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19 Mar, 2013

Israeli Settler Violence Must Be Prosecuted, Says UN Human Rights Chief


New York, Mar 18 2013, (UN News Centre) – The United Nations human rights chief today urged Israel to prosecute settlers who carry out violent acts against Palestinians, while also calling on Government forces to refrain from using excessive force and to guarantee adequate handling of child detainees, following reports of ill-treatment.

“On the Israeli side, settler violence continues to be perpetrated with impunity,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “And Israel needs to hold perpetrators accountable. While investigations are not opened into most incidents of settler violence, between 2005 and 2011, only 9 per cent of the investigations opened resulted in an indictment.”

In her presentation of the report on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, she noted that, during the reporting period, 383 acts of settler violence resulted in injury to 169 Palestinians, damage to more than 8,000 of their olive trees – which represent a significant part of their livelihoods – and damage to other properties such as churches and mosques.

Ms. Pillay also pointed to findings of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank, which has resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians, four of which occurred during demonstrations. In addition, she expressed concern over the situation of thousands of Palestinians who have been detained and imprisoned in Israel.

“Over the past year, individual and mass hunger strikes have sought to awaken the world to the circumstances they face, especially Palestinians held by Israel under administrative detention,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that the results of investigations into the deaths of prisoners must be disclosed publicly.

A report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published earlier this month pointed to the ill-treatment of child detainees, corroborating findings of previous investigations carried out by independent experts and other UN human rights mechanisms.

In this regard, Ms. Pillay urged the Israeli Government to quickly implement UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure that its policies and practices comport with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards.

Also in the Council, the Chairperson of the fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements, Christine Chanet, presented the findings of more than 50 interviews conducted in November in Jordan with witnesses, victims and non-governmental organizations, who testified about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods, including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers.

“The settlers seem to enjoy all the rights, while they are denied to Palestinians,” Ms. Chanet said. “They are subject to a particularly complex civil law system and to a military criminal procedure which does not protect them against arbitrary arrest and detention and does not guarantee a fair trial to the accused. Even children aged between 12 and 17 are subject to this regime.”

Ms. Chanet said that looking at maps it was possible to measure the extent and expansion of the settlements, with most of them being able to communicate with each other. From the viewpoint of the members of the mission, this was a growing, creeping form of annexation.

She called for the immediate withdrawal of the settlers and emphasized that their activity is negatively impacting the daily life of thousands of men and women who live in fear of violence and of having their houses demolished.