May 18th, 2021 

By Rehan Piracha 

LAHORE revisits key recommendations of the UN report praised as a “a kind of weapon for the Palestinians” to try Israel for war crimes committed in West Bank and Gaza. Late Pakistani human rights icon Asma Jahangir was one of the members of the UN mission tasked with investigating Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories in 2012.

n July 2012, the United Nations named French judge Christine Chanet as the leader of a team of three experts who will investigate whether Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories violate human rights law. Chanel other team members were Asma Jahangir and Botswana judge Unity Dow. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had launched the probe in March under an initiative brought to the 47-member forum by the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s ally the United States was the only member to vote against it. The council said Israel’s planned construction of new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermined the peace process and posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

On February 7, 2013, the three-member UN panel of investigators presented its report on Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories to UN General Assembly Human Rights Council’s at its twenty-second session. In their report, UN investigators have called on Israel 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.

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. Head of the panel, Christine Chanet, described the UN report as a “a kind of weapon for the Palestinians” if they want to take their grievances before International Court of Justice at The Hague.

UN panel denied access to Occupied Palestinian Territory

Israel did not cooperate with the UN probe panel which had sent five requests for access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The panel regretted that the Israeli government did not respond to their requests for access and had to make alternative arrangements to obtain direct and first-hand information in the form of a series of meetings held with a wide range of interlocutors from 3 to 8 November 2012 in Jordan.

In Jordan, the UN investigators interviewed more than 50 people affected by the settlements and/or working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Besides, the UN fact-finding mission received 62 written submissions from governments, intergovernmental organizations, international and national non-governmental organizations, professional bodies, academics, victims, witnesses and the media.


The UN report states that a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements. These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterised principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis.

Israeli govt backing settlements since 1967

Since 1967, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements, the UN report stated. “In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Christine Chanet.

Segregation of Palestinians and Israeli settlers

The report states that settlements are established and developed for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. The settlements are maintained and advanced through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

Accountability for violations

The UN mission urged Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, including for all acts of settler violence, in a non-discriminatory manner, and to put an end to the policy of impunity. “We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Asma Jahangir said at the launch of the UN report.

Israel breached upon Palestinians’ right of self-determination

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law. The report also concludes that the Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the transfer of populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. 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,” said Ms. Unity Dow, member of the Mission from Botswana.

Privates companies profited from settlements

The UN report stated that private entities have also enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction of the settlements – both directly and indirectly. In its recommendations, the UN mission called upon private companies to assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure that they do not have an adverse impact on the human rights of the Palestinian people, in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It furthered asked all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations. The mission recommended that the Working Group on  Business and Human Rights be seized of this matter.

Israel must cease all settlements

In its key recommendations, the UN investigators called upon Israel to, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. In addition, Israel should immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The mission also urged Israel to ensure adequate, effective and prompt remedy for all Palestinian victims for the harm suffered as a consequence of human rights violations that are a result of the settlements in accordance with that State’s international obligation to provide effective remedy. Where necessary, the UN mission stated, Israel should take steps to provide such remedy in concurrence with the representatives of the Palestinian people and the assistance of the international community.

End to HR violations

The mission called upon Israel to put an end to the human rights violations that are linked to the presence of settlements.

Bar on prisoners transfer to Israel

The mission urges Israel to put an end to arbitrary arrest and detention of the Palestinian people, especially children, and to observe the prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the territory of Israel, in accordance with article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The mission calls upon all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relations with a State breaching peremptory norms of international law, and specifically not to recognize an unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s violations.