SEVENTY-FOURTH SESSION, 31ST & 32ND MEETINGS (AM & PM)
23 OCTOBER 2019
One of five mandate holders to present their findings, Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, focused on the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “This would properly be labelled a tragedy if I was reporting to you about a natural catastrophe and the ensuing scale of human suffering,” he said. However, this is a human‑made disaster. Israel’s now 12‑year blockade of Gaza is expressly prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The will of the international community does not seem strong enough to compel Israel into compliance, he said. “No country is as dependent on the support of the international community as Israel, yet Israel allows itself to defy the world as few dare.” To ensure accountability, he advocated a complete ban on exports from illegal Israeli settlements, coupled with flight bans, refusing arms transfers and using universal jurisdiction to bring violators of international law to justice.
During the interactive dialogue, the observer for the State of Palestine said Israel is fully aware of the suffering it inflicts on Palestinians, but is unwilling to change. Several delegates called for respecting the two‑State solution, with an observer for the European Union cautioning that multilateral cooperation is the only way to find a sustainable solution. Norway’s representative was among those pressing Israel to grant access to the Special Rapporteur, so he can fulfil his mandate, while Ireland’s representative cited Israel’s administrative detention of children.
Interactive Dialogues — Palestinian Territories
MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said Israel has continued its unwavering stance of non‑cooperation with his mandate, refusing to grant entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Recalling that cooperation is a fundamental obligation of United Nations membership, he said nothing can substitute for the ability to visit, meet with people and organizations, collect evidence and see the state of human rights. His report focuses on the severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “This would properly be labelled a tragedy if I was reporting to you about a natural catastrophe and the ensuing scale of human suffering. But I am not. I am instead speaking to you about a human‑made catastrophe — the 12‑year‑old Israeli air, sea and land blockade of Gaza,” he said, calling it a form of collective punishment, which is expressly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. “The economic situation in Gaza continues to move from dire to acute to unimaginable,” following three wars over the past decade and serious cuts in humanitarian aid. Today, over half of Gaza’s population is food insecure. The unemployment rate is more than 50 per cent, with 70 per cent of Gazans under 30 years old without work. “The health care system is collapsing, the available water is largely undrinkable and access to electrical power is intermitted and unreliable.”
Drawing attention to the ongoing deaths and maiming of Palestinian demonstrators by live Israeli fire at the Gaza frontier, he said that since March 2018, more than 200 Palestinians — largely unarmed — have been killed by sniper fire, and more than 33,000 wounded. The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory found that virtually all the demonstrators killed by Israeli soldiers were shot in violation of their right to life, and in breach of the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law. Yet, Israel has demonstrated no accountability to address these actions, despite calls by the international community, by the 2019 Commission of Inquiry and by civil society. Describing the 53‑year‑old occupation as the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world, he said the international community has demonstrated “great unwillingness” to impose any meaningful accountability on Israel for its permanent occupation and its serious violations of international law.
He said Israel has rightly assessed that the international community — particularly Western industrial nations — lacks the political will to compel an end to its impunity. “No country is as dependent on the support of the international community as Israel, yet Israel allows itself to defy the world as few dare.” Recalling that Security Council resolution 446 (1979) demanded an end to Israel’s settlement enterprise, he said that, at that time, there were 80,000 Israeli settlers. Today, 40 years later, there are 650,000 settlers — an increase of more than 800 per cent over four decades. Reciting international law on accountability, and pointing to reports commissioned by the Human Rights Council over the last decade, he underscored the need to ensure Israel’s accountability through targeted countermeasures until compliance is achieved. There are two steps that the international community can apply in earnest, which have the potential to bring hope: a complete ban on the export of all products made in illegal Israeli settlements to the world market; and issuance of a clarion call to the United Nations to complete the database on businesses engaged in activities related to the illegal Israeli settlements.
In the ensuing debate, the observer for the State of Palestine called on Member States to bring an end to the occupation of Palestine. The report shows violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law — marked by home demolitions in the occupied West Bank and ongoing use of detention, including of children — and calls for ending Israel’s illegal occupation. No such intrusion has been conducted by an occupier so well informed about the scale of suffering and yet so unwilling to act upon overwhelming evidence of the need to end this injustice. There is an acute lack of accountability for five decades of Israel’s occupation. The Special Rapporteur made a direct recommendation to the international community, in line with article 1 of the Geneva Convention, to take all necessary measures to end the occupation. Condemning Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, she asked him to elaborate on sanctions that can be taken against Israel.
Numerous representatives decried that Israel’s occupation has persisted for decades, drastically eroding living conditions for Palestinians and squandering the chances for peace. The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that since 1967, Palestinians have suffered tremendously and their human rights have been violated. He urged the international community to put an end to Israel’s military occupation and worsening humanitarian crisis in the area.
Many called for respecting the two‑State solution, with the observer for the European Union stressing that Israel’s policy threatens the two‑State formula and that sustainable solutions can only be found through multilateral cooperation. The representative of Maldives likewise called for upholding the two‑State solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State, and urged Israel to grant access to the Special Rapporteur.
The representative of Malaysia asked about Member States’ assistance in ensuring accountability and reparations for violations committed by Israel. The representative of Iran stressed that “Palestine is a place in which a nation is left behind.” The representative of Ireland expressed concern over the demolition of the Palestinian communities, serious international humanitarian law violations, and use of administrative detention, including for children, calling on Israel to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. The representative of the Russian Federation opposed Israel’s unilateral settlement activities and blockade which obstructs peace in the Middle East and has caused an outbreak of terrorism.
The representative of Norway said worsening conditions in the West Bank, violence by security forces, use of administrative detention and denial of access to natural resources cannot be allowed to occur with impunity; Israel must respect international humanitarian law. Pointing to abuses in Hamas‑controlled Gaza, she urged Israel to grant access to the Special Rapporteur. The representative of Syria said the main cause of the Israeli‑Palestine conflict is Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. The representative of Saudi Arabia pressed Israel to abide by international law and respect the rights of Palestinians. He urged the international community to address the causes of the prolonged conflict.
Mr. LYNK replied that the essential message from his report and dialogue with civil society is that the occupation will only end with decisive action by the international community. The report draws from a number of practices, including commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions. Regarding the possibility of adopting lawful countermeasures against Israel, he mentioned flight bans, refusing arms transfers, referring the matter to the International Criminal Court and using universal jurisdiction to bring violators of international law — if they happen to be on the soil of the concerned country — to justice. In order to assess whether the 52‑year occupation crosses a red line into illegality, he referred to the International Court of Justice ruling on Namibia in 1971. The General Assembly also should commission a study on whether the occupation has crossed a red line into illegality. According to international law, occupation cannot be permanent: No annexation can occur; the occupying Power must conduct its occupation in good faith and respect international law. Concerning his priorities for the coming year, he pointed to collective punishment, violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions as well as the issuance of a report on accountability that will address practical measures for the international community.
Also participating in the debate were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Senegal, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China and Indonesia.
For information media. Not an official record.
Document Sources: General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT, Third Committee (Social Humanitarian and Cultural)
Subject: Fourth Geneva Convention, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Occupation
Publication Date: 23/10/2019
URL source: https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/gashc4273.doc.htm