The UN has today said that Israel’s transfer of population into the West Bank contravenes the 1949 Geneva Conventions and could amount to a war crime.
Three UN investigators have called on Israel to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that it violates international law.
It has been long established that the settlements are, by their very nature, a violation of International Humanitarian Law. As the human rights group Diakonia state:
“According to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, reflective of customary international law , any kind of transfer of the occupying power’s population to the occupied territory is prohibited, regardless of whether the transfer was voluntary or forced”.
Unity Dow, the Botswana member of the investigating team commented:
“Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights”.
Dow went one step further stating:
“The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand”.
The report called on Israel to not only halt settlement expansion – something has consistently failed to do – but also to “immediately withdraw” all settlers from occupied territories.
The report also sign posted Palestine to the International Criminal Court who deals with war crimes saying, “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”.
There are currently about 520,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that these findings will only further stretch Israel’s already fragile relationship with the UN’s Human Rights Council.