UN expert says Israeli settlements amount to ‘war crime’

A top United Nations rights expert has urged the international community to demand accountability for a practice it has long deemed illegal.

A top United Nations rights expert has urged the international community to demand accountability for a practice it has long deemed illegal.

Presenting his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michael Lynk, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, called for Israeli settlements to be classified as war crimes and said the settlements constitute a “violation of the absolute prohibition against settler implantation”.

“In my report, I conclude that the Israeli settlements do amount to a war crime,” the UN expert said. He said the settlements violate an absolute ban on an occupying power transferring part of its civilian population into occupied territory, thereby meeting the definition of a war crime under the Rome Statute founding the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“I submit to you that this finding compels the international community … to make it clear to Israel that its illegal occupation, and its defiance of international law and international opinion, can and will no longer be cost-free,” Lynk told the Geneva rights forum.

Responding to Lynk’s report, former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee Hanan Ashrawi posted on Twitter: “Calling things by their name!”

“UN Human Rights Council Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, clearly seeks int’l accountability for #IsraeliCrimes,” she wrote.

Many countries consider the settlements a breach of international law. Israel disputes this and cites biblical and historical connections to the land, as well as security needs. Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva, in a statement to Reuters news agency, rejected Lynk’s report as “the latest one-sided and biased report against Israel”. The mission accused Lynk of turning a blind eye to violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip.