Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory illegal: UN rights commission

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli government’s de facto annexation policies, a UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry said in its first report, published on Thursday.

[IRIN | Shabtai Gold] Palestinian women walk by Israel's barrier near Ramallah in the West Bank.

The three-member Commission is pushing for the issue to be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest court.

They stressed that under international humanitarian law, the occupation of territory in wartime is a temporary situation and does not deprive the occupied power of its statehood or sovereignty.

A core UN principle

“Recent statements by the Secretary-General and numerous Member States have clearly indicated that any attempt at unilateral annexation of a State’s territory by another State is a violation of international law and is null and void; 143 member States including Israel last week, voted in favour of a General Assembly resolution reaffirming this,” said Navi Pillay, the Commission Chair.

“Unless universally applied, including to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this core principle of the United Nations Charter will become meaningless”, she added.

The Commission has called on the UN General Assembly to request an urgent Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on the legal consequences of the occupation.

Settlement ‘enterprise’ studied

For their report, the Commissioners reviewed the policies and actions Israel has used to maintain the occupation and annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

They focused on how Israel has sustained and advanced its “settlement enterprise”, including statements made by Israeli officials indicating the intent to maintain permanent control over the land in violation of international law.