UNHRC panel: Settlements 'creeping annexation'

Fact finding mission for council says in'tl business ties with settlements should be halted, asks Israel to stop colonization.

March 19, 2013 06:23
3 minute read.
OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC

UNHRC 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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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.

Until now, 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.

Unity 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 continued.

“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 law.”

In the future, she said, states should report on what steps they have taken.

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.

Israel, 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 session.

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 said.

“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 thousands.

The United States implores council members to eliminate these biased resolutions and Permanent Agenda Item Seven.”

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