AL-HAQ OPEN LETTER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8 May 2006
Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
U.N. Headquarters #S-3800
New York, NY 10017
8 May 2006
Al-Haq would like to begin by commending the United Nations for hosting the meeting of the Quartet in New York on 9 May to discuss the status of the Quartet-sponsored Road Map for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Al-Haq believes this meeting provides a needed opportunity to affirm the commitment of the United Nations and other Quartet members to the implementation of both international human rights and humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In the chequered history of diplomatic initiatives to achieve a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too often has the implementation of these bodies of law been ignored, resulting in the irrelevance and inevitable failure of the peace initiatives. Ignoring international law obscures the reality of the Israeli occupation, creating an environment where injustice persists and progress towards meaningful peace cannot thrive.
As confirmed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its Advisory Opinion on the construction of the Wall in the OPT, both international humanitarian and human rights law apply to the OPT. Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is an Occupying Power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. As such, it has clear obligations with respect to the Palestinian civilian population therein. Israel is, inter alia, required to refrain from making civilians the object of attack, demolishing private property or unnecessarily and disproportionately disrupting the lives of the Palestinian civilian population. It is further required to ensure access to medical care, facilitate and provide humanitarian assistance, and refrain from interfering with childrens access to education. As acknowledged by numerous international human rights organisations and UN bodies, Israels actions in the OPT repeatedly violate these obligations.
Regarding the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, it is particularly pertinent to note that Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an Occupying Power from transferring parts of its civilian population into occupied territory. Israeli settlements, scattered throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in flagrant violation of this provision, as confirmed by the ICJ. International law also prohibits the acquisition of territory by force, yet it is precisely in this manner that Israel has de facto annexed East Jerusalem. Recent statements by the newly elected Israeli prime minister clearly indicate that Israel plans to annex further parts of the West Bank, retaining settlements and using the invasive route of the Wall to unilaterally determine future political borders. Such measures effectively consolidate Israels sustained illegal practices in the OPT.
It is also highly pertinent to note that the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits negotiating the provisions of the convention. Article 47 provides:
Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.
This clearly establishes that negotiations must take as their basis the full respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the non-recognition of Israels illegal practices of de facto annexation.
In addition to its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is bound by numerous human rights treaties. Yet, Israel is repeatedly censured before the various UN treaty monitoring mechanisms for its failure to implement the treaties in the OPT.
The fundamental provisions of international law violated by Israel are not subject to negotiation. Rather, respect for these principles should and must form the foundation and core of any negotiated solution. Israel should comply with these standards regardless of the elected government in the OPT or any ongoing or nascent negotiations. In failing to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law, but instead attempting to cajole them into a negotiated outcome, the Quartet has undermined the only basis upon which a just and durable solution to the conflict can be found.
Further, international acquiescence to sustained Israeli violations creates the perception among the Palestinian people that international law is ineffective in protecting them from dispossession and violence, or in enabling their legitimate aspirations. Ultimately, power is seen as conferring legitimacy. Such a perception must not take root as power and a sense of protection are most easily sought through violence. Al-Haq therefore urges you, as host of the Quartet meeting and Secretary-General of the UN, to use this high-level meeting as a unique opportunity to emphasise the full and unconditional implementation of international law as central to any future diplomatic initiative.
Acting General Director
cc: US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov
EU High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana
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