UNHRC to call for Israeli arrests, settlement boycott

The non-governmental group UN Watch plans to hold a rally against the proceedings outside the UN building in Geneva.

March 18, 2019 01:51
3 minute read.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the UNHRC

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (photo credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE)


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The UN Human Rights Council is expected to call for the arrest of IDF soldiers responsible for Gaza deaths at border and for a boycott of West Bank settlements, when it gathers in Geneva on Monday for the last week of its 40th session.

The day-long meeting of the 47-member council will involve the reading of seven reports on alleged Israeli human rights abuses and the tabling of five resolutions demanding action. No other country has that many reports or resolutions leveled against it.

The non-governmental group UN Watch plans to hold a rally against the proceedings outside the UN building in Geneva.

Among the most contentious of the reports is a 22-page document by a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry, which accuses Israel of war crimes in its protection of the Gaza border against Palestinian infiltrators and protesters.

With less than a day to go before the meeting, the full report has yet to be published. But its conclusions were already included in a broader resolution titled: “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.”

That resolution called for the passage of all the conclusions of the Gaza report.

This includes a call “that States parties to the Geneva Conventions and/or to the Rome Statute carry out their duty to exercise criminal jurisdiction and arrest persons alleged to have committed, or who ordered to have committed, the international crimes described in the present report, and either to try or to extradite them.”

The Gaza report further called on UN member states to “consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze, on those identified as responsible by the commission.”

On Sunday, the left-wing group B’Tselem sent a position paper to the UNHRC’s Commission of Inquiry in which it argued that the IDF investigations into the Palestinian deaths at the border were “whitewash.” Israel, the group said, had no intention of changing its open regulations that had led to the deaths of over 200 Palestinians, including at least 39 minors, and had injured over 6,300 people.

The accountability resolution, however, is broader than just the Gaza report. It’s an annual resolution that last year called for an arms embargo against Israel in cases where those arms would be used to conduct violations of international humanitarian law. This year, that clause was dropped from the resolution.

The UNHRC had been expected to receive a database of companies doing business with Israeli entities and individuals located over the pre-1967 lines.

At the last moment, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delayed its publication. The database, which Israel calls “the blacklist,” had initially been scheduled to be released in 2017.

A resolution on “Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory” called for a boycott of Israeli businesses in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as in the Golan Heights.

The settlement resolution also demands an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

It demands that Israel stop expropriating Palestinian land and expresses “grave concern at declarations by Israeli officials calling for the annexation of Palestinian land, and reaffirms the prohibition of acquisition of territory resulting from the use of force.”

The settlement resolution calls on Israel to protect Palestinians from settler violence in the West Bank including through the confiscation of arms.

It urged “all states and international organizations to ensure that they are not taking actions that either recognize, aid or assist the expansion of settlements or the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.”

The settlement resolution further called on member states to provide “individuals and businesses on the financial, reputational and legal risks, including the possibility of liability for corporate involvement in gross human rights abuses and the abuses of the rights of individuals, of becoming involved in settlement-related activities.”

This includes, the resolution stated, “financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements, loans, the provision of services, and other economic and financial activities in or benefiting Israeli settlement.”

The seven reports and five resolution will be debated under Agenda Item 7. The UNHRC is mandated to debate alleged Israeli human rights abuses under this agenda item at every session. No other country is singled out in this way. All other human rights issues involving UN member states, are debated under Agenda Item 4.

The United States and Israel have repeatedly asked the UNHRC to abolish this agenda item. Their calls have gained sympathy with the European nations, which increasingly chose not to speak under Agenda Item 7 to indicate their opposition to it.

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