General Assembly Distr.: General



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United Nations

A/HRC/28/44



General Assembly

Distr.: General

9 March 2015


Original: English
Human Rights Council

Twenty-eighth session

Agenda items 2 and 7



Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General


Human rights situation in Palestine and other
occupied Arab territories


Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan*

Report of the Secretary-General

Summary

The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 25/28 on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The report highlights new developments concerning the role of Israel in the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It also analyses the difficulties faced by Palestinians in gaining access to their agricultural land and the impact of Israeli settlements on the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians. Lastly, it addresses the issues related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan, including exploitation of natural resources.




Contents


Paragraphs Page

I. Introduction 1 – 4 3

II. Legal background 5 – 6 3

III. Overview 7 – 15 4

IV. Impact of Israeli settlements and settler violence on the human rights of Palestinians 16 – 38 7

V. Failure to maintain public order, settler violence and lack of accountability 39 – 53 12

A. Overview 39 – 41 12

B. Cases of settler violence 42 – 46 13

C. Failure to protect 47 – 49 14

D. Accountability 50 – 51 15

E. Attacks on Israelis, and differentiated standards of due process 52 – 53 15

VI. Settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan 54 – 56 16



VII. Conclusions and recommendations 57 – 60 17

  1. Introduction

  1. In the present report, which covers the period from 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2014, the Secretary-General addresses the progress made in the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 25/28. In that resolution, the Council demanded that Israel, as the occupying Power, cease immediately and completely all of its settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. It also condemned the continuing settlement and related activities, including the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, and the confiscation and destruction of property. The Council called upon Israel to end human rights violations linked to the presence of settlements and to fulfil its international obligations to provide effective remedy for victims.

  2. The information presented in the present report is based on monitoring and other information-gathering activities carried out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and information provided by other United Nations entities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The report also contains information received from Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations and media sources. It should be read in conjunction with previous reports of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly (A/HRC/20/13, A/HRC/25/38, A/63/519, A/64/516, A/65/365, A/66/364, A/67/375/, A/68/513 and A/69/348).

  3. In past reports, the various types of impact of settlements on the rights of Palestinians and the key role played by the State of Israel in the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, were analysed. In his previous report on settlements submitted to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/25/38), the Secretary-General focused on the discriminatory nature of Israeli planning policy, law and practice, which is contrary to international law and has a negative impact on the human rights of Palestinians.

  4. In the present report, the Secretary-General analyses the impact of Israeli settlements and settler violence on the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians, and provides an update on settler violence against Palestinians and their property, as well as on the general lack of law enforcement and accountability for settlers in such cases.

  1. Legal background

  1. International humanitarian law and international human rights law apply, inter alia, in relation to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (A/HRC/25/38, para. 4 and A/69/348, para. 4). Israel, as the occupying Power, is bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Regulations respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague Regulations).1 Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention establishes that “the occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. The construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, as well as other settlement-related activities such as the construction of the wall violate this provision, and are illegal under international law. This was confirmed by the Security Council in its resolution 465 (1980), the General Assembly in its resolution 68/82, the Human Rights Council in its resolution 25/28 and the International Court of Justice (A/ES-10/273 and Corr.1, para. 120).

  2. In addition to its obligations under international humanitarian law and under customary international law, Israel, as the occupying Power, must also comply with the obligations arising from the international human rights treaties it has ratified, with respect to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/25/38, para. 5). As much was confirmed by the International Court of Justice (A/ES-10/273 and Corr.1, paras. 102-113), and by the human rights treaty bodies monitoring the implementation of international human rights obligations resulting from such treaties (see CCPR/C/ISR/CO/4, para. 5, and CRC/C/ISR/CO/2-4, para. 3). The accession by the State of Palestine to several human rights treaties does not affect the obligations of Israel under international human rights law and international humanitarian law (A/69/348, para. 5).

  1. Overview

  1. During the period under review, Israel continued to expand existing settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to approve plans for new ones. According to an Israeli non-governmental organization, between 1 November 2013 and 31 October 2014, 4,554 housing units were tendered in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (2,856), including East Jerusalem (1,698), and 10,183 housing units were promoted,2 6,042 in the West Bank and 4,141 in East Jerusalem. As previously reported, on 4 June, the Government of Israel announced the issuing of tenders for more than 1,400 new settlement housing units in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (A/69/348, para. 6).In September 2014, the plan to build 2,610 units in the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem was approved by the relevant planning committee, opening the path for the issuance of tenders.3 If constructed, it would be the first government-led new settlement in East Jerusalem since the construction of Har Homa in the late 1990s,4 and would sever the territorial continuity between the Palestinian neighbourhoods of southern East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank.5

  2. The Secretary-General notes the drop in the initiation of new construction in settlements in 2014 when compared to 2013,6 a year when an exceptional amount of new construction was recorded.7 The figures of 2014 are similar to the average number of new building projects initiated in 2011 and 2012 (250-300 housing units per quarter). The marketing of housing units in the settlements was, however, reportedly on the rise (by 866%) during the first seven months of 2014. 8

  3. New outposts were also established during the period under review.9 Following the kidnapping on 12 June of three Israeli youths, who were later found murdered (see paras. 39 - 53 below and A/HRC/28/80/Add.1), four outposts were established in the same area where the incident took place, in the southern West Bank.10 The media reported that some Israeli right-wing groups declared that at least one of the outposts had been established in response to the kidnapping and killing of the three Israelis.11 The creation of the outposts was reportedly supported by the municipalities of nearby settlements, which supplied trailer homes and basic electricity and water infrastructure.12 Two of the outposts were dismantled shortly afterwards by the Israeli authorities for being “illegal” under Israeli law. At the time of writing, the other two outposts were reportedly still in place (see A/HRC/28/80/Add.1).13

  4. New housing units also advanced in East Jerusalem. On 27 October 2014, media reported that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office had advanced plans for 660 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement and 400 in the Har Homa settlement.14 According to an Israeli non-governmental organization, the construction of additional housing units in Ramat Shlomo would reduce the buffer area between the settlement and the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. In early November, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the Ramat Shlomo plan, with the number of housing units reduced from 660 to 500.15 New housing units in Har Homa would effectively link the areas of this settlement and Givat Hamatos (see para. 7 above).16

  5. During the night of 29 September 2014, Israeli settlers moved into six buildings in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, below the Old City. This appears to have expanded the settler presence in Silwan by about 100 new settlers, an increase of 35 per cent. It was reported that the buildings had been purchased, although OHCHR is aware that some of the Palestinian owners are taking legal action, claiming that they did not sell their property to the settlers. It is reported that Israeli security forces allowed private security guards hired by the settlers to protect their move to the buildings in the middle of the night. At the time of writing, the Israeli Police were protecting the new settlers from possible attacks from Palestinians.17 The new influx of settlers and the additional presence of the Israeli security forces in an area where the settlement presence has been expanding in recent years contribute to general tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers (A/69/348, paras. 31-32).

  6. During the period under review, Israel undertook significant steps to enable further expansion of settlements. Following an earlier declaration of State land west of Bethlehem in April 2014 (ibid., para. 19), on 25 August 2014, the Israeli Civil Administration announced the declaration as State land a further 3,799 dunums (930 acres) around the settlement of Gva’ot, also in the vicinity of Bethlehem.18 According to the Israeli media, the declaration was made in response to the killing of the three Israeli teenagers in June 2014.19 The affected areas are adjacent to the Green Line within the boundaries of five existing Palestinian villages. Once the process is complete (see A/69/348, paras. 18-21 and A/68/513, para. 20), it is expected that the area will be incorporated into the Gush Etzion Regional Council, possibly as a new illegal settlement.20 This action reportedly constitutes the largest appropriation of Palestinian land in 30 years.21

  7. The settler population continued to grow during the period under review. According to the official umbrella organization representing settlements (quoting figures obtained from the Ministry of the Interior), during the first six months of 2014, the settler population grew by 2 per cent and is expected to grow to 4 per cent by the end of the year, twice the nationwide population growth rate of Israel.22 A report issued in 2014 indicated that, over the past two decades, the population in Israeli settlements had grown by 240 per cent, outstripping growth rates within Israel.23 Estimates of the current settlement population in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, range between 500,000 and 650,000 (A/HRC/25/38, para. 8).

  8. In past reports, the Secretary-General noted that Israel played a leading role in the construction and expansion of settlements, including through the granting of benefits and incentives to settlers (see A/68/513). During the period under review, public funds continued to be allocated to settlements. In October 2014, the Israeli cabinet reportedly approved the allocation of some $34.7 million to the settlement division of the World Zionist Organization for the purposes of “developing agricultural and rural settlement”.24 Although it was not specified which part of this amount would be invested in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (ibid., para. 9), it might be surmised that the final amount would be considerable, given the role of the division in assisting the Government in establishing Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.25 Reportedly, in 2012, the Government invested more per capita in settlements than within Israel, mainly for education and welfare services.26

  9. With regard to action intended to counter the growth of settlements, the European Union decided to ban dairy and other products of animal origin produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, which reportedly was to come into force in January 2015.27 In a statement issued on 6 June 2014, the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other international enterprises reiterated that companies engaged in the Occupied Palestinian Territory should assess the human rights impact of their activities, also in the light of the heightened risks of negative human rights impact in a conflict-affected area, and take all necessary measures to ensure that they did not have an adverse impact on human rights, in conformity with international law and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see also A/HRC/22/63, paras. 96-99 and 117).In 2012, the Secretary-General emphasized that the business and human rights agenda of the United Nations and the said Guiding Principles should be an integral part of global efforts to bridge existing governance gaps and safeguard protection and respect for human rights in the context of economic activities (A/HRC/21/21, para. 92).

  1. Impact of Israeli settlements and settler violence on the human rights of Palestinians

  1. Israeli settlements and acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians continue to underpin a broad spectrum of human rights violations against Palestinians (see A/HRC/25/38, A/68/513 and A/69/348).

Denied or restricted access to agricultural land

  1. As highlighted in previous reports, the access of Palestinians to agricultural lands is severely restricted and often completely denied for a number of reasons, including intimidation and attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians (A/67/375, paras. 19-21); physical obstacles erected by the settlers themselves (A/67/375, paras. 19-21); the imposition of military or security areas off limits to Palestinians, for instance, closed military zones and fenced-off areas around settlements (A/64/516, paras. 30-31; A/65/365, para. 16,); physical movement restrictions, such as the wall, in particular with respect to the farm lands located in the seam zone (A/65/365, para. 33); and settlement roads that impede access to agricultural lands (A/63/519, paras. 16 and 30-36).

  2. In response to the difficulties faced by Palestinian farmers in gaining access to Palestinian-owned land located in fenced-off areas around Israeli settlements and in areas witnessing frequent incidents of settler violence, the Israeli authorities have, in recent years, applied the “prior coordination” regime. This mechanism allows registered Palestinian farmers to have access to their land for a limited number of days each year through settlement gates, or to work in the fields under the protection of Israeli security forces (A/67/375, para. 20). According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 90 Palestinian communities in the West Bank that have land inside or in the vicinity of 55 Israeli settlements and settlement outposts may have access to their land only through “prior coordination” with the Israeli authorities.28

  3. “Prior coordination”, which has mostly been applied during the olive harvest, does not prevent attacks on trees and crops, which can occur at any time (A/67/375, para. 20). Access to private Palestinian land at times when no “prior coordination” is available remains uncertain and dangerous for farmers, particularly in areas with recurrent incidents of settler violence. Another shortcoming of the mechanism is that it is mainly applied for the olive harvest, not for other harvests. In a case documented by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli security forces officers refused to protect Palestinian farmers when they were picking almonds, asserting that the “prior coordination” was only for olives, even though the almond trees were in the same field.29

  4. Furthermore, incidents have also been recorded in which Palestinian farmers have been denied access to their lands even during the time allowed by “prior coordination”; for example, on 20 October 2014, Palestinian farmers were reportedly denied access to their olive orchards located in the village of Deir Istiya (Governorate of Salfit) by security personnel from the settlement of Revava.30

  5. Another way of restricting access of Palestinians to agricultural land is the permit regime established by Israeli authorities for access to farming land in the seam zone, the closed area located between the wall and the Green Line.31 Israeli authorities often cite security reasons or claim that the portion of land is too small to qualify for a permit to deny Palestinians such permits (according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in the past four years, the approval rate in the northern West Bank is 50 per cent).32 For those who manage to obtain a permit, access is nonetheless frequently restricted. In 2013, there were 81 gates designated for access to agricultural lands in the seam zone; however, only nine of them were kept opened every day, while another nine were kept opened for only one or few more days per week. The majority (63) was kept opened only during the olive harvest season, which lasts approximately 45 days.33

  6. Palestinian farmers also see access to their private land restricted and often denied by the civilian security coordinators and guards who operate in the Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank. These coordinators and guards are drawn from residents of settlements and outposts, and charged with guarding the settlements and outposts on behalf of the Israeli army.34 They are trained and equipped with weapons by the Israel Defense Forces, and are subject to the Military Justice Law.35 At the same time, they are appointed by and act as the representatives of the settlements. As such, the civilian security coordinators identify with the goals of their communities, the illegal settlements, which seek to expand their boundaries, even if construction is on Palestinian-owned land. OHCHR found that the lack of adequate supervision by the Israel Defense Forces and of clearly defined powers leads to daily friction between the security coordinators and the Palestinians.

  7. Civilian security coordinators and guards have been granted police and law enforcement powers, including the powers to detain, search and arrest persons they deem, based on “reasonable grounds”, pose a security threat, have committed or are about to commit an offence.36 As a result, civilian security coordinators and guards have de facto a considerable margin of discretion in the conduct of their activities. As observed by Yesh Din, this has enabled them to obstruct arbitrarily the access of Palestinian farmers to their private land located in the vicinity of settlements and outposts. Reportedly, there have been instances where civilian security coordinators and guards have denied Palestinians access to farming plots located nearby a settlement or an outpost to prevent alleged attacks. In addition, cases of Palestinians being injured or having their property confiscated by these bodies while attempting to gain access to agricultural plots have been reported.37

  8. In 2009, a series of military orders defined the “guarding zones” areas, in which civilian security coordinators and guards operate, in the vicinity of settlements and outposts, in the West Bank.38 The borders of these areas are wider than the municipal boundaries of the settlements, which allows civilian security coordinators and civilian guard squads to act beyond the jurisdiction of the settlements39 and dramatically expands the impact of the settlements on the freedom of movement of Palestinians, as well as on their right to work their land and earn a living from it.40

  9. The access of Palestinian farmers to their lands is also impeded by attacks and harassment by Israeli settlers. Documented cases of violence appear to be aimed at spreading fear among Palestinian farmers and to deter them from farming their lands, in particular in areas near settlements (A/67/375, para. 19). The phenomenon of settler violence, and the general failure of Israel to ensure accountability for Israeli settlers who break the law and to protect Palestinians against attacks to their person and property, have been thoroughly analysed by the Secretary-General in previous reports (A/69/348, paras. 36-44; A/HRC/25/38, paras. 37-47).

  10. About two-thirds of the land in the West Bank, including the majority of Area C, is unregistered, mainly because of the suspension by Israel of the land registration process in the West Bank at the beginning of the occupation in 1968.41 Combined with all of the above-mentioned factors that impede the access of Palestinians to agricultural land, this facilitates the dispossession of Palestinians of their land, in particular in Area C of the West Bank. An added factor in Area C is the application of the Ottoman Land Code, which establishes that unregistered land belongs to the ruling Power unless a legitimate private claim to the land arises. Entitlement for such a claim arises over unregistered land that has been cultivated without interruption for a 10-year period, in the absence of which the land is assigned to the ruling Power.42 Given the multiple obstacles faced by Palestinians to cultivating their land, it is difficult to comply with the requirement of uninterrupted cultivation for 10 years, which would allow Palestinians to register the land in their name.43 In the absence of land registration, Israel has subsequently claimed much of the unregistered land as government property and declared it State land.44 Once declared State land, it is often allocated to settlements (A/69/348, para. 20).45

  11. The above circumstances create a situation of insecurity of tenure for Palestinian landowners, which in turn create the conditions for Israeli settlers to take over land by cultivating it and eventually registering it under their name.46

  12. According to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), States should remove and prohibit all forms of discrimination related to tenure rights, including registration of land.47 Furthermore, States are to recognize informal land tenure in a manner that respects existing rights and in ways that recognize the reality of the situation and promote social, economic and environmental well-being. The Palestinians, who have long been present on and have cultivated land in the West Bank, should have their legitimate tenure rights recognized and be protected against dispossession of their land. This is in line with the obligation of Israel, as the occupying Power, to protect the population in the occupied territory and their property.48

  13. Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property, and the denial or restriction of access to agricultural land, undermine Palestinians’ right to an adequate standard of living (A/HRC/25/38, paras. 26-29), as set out in article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is party. The right to an adequate standard of living encompasses the right of everyone to continuous improvement in living conditions; however, it is evident that, rather than improving, the living conditions of Palestinians are deteriorating as a consequence of Israeli settlement activities and settler violence, while the settlements continue to prosper (see A/HRC/25/38, A/68/513, A/69/348).

  14. Before the occupation, agriculture was the main source of labour and resources for Palestinians. Palestinian agriculture has, however, been adversely affected by measures taken by Israel as the occupying Power, in particular land seizures and restrictions on access to land and water resources (A/68/513, para. 40). From 1965 to 1994, cultivated areas shrank by 30 per cent from 1965 to 1994, and Palestinian agricultural production was reduced, from 50 per cent in 1968 to 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2013. 49

  15. Agriculture constitutes the largest sector of the economy of Israeli settlements (A/68/513, para. 41). Settlers do not face the same restrictions as Palestinians in their access to agricultural land, and receive the protection and support of Israel. This generally allows them to invest in new technologies and more efficient farming methods, which is reflected in their productivity (A/HRC/22/63, paras. 22, 89-92; A/68/513, para. 28; A/69/348, paras. 28-32). Every year, Israeli settlers export some $285 million worth of agricultural products, against only $19 million by Palestinians.50



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