U.N. rights inquiry says Israel must remove settlers

Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:45pm EST
 

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.

A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.

"Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights," Christine Chanet, a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry, told a news conference.

The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.

"To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination," Chanet said.

All U.N. member states must comply with their duty under international law on the settlements, she said. "We have highlighted states' responsibility because the facts we denounce are known. The problem is nobody is doing anything about it."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reacted to the inquiry's findings by repeating his position that "all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law," according to a statement.

In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit what they said were additional war crimes by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood, and said Israel must be held accountable.   Continued...

 
Christine Chanet, Head of a United Nations human rights Inquiry Commission pauses during a news conference in Geneva January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse