The International Criminal Court must allow for Israelis to be tried for the crime of apartheid, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, accusing the Jewish state of criminalizing Palestinians as an entire people for pursuing self-determination.
“The prosecutor of the ICC should examine as part of the investigation into the situation in Palestine the possible commission of the international crimes of…apartheid,” she wrote in a report she submitted to the UNHRC, which was debated on Monday.
The ICC is now weighing whether war crimes suits can be filed against Israelis. Albanese called for the international tribunal to conclude that Israelis could be tried for the crime of apartheid, particularly as it relates to the incarceration of Palestinians.
“The Israeli settler colonial apartheid regime targeting the Palestinian people deprives them of fundamental rights, including equality before the law,” wrote Albanese, the UN rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.
In her report and in her comments to the UNHRC on Monday she acknowledged that there were Palestinians who were legitimately arrested for crimes, but she explained the issue of incarceration was most often used by Israel as a method of oppression.
Israel has made Palestinian territories 'open-air prison,' Rapporteur claims
Israel’s restrictions against the Palestinians in general, including curtailments on movement and access as well as digital tracking have effectively transformed the Palestinian territories into a large open-air prison, she told the council.
“The individual and mass deprivation of liberty dovetails with the mass entrapment that captivates the Palestinians as-a-people in the occupied territory through physical, bureaucratic and digital confinement techniques, transforming the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole into a constantly surveilled open-air prison,” Albanese wrote.
“This large-scale carcerality is an essential feature of settler-colonial regimes, aimed at crushing the native populations, while incrementally seizing their ancestral lands,” Albanese told the UNHRC during its 53rd session, which wraps up this week.
This appears “to be part of a plan of ‘de-Palestinization’ of the territory” that “threatens the existence of a people as a national cohesive group,” Albanese charged.
“The occupying power frames the Palestinians as a collective incarcerable security threat, ultimately de-civilianizing them, namely eroding their status as protected persons under international law,” she alleged.
Within this context, the PA operates in captivity and cannot protect the Palestinian people from attacks by the army or settlers, Albanese said, as she equated IDF anti-terrorist operations and violent attacks by settlers against innocent Palestinians.
Alluding to comments by Western leaders and UN officials, she said it was misleading to call on “both parties” to “calm down” the situation when there was no equivalency between the power held by both sides.
The international community must recognize the “illegality of Israel’s occupation,” which “cannot be rectified or made more humane by merely addressing some of its most severe consequences. It is to be brought to an end and restore the rule of law and justice, in the interest of both the Palestinians and Israelis,” Albanese said.
She spoke during Agenda Item 7, a mechanism by which Israel’s alleged human rights abuses are debated at each UNHRC session. Israel is the only country against whom there is a mandate to scrutinize it at each of the council’s three meetings a year.
Israel and the United States have attempted without success to eliminate Agenda Item 7, with Israel taking the step of boycotting the session. Israel was not present, therefore, to respond to Albanese’s report. The UN rapporteur, who was appointed to her post last year, is known for her pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli views.
In advance of the presentation of Albanese’s report, a US-based group called the Combat Antisemitism Movement, wrote a letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk and asked him to remove Albanese from her post.
Albanese is among a number of growing voices at the UN pushing for Israel to be considered guilty of the crime of apartheid and for its military control of the West Bank and its sovereignty over east Jerusalem to be declared illegal.
Last year the UN General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice to render an advisory option on the legality of Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories.