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UN tells Israel to immediately remove all settlers

Friday, February 01, 2013 12:32 AM

Christine Chanet, Head of a United Nations Human Rights Inquiry Commission, gestures during a news conference in Geneva, Thursday. United Nations human rights investigators called on Israel Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices violated international law. – Reuters

GENEVA – Israel must immediately start withdrawing its settlers from the Palestinian territories, the United Nations said Thursday in a report that the Jewish state immediately dismissed as “biased.”

Israel must… cease all settlement activities without preconditions (and) must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, said a report commissioned by the UN’s Human Rights Council last March.

Because of the settlements, Palestinians’ human rights “are being violated consistently and on a daily basis,” the three independent experts said in the report.

Israel settling its population into occupied territory falls “into the provision of article eight of the ICC (International Criminal Court) statute… on war crimes,” Christine Chanet of France, who chaired the mission, told reporters in Geneva.

She said it was unclear if the ICC could prosecute Israel for such crimes.

The experts, who will present their findings to the 47-member state council on March 18, also called on Israel to “ensure adequate, effective and prompt remedy to all Palestinian victims… of human rights violations that are a result of the settlements.”

Chanet along with Asma Jahangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana, published their findings just two days after Israel became the first nation to boycott a regular review by the UN rights council.

Settlements are being maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population” in the territories, the report found, adding that Israeli military and police helped maintain the segregation “to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian people.”

The report authors were not permitted to travel to Israel or the Palestinian territories for their mission but instead relied on a wide range of interviews.

Through these interviews, Jahangir said the experts, who she stressed were “neutral”, had seen agony.

The report lists a long list of breaches, including to freedom of self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, arbitrary detention, freedom to access places of worship, education, water and housing, which were “interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern.”

For instance, the experts noted that different legal systems and standards apply to Palestinians and their settler neighbors. Settlers who commit violent acts against Palestinians are seldom held accountable, the report said, with a study by the Israeli Yesh Din rights group showing that more than 91 percent of such cases between 2005 and 2012, were closed without indictment.

In comparison, between 90 and 95 percent of cases of violence committed by Palestinians against settlers were investigated and went to court. Arbitrary arrests and detentions of Palestinians were also common. – AFP

UN orders Israel to remove illegal settlers

REUTERS | 31 January 2013

United Nations human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices violated international law.

Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the (occupied Palestinian territories),” said a report by the inquiry led by French judge Christine Chanet.

The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, it said.

In December, the PLO accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit further “war crimes” by expanding Jewish settlements after Palestine won de facto UN recognition of statehood and warned that Tel Aviv must be held accountable.

Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.

The independent UN investigators interviewed more than 50 people who came to Jordan in November to testify about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers, according to the report.

“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” it said.

‘Creeping annexation’

About 250 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been established since 1967 and they hold an estimated 520,000 settlers, according to the UN report. The settlements impede Palestinian access to water resources and agricultural lands, it said.

The settlements were “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” it said.

After the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians status at the world body, Israel said it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas Palestinians wanted for a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.

The UN human rights inquiry said that the International Criminal Court had jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer by the occupying power of its own population into the territory.

“Ratification of the (Rome) Statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims,” the UN report said, referring to the treaty setting up the Hague-based UN tribunal which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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