Agenda item 30
Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories
In its resolution 62/108, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its sixty-third session a report on the implementation of the resolution. The present report, which has been prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is submitted pursuant to that resolution. The period covered by the report is January to August 2008. The report addresses the continuation of the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories with its associated system and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.
1. In its resolution 62/108 of , the General Assembly expressed, inter alia, grave concern about the continuation by Israel, the occupying Power, of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly about Israel's construction and expansion of settlements in and around East Jerusalem. It also expressed concern about the dangerous situation resulting from violent actions taken by the armed Israeli settlers in the occupied territory.
2. In the light of recent reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/7/76 and A/HRC/8/17), which address the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in 2008 and also deal with the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians as well as the firing of rockets against Israeli civilian areas, and of the submission, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 62/109, of the report of the Secretary-General on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/63/518), the present report addresses progress made in the implementation of resolution 62/108 concerning, specifically, the continuation in the construction of settlements in the occupied territory with its associated regime, as well as violence by Israeli settlers.
II. Legal background
A. International humanitarian law
3. The most relevant international humanitarian law standards concerning the responsibilities of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the occupying Power are set out in the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.1 In its 2004 advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (see A/ES-10/273 and Corr.1), the International Court of Justice recalled that, while Israel is not a party to the 1907 Convention with respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land, to which the Hague Regulations are annexed, the provisions of the Regulations have become part of customary international law. It also concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable in the Palestinian territories which before the 1967 conflict lay to the east of the Green Line and which, during that conflict, were occupied by Israel. Since then, a number of United Nations resolutions have reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.2
4. The advisory opinion and a number of United Nations resolutions have all affirmed that Israel's practice of constructing settlements - in effect, the transfer by an occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies - constitutes a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition to the construction of the settlements, other activities related to settlements are also illegal. These include the requisition of land, the destruction of houses and orchards, the construction of roads meant for the use of settlers only, the exploitation of
natural resources within the occupied territory and the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The international community has also raised concerns regarding the depletion of natural resources as a result of settlements.3
B. International human rights law
5. In its advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice concluded that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are applicable within the occupied territory.4 The position of United Nations human rights treaty bodies, which mirrors that of the International Court of Justice, is that Israel as a State party to international human rights instruments, continues to bear responsibility for implementing its human rights conventional obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to the extent that it continues to exercise jurisdiction in those territories.5 The Court also noted that the obligations of Israel under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights include an obligation not to raise any obstacle to the exercise of such rights in those fields where competence has been transferred to Palestinian authorities (para. 112).