As an organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of Palestinian human rights, Al-Haq welcomes the establishment of the United Nations (UN) "Fact-Finding Mission on the Implications of Israeli Settlements on the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Palestinian People throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem" (hereinafter UN Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements). On Friday 6 July 2012, before closing the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (the Council), the President of the Council appointed French judge Christine Chanet as chair of the mission, along with Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir and Botswana judge Unity Dow as the experts of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements.
Following the adoption of resolution A/HRC/19/L.35 of 19 March 2012, which led to the decision to dispatch a Fact-Finding Mission, Israel declared it would not cooperate with the UN Mission, nor allow the experts access to the affected areas.
The illegal appropriation of Palestinian land and natural resources, the creation of a network of roads and flourishing agricultural enterprises for the sole benefit of Israeli citizens, especially settlers, along with the fragmentation of the occupied population into enclaves with minimal resources available, underpin the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the OPT. Such illegal practices severely deny, amongst others, the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Despite the illegal nature of Israeli settlements, which has been repeatedly confirmed by numerous UN Resolutions and the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the international community has not endeavoured to halt their expansion. Therefore, Al-Haq calls on the international community to expedite its efforts against further settlement expansion if genuinely committed to a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, recently stated in his briefing to the Security Council: “the search for a lasting peace that ends the Arab-Israeli conflict and resolves all claims is […] more urgent than ever, […] the very viability of a two state solution is at stake.”
The establishment of the Fact-Finding Mission represents an important step towards thoroughly investigating Israel’s violations of the rights of the Palestinian people in the OPT and establishing its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. Al-Haq encourages 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 this Fact-Finding Mission is granted the proper tools and authority, and unless its findings are effectively implemented, it will prove to be little more than a futile exercise that would only serve to compound the climate of impunity enjoyed by Israel.