Experts Explore Legal Means to Mitigate Human Rights Inequities, as Third Committee Delegates Caution Against Political Bias in Judicial Reform – General Assembly Press Release

27 OCTOBER 2017



Ways and means of addressing human rights challenges through the rule of law, whether domestically or globally, was the topic of the day in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as delegates engaged with experts on gender identity, the Palestinian Territories, and truth and justice in general.


Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, also focused his presentation through a legal lens.  He had devised a four-part test, anchored in international law, to determine whether an occupying power was the lawful occupant of territory.  “Israel, the occupying power, is in substantial breach of each of the four parts of this test,” he said, urging the General Assembly to sponsor a legal study on ways for States to ensure respect for international law, including the duty to end a wrongful situation.


MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, said Israel had refused to cooperate with his mandate and respond to his requests to visit the Territories.  His report’s central theme explored whether an occupying power, which treated the territory in an acquisitive manner — in violation of international law — had become an illegal occupant.  Until now, the international community had treated Israel as the lawful occupant of Palestinian territories, despite that it had breached international law through its settlement enterprise, construction of the wall, annexation of East Jerusalem and systemic violation of human rights.

He had devised a four-part test, anchored in international law, to determine whether an occupying power was the lawful occupant of territory.  The first part centred around the established legal principle that an occupier could not annex or gain title to any part of the occupied territory.  The second part was that the occupation must be temporary.  As such, the occupying power was required to establish conditions to end the occupation, such as public order and a functioning economy.  The third part involved determining whether the occupying power acted in the best interest of the people under occupation.  The fourth part required the occupying power to administer the territory in good faith — a cornerstone principle of the international legal system — meaning that it must carry out its duties in an honest, loyal, reasonable and diligent manner.

“Israel, the occupying power, is in substantial breach of each of the four parts of this test,” he said.  Israel had annexed East Jerusalem and parts of West Bank.  Its occupation was not temporary in nature.  Israel had not acted in the best interests of Palestinian people, having exploited occupied land for its settlers.  Israel had failed to live up to the demands of the good faith principle and defied relevant Security Council resolutions.  Its role as an occupant had “crossed the red line” into illegality and he urged use of legal and diplomatic tools to end the occupation.

When the floor opened to questions, a representative of the State of Palestine expressed full support of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, noting that his report could transform the discussion towards the illegality of Israel’s occupation.  After 50 years, the international community must realize not enough had been done to help Palestinians.  The report identified the human rights situation in Palestine as deteriorating and stated that Israel’s rule had reached the point of illegality under international law.

Facts and analysis revealed Israel had failed the test of a lawful occupant, she said, pointing to the Special Rapporteur’s comment that Israel’s role had “crossed a red line”.  De-facto annexations of territories, human rights violations and disregard for Security Council resolutions demonstrated that Israel was not operating in good faith and with impunity.  A large reason for such behaviour was that the international community had failed to hold Israel accountable.

She asked the Special Rapporteur about the implications of finding the occupying power as illegal, what framework could protect Palestinians and how the international community should react.  She condemned Israel’s refusal to participate with the mandate and called on it to be brought into compliance with international obligations.

The representative of Israel said Hamas was an internationally recognized terrorist organization that targeted Palestinians speaking out against their actions.  Palestinian authorities were also paying terrorists to attack Israeli citizens, she said.  The report’s disregard for such rights violations made it clear that the Special Rapporteur had an anti-Israel bias and wished to isolate Israel, noting that he recently had called for sanctions against Israel and was seeking to exploit United Nations mechanisms to pursue his own agenda.  The Special Rapporteur had no choice but to resign, she said.

The representative of Namibia expressed concern over Israel’s failure to grant the Special Rapporteur access to the region to gather first-hand information.  Continuous non-cooperation from Israel was “highly regrettable”, she said asking the Special Rapporteur to discuss the possibility of seeking an advisory opinion on the Palestinian question from the International Court of Justice.

The representative of South Africa voiced opposition to the negative effects of occupation on the people of Palestine and agreed that the occupation had become an “illegal oxymoron”.

The representative of Morocco said the Palestinian issue was at an impasse and reiterated her support for initiatives aimed at creating a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said Israel continued to violate basic human rights and pursue colonial policies.

The representative of Nicaragua said that despite appeals from the international community, Israel continued to build illegal settlements and asked how such policies affected Palestinians’ right to development.

The representative of the European Union said achieving a two-State solution was central to the bloc’s policy.  He opposed Israel’s settlement building, and condemned terror attacks from all sides and in all circumstances.

The representative of Cuba demanded a just, peaceful solution and called for recognition of a Palestinian State.

The representative of China vowed to pay attention to the human rights situation in the occupied territories and expressed support for a two-State solution.

The representative of Turkey said Israeli policy continued to violate United Nations resolutions, and he expressed commitment to development efforts in the region.

The representative of Malaysia said Palestinians faced great violations including movement restrictions and inability to construct new homes.  He asked about the implications of those policies.

The representative of Iran said the report outlined violations by Israel and asked if the Special Rapporteur had approached that country’s allies to encourage his potential visit.

The representative of Indonesia said fundamental human rights and freedoms must be prioritized, and that violations from the occupying power must end.

The representative of the Maldives said the crisis in Palestine was entirely man-made and caused by Israel.  Occupation was a flagrant violation of international law, he said, calling for an independent and sovereign Palestine.

The representative of Norway urged Israel’s full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.  He expressed concern over practices amounting to collective punishment and called for pursuit of a two-State solution.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that despite international efforts, little progress had been made in recent decades.  He said the two-State solution was the only way forward and called for an end to unilateral actions.

The representative of Iraq called on the international community to ensure Israel complied with international rules.

The representative of Syria encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue working to expose State terror promoted by Israel.

The representative of Egypt said Israel was pursuing new Greater Jerusalem legislation and asked about the implications of such legislation.

Mr. LYNK urged the United Nations to commission a study on the legality of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory.  When that had been done in 1971 regarding Namibia and South Africa, the situation there had persisted for over 40 years.  He urged the General Assembly to sponsor a legal study on ways and means for States to ensure respect for international law, including the duty to end a wrongful situation.  If those avenues did not succeed, the Assembly should consider the Uniting for Peace resolution.  If there were a determination that Israel’s occupier role was no longer lawful, a declaration of illegality of any further rule by Israel would not affect the framework of international protection, such as the Geneva Convention.  Those were two separate questions, and a declaration of illegality would maintain protection until the end of the occupation.

To comments by Israel’s delegate, he said advancing ad hominem personal attacks had never been a persuasive argument.  On how settlement enterprises affected Palestinians, he said it meant the loss of property, restrictions on the freedom of movement, the pillage of water and natural resources, and the creation of a separate political regime with no place in the modern world.  Regarding a query on the implications of a new Jerusalem bill, he noted that in 1967, the initial annexation of East Jerusalem had been disguised as municipal fusion.  That had meant to bring in several hundred thousand settlers by a first step of extending the laws of Jerusalem to them.  The international community should take up that issue with great alarm.


For information media. Not an official record.



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