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3 Feb, 2013

Independent UN inquiry blasts Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory


UNITED NATIONS, (UN News Centre), 31 January 2013 – An independent inquiry mandated by the United Nations has called on Israel to halt all settlement activity and to ensure accountability for the violations of the human rights of the Palestinians resulting from the settlements.

The report (click here to download) of the International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) states that a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements.

“These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterized principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis,” said a news release on the report.

The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, dispatched the Mission in March 2012 “to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Since 1967, the Mission’s report notes, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements.

“In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Christine Chanet, chair of the three-member inquiry.

Israel must “immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT,” the Mission adds, as well as ensure “adequate, effective and prompt remedy” to all Palestinian victims for the harm suffered as a consequence of human rights violations resulting from the settlements.

The report states that settlements are established and developed for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. They are maintained and advanced through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the OPT.

This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population, it adds.

“We are today calling on the Government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Asma Jahangir, another member of the Mission.

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law.

“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand,” said another member, Unity Dow.

The report, which will be formally presented to the Council on 18 March, states that private entities have also enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction of the settlements – both directly and indirectly.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has taken note of the report, according to his spokesperson, who said Mr. Ban has repeatedly made his views on Israeli settlements clear. “All settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law,” the spokesperson said in a note issued to the press.

Excerpt from the report:

35. The Israeli government has full security and administrative control over the settlement areas, and effectively controls the external borders of the OPT. Regional councils composed exclusively of representatives of Israeli settlers exercise planning functions in settlement areas. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor local Palestinian communities have any control over the governance, administration and planning of these areas.

36. The settlements, including the associated restrictions, impede Palestinian access to and control over their natural resources. The Secretary General has noted that “Palestinians have virtually no control over the water resources in the West Bank”. Eighty-six per cent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea is under the de facto jurisdiction of the settlement regional councils. Settlements exploit mineral extraction and fertile agricultural lands, denying Palestinians access to their natural resources.

37. In December 2012, OCHA reported that while the fenced areas of settlements cover only three per cent of the West Bank, in reality 43 per cent of the territory is allocated to settlement local and regional councils. There are approximately 150,000 Palestinians living in Area C in close proximity to over 320,000 Israeli settlers. In East Jerusalem, about 200,000 settlers have been inserted into Palestinian areas with a Palestinian population of about 390,000. The negative impact of Israeli settlements on the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, however, extends to the Palestinian people as a whole.

38. The Mission considers that the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, including the right to determine how to implement self-determination, the right to have a demographic and territorial presence in the OPT and the right to permanent sovereignty over natural resources, is clearly being violated by Israel through the existence and on- going expansion of the settlements. The transfer of Israeli citizens into the OPT, prohibited under international humanitarian law and international criminal law, is a central feature of Israel’s practices and policies.