standing demand in Resolution 2334 that Israel must immediately and completely cease all settlement activities. Yet, since early 2017, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has reported to the Security Council on 18 consecutive occasions that Israel has taken no steps to comply with its obligations under Resolution 2334.”  

In his report, the Special Rapporteur called on the international community to adopt a plan of action:

  1. Fully support the work of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC as it investigates whether the Israeli settlements violate the Rome Statute;
  2. Call upon Israel to fully dismantle its settlements;
  3. Develop a comprehensive menu of accountability measures to bring Israel in compliance with international law should it continue to defy the international community;  
  4. Ensure full accountability of Israeli political, military and administrative leaders who are responsible for grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and
  5. Call upon all UN member states to implement the injunction of the Security Council in 1980, in Resolution 465, not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used in connection with the settlements.

“The time for criticism of the Israeli settlements has passed,” said Lynk. “Former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said only last week that it is the lack of any international legal accountability which has enabled Israel to ignore successive UN resolutions. A new approach grounded in international law is the only path to a just end to this perpetual occupation.”   

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