As an organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of Palestinian human rights, Al-Haq welcomes the adoption of resolution A/HRC/19/L.35 by the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (the Council). During its nineteenth session, held between 27 February and 23 March in Geneva, the Council has decided that it will dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem.
The fact-finding mission represents the latest in a series of inquiry mechanisms established to investigate Israel’s serious violations of international law in the OPT, none of which received cooperation from Israel. In response to the Council’s decision, which was adopted with 36 votes in favour, 10 abstentions, and a sole no vote by the United States, Israel announced that it will not cooperate, nor allow the panel access to the affected areas. Such an obstructive approach to an inquiry mechanism that has the support of a large majority of States certainly begs the question of what Israel is afraid the fact-finding mission will reveal.
It is imperative that the fact-finding mission is given large international support as well as sufficient means and time to fulfill its mandate. Al-Haq calls upon the mission to engage in an open and constructive dialogue with civil society organisations to carry out its mandate in a comprehensive and effective manner. Unless the future fact-finding mission is granted the proper tools and authority, and unless its recommendations are implemented without delay, it will prove to be little more than a futile exercise that would only serve to compound the climate of impunity currently enjoyed by Israel.
Further impeding upon the exercise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and obstructing all efforts at a just and lasting peace, the Israeli government approved another plan for the construction of 500 new homes for Israeli settlers in a West Bank settlement in late February. Despite international condemnation, Israel has since the outset of the occupation consistently and aggressively pursued settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank. Israel has used its effective control over the OPT to construct more than 150 settlements, now home to more than 500,000 settlers. Israel’s policy of land appropriation from Palestinians in occupied territory for the establishment of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is an extensive and systematic practice carried out in violation of international humanitarian law. The de facto annexation of Palestinian land, the creation of a network of roads and flourishing agricultural enterprises for the sole benefit of the settlers have relegated Palestinians to veritable enclaves in the West Bank. Currently, the settlements amount to more than 40 per cent of the West Bank, and include control over essential agricultural and water resources. The incessant growth and consolidation of the Israeli settlements, denying the Palestinians their inalienable right to self-determination, is a major obstacle to peace and effectively renders the two-state solution unachievable on the ground.
Over the past three years, in the complete absence of accountability, Israel has benefitted from a climate of impunity, while the international community has simply averted its gaze and ignored its responsibility to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators. In light of the international community’s demonstrated lack of political will to adhere to its obligations, Al-Haq welcomes the Council’s resolution A/HRC/19/L.36 and urges the international community – once more – to take appropriate action to implement the recommendations made by the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
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