GENEVA (1 May 2020) – An independent UN human rights expert warned today that the new Israeli coalition government’s plan to proceed with annexing significant parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, will create “a cascade of bad human rights consequences”.

 “Israel’s decision to unilaterally march ahead with the planned annexation on July 1 undermines human rights in the region, and would be a severe body blow to the rules-based international order,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. It would also further undermine any remaining prospect for a just and negotiated settlement, he said.

 “If Israel’s annexation plans proceed, what would be left of the West Bank would become a Palestinian Bantustan, an archipelago of disconnected islands of territory, completely surrounded and divided up by Israel and unconnected to the outside world,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“The plan would crystalize a 21st century apartheid, leaving in its wake the demise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Legally, morally, politically, this is entirely unacceptable.”

Human rights violations arising from Israeli occupation would only intensify after the annexation, Lynk said. “Already, we are witnessing forced evictions and displacement, land confiscation and alienation, settler violence, the appropriation of natural resources, and the imposition of a two-tiered system of unequal political, social and economic rights based on ethnicity.”

 Annexation has been strictly prohibited under international law since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Drawing from the bitter lessons of two world wars fought within a generation, the international community outlawed annexation because it generates conflict, vast human suffering, political instability, economic ruin and systemic discrimination. Since 1967, the UN Security Council has affirmed the principle of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory” by force or war on numerous occasions with specific reference to Israel’s occupation.

 The Special Rapporteur expressed deep alarm that Israel’s annexation plans are being supported and facilitated by the United States. “On many fronts, the US was a positive force in the post-war years for the creation of our modern system of international law. It understood that a strong network of rights and responsibilities was the best path to global peace and prosperity. Now, it is actively endorsing, and participating in, a flagrant violation of international law. Its legal duty is to isolate perpetrators of human rights violations, not abet them.”

 Lynk said the United Nations and its member states could no longer just offer criticism without consequences. “The looming annexation is a political litmus test for the international community. This annexation will not be reversed through rebukes, nor will the 53-year-old occupation die of old age,” the Special Rapporteur said.

 “As I stated in March, the international community should review its extensive menu of sanctions and countermeasures to stem this march towards further illegality. Settlement products should not enter the international marketplace. Agreements, existing and proposed, with Israel should be reviewed. The current investigations at the International Criminal Court should be supported,” the UN human rights expert underscored.

 “There has to be a cost to the defiance of international law,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Only this can compel the Israeli political leadership to do the right thing.”

 ENDS

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 and Working Groups 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.

 UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel  

 For more information and media requests, please contact Katarina Medlova (+41 22 917 9129 / kmedlova@ohchr.org