'Int'l court must act on Palestinian prisoner issue'

Military retaliation against rocket fire from Gaza is not justified, says UN special rapporteur Richard Falk.

Palestinians rally to free hunger strikers 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Palestinians rally to free hunger strikers 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
The International Court of Justice at the Hague should be asked to issue an advisory opinion on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners and on the special nature of Israel’s prolonged “occupation” of Palestinian territory, United Nations special rapporteur Richard Falk said on Monday.
He made his statement, as part of a 16-page report on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians that he delivered to the UN Human Rights Council, which is holding its 20th session in Geneva through July 6.
The UNHRC spent most of Monday debating Israel’s actions in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It did so through a mechanism known as Item 7, under which a portion of every council session is devoted to Israeli actions against Palestinians.
“Support [should] be given for a request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the Israeli practice of transferring detained Palestinians to prisons in Israel, denying normal visitation rights,” Falk said.
He added that such an advisory opinion should be “possibly joined to a request for legal clarification of the special character of prolonged belligerent occupation.”
He added that he asked the UNHRC to commission a study to examine if international law adequately covered situations of prolonged occupation. It should also commission a second study on Israel’s use of administrative detention against Palestinians, Falk said. He also asked the UNHRC to censure Israel on this issue.
The UNHRC should take “emergency notice” of legislative attempts by Israel this spring to legalize West Bank outposts. Such action, he said, increases Israeli claims to Palestinian land and undermines the Palestinian right to self-determination.
He also asked the council to pay increased attention to Israel’s refusal to cooperate with his work on the council’s behalf. This refusal, he told the council, undermined its stature and legitimacy.
The report touched on wide-ranging topics, including administrative detention of Palestinians, Israeli settlement activity and settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli military actions in Gaza.
Israel’s military retaliation against Palestinians rocket fire from Gaza is not justified, Falk said.
“Israel continues to rely on excessive or disproportionate use of force in Gaza,” he said.
“There is a renewed urgency for the international community to respond to these developments,” he said.
He said that international intervention was needed, and that those who call for it in Syria, should do so here as well.
“If the responsibility to protect is to attain legitimacy as an application of international law, it must be applicable everywhere, in particular the situation of prolonged occupation that prevails in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Otherwise, the responsibility to protect will be discredited due to selective application,” he said.
Israel, which has cut off ties with the council, was not present during the discussion.
It also has refused to cooperate with Falk, who has been the special rapporteur for the council on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories since 2008.
A professor emeritus in international law at Princeton University, Falk is an outspoken critic of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the past, he has compared Israeli policies toward the Palestinians with the actions of Nazis toward the Jews during the Holocaust.
But after the meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “Once again, the UNHRC distinguishes itself with phantasmagorical statements that pander to the interests of the dictatorships, which manipulate the council. From the people who have bestowed human rights honors on the likes of Gaddafi, Castro and Assad, nothing can surprise anymore. This is yet another sad proof that the UNHRC leaves boycott as the only possible interface with its administration.”
Western countries were largely absent from the debate that followed, which included countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, Bahrain and Turkey, all of whom condemned Israeli actions against the Palestinians.
The Palestinian representative accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and of instigating racism and hatred against his people.
It asked Falk to state how such actions and Israel’s failure to comply with international law reflect on “Israel’s membership to international organizations.”
Norway, the Russian Federation and Cyprus, which spoke on behalf of the European Union, issued more measured and balanced statements.
But only the United States condemned the council itself. Its Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said her country, “continues to be deeply troubled by this council’s biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by this standing agenda item.”
“The effectiveness and legitimacy of this council can never be complete as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out for its own agenda item,” she added.