NEW YORK (24 October 2018) – A UN human rights expert said it was high time the international community takes firm action to stop Israel’s annexation of large parts of the West Bank through settlement expansion and legislative initiatives, warning that failure to do so will likely prompt Israel to formalise annexation into domestic law.
“During five decades of the occupation, Israel has steadily entrenched its sovereign footprint throughout the West Bank,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory said. Michael Lynk, in a report to the UN General Assembly, highlighted settlement construction and expansion, as well as recent legislative measures he said amounted to illegal de facto annexation.
“The Israeli Knesset has adopted a number of laws in the past year that have become a flashing green light for more formal annexation steps,” he said, noting recent measures that sought to apply Israeli law to the West Bank, as well as the 2017 settlement regularisation law.
“The strict prohibition against annexation in international law applies not only to a formal declaration, but also to those acts of territorial appropriation by Israel that have been a cumulative part of its efforts to stake a future claim of formal sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territory.”
The Rapporteur urged the international community to act. “Lacking in repeated condemnations of Israel’s annexationist actions have been any meaningful steps by the international community to insist upon accountability. Despite Israel’s record of non-compliance with the directions of the international community, it has rarely paid a meaningful price for its defiance, and its appetite for entrenching its annexationist ambitions has gone largely unchecked,” Lynk said.
“A deep-rooted problem at the heart of this conflict has not been lack of clarity of international law – in fact it is quite clear, but the unwillingness of the international community to enforce what it has proclaimed.”
Describing the human rights situation in Gaza as dire, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the continued economic and humanitarian deterioration and ongoing demonstrations in which more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces.
“The United Nations stated in 2012 that Gaza may well be unliveable by 2020. When electricity has been cut to five hours a day, when safe drinking water has almost disappeared, and when its economy is cratering before our eyes, then the state of unliveability is upon us, and the international community must insist that all parties, and particularly Israel, the occupying power, bring an immediate end to this disaster.”
Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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