Israeli settlements are a war crime : UN rights expert

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A U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday that Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank amount to a war crime, and urged countries to punish Israel for its “illegal occupation.”

Michael Lynk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, was speaking during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that was being boycotted by Israel, which refuses to recognize his mandate or collaborate with him.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the Israeli settlements are a war crime,” Lynk stated.

According to him, the settlements breach an absolute prohibition on an occupying force transferring a portion of its civilian population into an occupied region, thereby constituting a war crime under the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“I suggest to you that this conclusion compels the international community… to make it clear to Israel that its unlawful occupation and rejection of international law and opinion can and will no longer be cost-free,” Lynk said at the Geneva rights forum.

The settlements are seen as a violation of international law by many countries. Israel refutes this claim, citing Biblical and historical ties to the territory as well as security concerns.

Israeli settlements, according to Lynk, are “the motor of Israel’s 54-year-old occupation.” According to him, there are now around 300 settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with over 680,000 Israeli Israelis.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally and a member of the council with observer status, was not on the list of speakers for the debate.

The European Union’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Lotte Knudsen, echoed the opinion of other governments, saying the settlements were unlawful under international law.

“Forced transfers, evictions, demolitions, and home confiscation will further exacerbate an already sensitive situation.”

Israel jailed 5,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, some of whom had been held for more than 20 years.

Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, but Jewish settlements on land won by Israel in a 1967 war have long been a stumbling block in the peace process. The most recent round of peace talks ended in failure in 2014.

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