GENEVA (28 June 2019) ‑ The international community must insist that any proposal for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the just and durable settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to be firmly anchored in human rights and international law, a UN expert said.
“Without the framework of international law, any peace plan, including the forthcoming proposal from the United States, will crash upon the shoals of political realism,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
“Prior plans for Middle East peace over the past five decades have all failed, in large part because they did not seriously insist upon a rights-based approach to peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Lynk said after a two-day workshop in Bahrain focusing on the economic aspects of a possible peace plan.
The Special Rapporteur said that international law – built upon the principles of humanitarian protection, human rights, equality and justice – has been expressed in hundreds of United Nations resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Animating these resolutions is the vision that the law, when purposively applied, can offset a lopsided power relationship between two parties and ensure that all are equal before the law,” he said. “What matters is not the might of one’s army or economy, but the grounding of one’s vision in recognised rights and freedoms.”
The Special Rapporteur said that six principles were particularly central to the peace process:
Human rights. Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to the full range of individual and collective human rights enshrined in international law, including the rights to equality, movement, expression and association, as well as freedom from discrimination.
Self-determination. This can mean that each is entitled to their own state within the boundaries of Mandate Palestine, or it can mean a voluntary agreement to live together within a common form of government. The present international consensus supports a two-state solution, which requires a viable, contiguous and fully sovereign Palestinian state, based on the June 1967 boundaries, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a meaningful transportation link between the West Bank and Gaza. Annexation. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in two stages, in 1967 and 1980, condemned by the United Nations as unlawful on numerous occasions. Negotiations on the Jerusalem conundrum must start with the premise that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory.
Settlements. The 240 Israeli settlements across East Jerusalem and the West Bank are a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law, according to the United Nations Security Council. They are also a primary source of systemic human rights violations. The settlements would have to be removed, both to comply with international law and to enable a viable and sovereign Palestinian state to emerge. Palestinian Refugees. International law guarantees refugees the right to select among three choices: (i) the right to return home; (ii) the right to integrate in their land of asylum; or (iii) the right to resettle in a third country. Palestinian refugees from the 1947-9 and 1967 wars, and their descendants, who wish to return to their homeland are entitled to do so, a right that the UN General Assembly has endorsed over seven decades. Security. Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security and peace, free from alien rule, terrorism and threats to their well-being, such as blockades, rockets and missiles. Lynk reiterated that these principles are the litmus test to judge the possibilities of success of the forthcoming American peace plan. “If the peace plan fails to integrate these principles, it will inevitably suffer the same fate as its predecessors and leave the conflict more entrenched and more bereft of hope than ever,” he said.
Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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