Palestinian Rights Committee Approves 4 Drafts, as Special Rapporteur Recommends General Assembly Study on Legality of Occupation

State of Palestine Hails ‘Meaningful’, Rapid Progress on Political Reconciliation

An occupying Power must act in good faith and comply with the core principles of international humanitarian law, a top United Nations expert told the Palestinian Rights Committee today, as it approved four draft resolutions for consideration by the General Assembly.

Presenting a report on the legal framework of occupation, Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the international community regarded Israel as a lawful occupant of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, albeit one that took illegal actions there.  As such, it was possible to analyse whether it was in compliance with international humanitarian law, the first core applicable principle of which was that the occupier acquired no right or title to any of the occupied territory.  The General Assembly had unanimously endorsed that point in its Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations (1970), he noted.

A second point, he said, was that all occupations must be inherently temporary, and the occupier must return the territory to its people within a reasonable timeframe.  A third principle was that the occupier must rule in the best interests of the protected people, with such interests primarily listed as part of the Hague Convention of 1947 and the Geneva Convention.  The fourth core principle was that the occupier must act in good faith, as per the Charter and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Recalling the question of Namibia, which formed a precedent, he referred to the Advisory Opinion sought from the International Court of Justice over South Africa’s mandate there.  Based on that precedent, the cases of Namibia and the State of Palestine dealt with alien rule.  In both, the principles of humanitarian law applied and the responsibilities of the occupant were similar.

He drew attention to the shrunken economy and unequal legal and political rights of Palestinians to emphasize that Israel complied neither with international humanitarian law nor international human rights law.  Noting that the occupation had continued for 50 years, he said the longer an occupier extended its rule, the greater the justification required for its presence.  By those measures, Israel was in substantial breach of all four “red lines” of being an illegal occupant.  He pressed the international community to analyse the report, consider whether Israel had crossed the line to becoming an illegal occupant, and apply appropriate laws to end cooperation with the occupation.

During the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked what could be done to keep the occupying power accountable, especially given the Security Council’s inaction.

Responding, Mr. Lynk said the rules of occupation were separate from those governing the legality of the cause of the war.  Recommending that the Assembly commission a study on the occupation’s legality, and consider the advantages of seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, he said, “criticism without consequences is a recipe for drift and inaction”.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, four draft resolutions including a comprehensive text on “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” by which the Assembly would call upon Israel to comply strictly with its obligations under international law and to cease all of its measures that were contrary to international law.

The text titled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People”, would have the Assembly request that the Committee continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of Palestinians’ inalienable rights, while the draft concerning the “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat”, would have the Assembly request that Department to continue its special information programme for 2018‑2019. The draft on the “Division of Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat”, would request that the Secretary-General continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources to ensure that it continued to effectively carry out its work programme as detailed in previous resolutions.

Also today, the Committee heard from Deputy Observer for the State of Palestine, Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, who described recent progress, highlighting draft resolutions approved in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) reflecting international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlement activities, and the importance of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

She went on note the commemoration of the fiftieth year of occupation and the seventieth year since the General Assembly’s partition of the State of Palestine and the ensuing Nakba.  Turning to progress on Palestinian reconciliation under Egypt’s auspices, she noted the 12 October signing of an agreement in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas to end the division.  Developments in that regard had been rapid and meaningful, with the return of the Palestinian Government to ministries and institutions in Gaza.  Change on the ground was necessary to restore hope and opportunity, she stressed, especially for youth.

The Committee also heard from the Rapporteur of the Committee, Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) who provided an update on the Bureau’s third retreat, held on 3 November 2017, during which it had agreed to craft common messaging that the Committee might use in its outreach.  The messaging would emphasize peace, justice and human rights dimensions, and stress that the Question of Palestine was not a religious issue.  While the 2018 work programme could not be fully discussed due to time constraints, it was recommended that activities in 2018 fall under the overarching theme of “reflecting on 70 years of the Nakba while looking forward.” He also drew attention to the publication of the Committee’s annual report in all six languages.

Turning to the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Committee Acting Chair Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba) noted that on 29 November, a special meeting would be held in the Trusteeship Council to observe the day.  The Committee would appreciate receiving a message of solidarity from Heads of States and Governments, she said, also noting that in the afternoon, the Assembly would debate the resolutions on the Question of Palestine with a vote expected on 30 November.

Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz, Observer of the League of Arab States, said the League was preparing for cultural events on the International Day.  The League’s Secretary-General had held several high-level meetings and was raising awareness about the negative impacts of the Balfour Declaration.  Mr. Escoto (Nicaragua) recalled that last month, his country had hosted an event to raise awareness about the Question of Palestine.  Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), speaking in his capacity as the Chair of the Fourth Committee, gave an update on the deliberations about UNRWA.