Israeli annexation would be “a vision of a 21st century apartheid” that must be stopped with “accountability,” a group of 47 United Nations human rights experts stated on Tuesday, as they called on the international community to take action.
“Criticism without consequences will neither forestall annexation nor end the occupation,” they stated.
There is a “broad menu of accountability measures that have been widely and successfully applied by the UN Security Council in other international crises over the past 60 years,” the experts said.
Such measures should be selected with an eye to maintaining international law and human rights, they said, adding that it must “undo the annexations and bring the occupation and the conflict to a just and durable conclusion.”
The statement was immediately lauded by the Palestinians, including PLO Executive Committee secretary-general Saeb Erekat and the US-based international left-wing organization Human Rights Watch.
The statement “unequivocally links Israeli plans of annexation and apartheid with the responsibilities of the international community,” he tweeted.
Signatories to the statement said they regretted the US role in providing a supportive environment for Israeli annexation. According to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Israel may apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank.
“On many occasions over the past 75 years, the United States has played an important role in the advancement of global human rights. On this occasion, it should be ardently opposing the imminent breach of a fundamental principle of international law, rather than actively abetting its violation,” the UN experts said.
They explained that the “annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible.”
Annexation is prohibited “precisely because it incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering,” they added. In their statement they charged Israel with a long list of human rights violations against Palestinians during the 53 years since it imposed military rule on the West Bank in 1967.
These allegations included the right to self-determination, land confiscation, confiscation of natural resources, home demolitions, forcible population transfer, excessive use of force and torture, targeting of activists and journalists, detention of children, economic deprivation, restrictions on movement and discrimination based on ethnicity and nationality.
Such “human rights violations would only intensify after annexation. What would be left of the West Bank would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world,” they said.
Among the experts who signed the statement was Michael Lynk, who is the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.
They spoke out as the UN Human Rights Council is ending its 43rd session, which had been suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this session, the 47-member body is slated to approve five resolutions against Israel, including one that calls for an arms embargo against the Jewish state.