Summary of Side Event
UN Human Rights Council Side Event
Ensuring Accountability for the displacement of Palestinian Bedouins:
The role of the UN Human Rights Council
28th September 2021
in collaboration with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
Michael Lynk – UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967
Balakrishnan Rajagopal – UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing
Moderated by Micòl Savia, permanent representative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers to the UN in Geneva.
On Tuesday, Sep 28th 2021 the project team and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers co-hosted a Side Event at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council titled Ensuring Accountability for the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin: the role of the UN Human Rights Council.
The side event was moderated by human rights lawyers Micol Savia, the permanent representative of the IADL to the UN HRC in Geneva.
Dr Alice Panepinto, principal investigator of the AHRC-FCDO-funded project on ‘Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forced displacement’, introduced the predicament of “protracted impunity” for repeated international law violations against these communities, highlighting the humanitarian cost of impunity for serious violations of IHL and IHRL, and the related denial of the right to development. She then described how the coercive environment, which includes the imposition of a discriminatory planning regime, repeated home demolitions and demolition orders, and encroachment upon land contributes to the displacement of Bedouins who rely on the land for subsistence as predominantly pastoral communities. Moreover, the lack of accountability for historic violations undermines the right to self-determination of Palestinian Bedouins and disregards their right of return to the ancestral lands they were displaced from - in the case of E1 Bedouins, land in al Naqab (Negev). Lastly, she reflected on how the OPT/ Israel commission of Inquiry established by HRC on 27th of May 2021 might contribute to ensuring accountability for human rights abuses suffered by Palestinian communities at risk of forced displacement, recommending that the UN-HRC and individual states, including permanent members of the UN Security Council should offer support to the investigations at the ICC on the Situation in Palestine.
Dr Munir Nuseibah, director of the Human Rights Clinic at Al Quds University and co-investigator on the AHRC-FCDO-funded project on ‘Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forced displacement’, gave a factual and historical background on the conditions of Palestinian Bedouins including their precarious livelihood, vulnerabilities, and the question of indigeneity. Palestinian Bedouin communities and specifically those in the E1 area surrounded by the Ma`ale Adumim Settlement block face imminent and continuous threats of home demolitions and community displacement. He continued by outlining the significance of the E1 pan for the “greater Jerusalem” plan which is a direct threat of displacement for the Jahalin tribe communities. He listed the core violations of IHL and IHRL committed by Israeli authorities in relation to house and structure demolitions, arbitrary confiscation of objects and materials, settler violence against civilians, discriminatory planning and zoning policies in Area C accompanied with a discriminatory permit regime that severely limits the freedom of these communities.
Dr Nuseibah also presented some of the measures adopted by the Bedouin communities to counter such policies, based on the concept of sumud and resilience, which include the submission of court petitions and alternative planning initiatives within the communities. During his presentation, he expressed his reservations about the extent to which international law is being properly applied and enforced in these areas, and the lack of accountability for those responsible for violations, given, also, the protection gaps in left in the work of UN agencies working to support the Palestinian people. Given that the ICC reaffirmed its jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, he concluded by calling for the crimes committed against Palestinian Bedouins to be placed firmly on that Court’s agenda.
Professor Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in OPT, discussed the range of violations of IHL and IHRL in two specific Bedouin communities: Khan al Ahmar in the Jerusalem periphery and Hamsa al Baq`a in Northern Jordan Valley. In Hamsa al Baq`a demolitions and relocation of the communities constitute a potential war crime. Moreover, the restricted access to water, sanitation, and education alongside confiscation of land and property in favour of settlement expansion constitute violations of IHRL and IHL. Settlement expansion proves the “de facto annexation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Lynk emphasized the importance of accountability and the role of the international community, but highlighted the existing “gap between IL and international accountability”, and between “promise and performance” and endless occupation.
Professor Lynk concluded with a set of recommendations for civil society and the international community on how to hold Israel accountable:
1- to fully support the work of the office of the prosecutor of the ICC as it investigates whether the Israeli settlements violated the Rome Statute.
2- Call upon Israel to fully dismantle its settlements as stated in resolutions at the UNSC, the General Assembly, and the UNHRC.
3- Adopt a comprehensive menu of accountability measures to bring Israel into compliance with International law should it continue to defy the international community.
4- Ensure full accountability of Israeli political, military, and administrative leaders who are responsible for grave breaches of international law in the OPT.
5- Call upon all UN member states to implement the call of UNSC resolution 465 adopted in 1980, not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used in connection to settlements.
6- Support the growing initiative to support the advisory opinion of ICJ on the state of the occupation; particularly on whether it “crossed the threshold to illegality”.
Professor Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, reflected on the situation of Palestinian Bedouins as “ethnic cleansing and segregation”, citing the use of property law to deny the rights of these communities. He stated that Bedouins are denied the protection of international law because of the adoption of the terra nullius doctrine (the assumption that their land belongs to nobody). Professor Rajagopal cited the story of the dispossession of Bedouins in the Naqab presented in the book Emptied lands: A legal geography of Bedouin Rights in the Negev by Oren Yifthatchel, Alexander Kedar, and Ahmad Amara (who is the senior researcher on the AHRC-FCDO-funded project on ‘Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forced displacement’). In particular, Prof Rajagopal indicated that the segregation of Bedouin communities is visible through the denial of services like water, sanitation, and education – despite the existence of human rights mechanisms that could help ensure accountability for international law violations. He concluded by considering how the notion of apartheid could apply in the case of Bedouin communities.
And finally, Dr Triestino Mariniello, co-investigator on the AHRC-FCDO-funded project on ‘Palestinian Bedouin at risk of forced displacement’, concluded the session by stressing the importance of individual criminal responsibility and the value of the ICC investigations into war crimes in the OPT. Dr Mariniello explained the connection between the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin communities and Israeli settlement expansion. He also questioned the extent to which Israeli domestic investigations into settlement expansion could be effective, given Israeli law deems authorised/official settlements as legal. He welcomed the opening of ICC investigation into war crimes in the Situation in Palestine, but also considered whethere there may be scope for including crimes against humanity. Despite the ICC investigations, there are continuous and pending demolition orders, carried out unlawfully and wantonly without apparent military necessity against Bedouin communities. Other conducts and acts which amount to crimes against humanity are regrettably absent in this investigation, including forcible transfer of civilian population, the crime of apartheid, and the crime of prosecution. The focus of the investigations on war crimes emphasises the context of “the longest military occupation of modern times”. Against that backdrop, the systematic targeting of civilian communities, including Bedouin communities, “the creation of two distinct legal regimes: one for settlers and one for Palestinians”, the disproportionate use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinians, and the deflection of the obligation of the occupying power to protect civilians from settler violence all amount to war crimes. Lastly, he reiterated the need for states and the UN-HRC to cooperate with the ICC investigations in the Situation in Palestine.
The link of the recording of the Side Event: https://www.facebook.com/iadllaw/videos/1193551237815830