West Bank settlements are a “creeping form of annexation” and the international
community should take steps to halt business ties with those communities,
members of a fact-finding mission told the United Nations Human Rights Council
in Geneva on Monday.
They spoke during a two hour debate on their 39-page
report on West Bank settlements, which is likely to be ratified by the council
later this week.
It is the first fact-finding mission into West Bank
settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem dispatched by the
council since its inception in 2006.
Legal expert Christine Chanet of
France, who headed the three-member mission, said that consistent with past
findings by the UN, the settlements were illegal under international law and
were built in occupied territory.
The report, which was first published
in January, said that Israel could be culpable for these acts before the
International Criminal Court.
On Monday, Chanet told the council, “We
identified the facts, qualified them and explained that Article 49 of the Geneva
Convention prohibited the occupying powers from transferring its civilian
population to an occupied territory and that the Rome Statute could punish as a
war crime the act of transferring directly or indirectly its civilian population
to an occupied territory. We did not go into the political question of how this
element could be used. We simply legally qualified the facts that we
established,” Chanet said.
But, she said, it was clear that settlement
activity “was a creeping form of annexation.”
Her mission, she said,
asked Israel to stop this “colonization process without prior condition” and to
withdraw the settlers from the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Palestinians have not had the legal right to bring Israel to the ICC on any
issue including West Bank settlements. But since the Palestinian status was
upgraded at the UN to that of an observer non-member state, there is some
speculation that they could now become party to the Rome Treaty that governs the
court, as had the Holy See, which has the same status at the UN.
Dow of Botswana urged the member states to focus on the parts of the report that
could be implemented now.
“You have an obligation under international law
to act,” Dow said.
“We have reported on the role of private companies in
the settlements and their impact of human rights and we have directed specific
recommendations at private companies and member states,” she
“It is time for all states to start looking at the steps they
can do and could take to comply with their obligations under international
In the future, she said, states should report on what steps they
PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi similarly
called on Israel to stop settlement activity and to compensate the Palestinian
victims of such actions.
“The international community must ask
trans-national and private companies working in the settlements and investing in
them to put an end to their support of the settlers,” he said.
which cut its ties with the council to protest the formation of the mission, was
not present at the meeting.
The United States, which was present at the
meeting, has in the past opposed the report.
But it spoke up on Israel’s
behalf later in the day during a debate known as Agenda Item Seven, which orders
the council to focus on Israeli activities over the pre-1967 line during every
As part of that item, the council debated six resolutions
against Israel, more than the number that were filled against any other country
during the 22nd session.
“The legitimacy of this council will remain in
question as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out under its
own agenda item,” US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
“The absurdity and hypocrisy of this agenda item is further
amplified by the resolutions brought under it including, yet again, a resolution
on the ‘human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan’ motivated by the Syrian
regime, at a time when that regime is murdering its own citizens by the tens of
The United States implores council members to eliminate these
biased resolutions and Permanent Agenda Item Seven.”