Israel must face new international legal push to end illegal occupation of Palestine, UN expert says

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


NEW YORK (26 October 2017) – A United Nations human rights expert has called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during 50 years of occupation.

“This is the longest-lasting military occupation in the modern world, and shows no signs of ending,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“Israel’s role as occupier in the Palestinian Territory – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – has crossed a red line into illegality,” the Special Rapporteur said, presenting a report on Israel’s conduct to the UN General Assembly in New York.

In a series of recommendations, Mr. Lynk proposed a UN study to assess the legality of Israel’s role as occupying power, paving the way for international legal processes to be triggered and the occupation to be ended.

“The laws of occupation are very clear that the occupying power cannot treat the territory as its own, nor can it make claims of sovereignty. Yet this has been Israel’s pattern of governing the occupied Palestinian territory for most of its 50 years of rule,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“International law is the promise that states make to one another, and to their people, that rights will be respected, protections will be honoured, agreements and obligations will be satisfied, and peace with justice will be pursued,” the Rapporteur emphasized.

Israel, he said, had failed to comply with any of the four main requirements in international law that he set out for an occupation to be considered lawful – that no territory should be annexed, that occupations should be temporary, and that the occupying power had to act in good faith and in the best interests of the protected population.

“The international community has recoiled from answering Israel’s splintering of the Palestinian territory and disfiguring of the laws of occupation with the robust tools that international law and diplomacy provide. International law, along with the peoples of Palestine and Israel, have all suffered in the process,” Mr. Lynk said.

Israel was also in non-compliance with more than 40 resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and with more than 100 resolutions of the General Assembly, he added.

“In recent months, the Prime Minister of Israel has stated on various occasions that East Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever, no more Jewish settlements will be uprooted, and Israel will stay permanently in the Jordan Valley in any peace agreement,” said Mr. Lynk. “Should we not take him at his word?”

The Special Rapporteur pointed out that pleas for the international community to act had also come from within Israel.

“Prominent Israelis of conscience have called upon the international community to exert effective pressure on the occupying power to bring the occupation to an end,” said Mr. Lynk. “As Amos Schocken, the publisher of Ha’aretz, has written about his own country’s leadership: ‘International pressure is precisely the force that will drive them to do the right thing’.”

The Special Rapporteur said it was possible to compel Israel to end the occupation and give Palestinians the right to self-determination if the international community determined that Israel’s role as the occupying power was now illegal, triggering the relevant international legal processes.

Alongside the proposed UN study on legality, the Special Rapporteur recommended that the UN General Assembly should request an opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the legality of the occupation. A previous opinion from the Court in 2004 said Israel’s wall on and through the occupied Palestinian territory was contrary to international law.

Mr. Lynk also recommended that the UN should commission a study to determine how States should fulfil their obligations and duties to ensure respect for international law.

“I call upon the international community to assess my analysis and, if accepted, to employ the appropriate diplomatic and legal strategies that would completely and finally end the occupation,” the Special Rapporteur said.