One of the foremost human rights groups in the world has criticised the failure to publish a long-awaited database of companies facilitating illegal Israeli settlements and denounced the obstruction of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by Israel.
“Settlements are at the root of serious, systematic violations of Palestinian rights, undermining their livelihoods and economy,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report warning of Israel’s “brazen” settlement expansion which is said to be at an “unprecedented high level”.
Calling on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to release the long-awaited report on the database of businesses facilitating illegal Israeli settlements, the rights group said: “The disappointing further delay in publishing the database further entrenches corporate involvement in the abuses stemming from illegal settlements, in violation of their own responsibilities to avoid such complicity.”
Pressing the UN to avoid further delays, HRW said: “The High Commissioner has a responsibility to fulfil the mandate entrusted to her by the Human Rights Council and commit to a clear date for publishing this vital report” and “to take all steps necessary to ensure it is available for consideration by the Council at its June session.”
It’s reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights caved to pressure from pro-Israeli organisations and companies profiting from the illegal settlements enterprise. Palestinian rights groups and trade unions reacted to the delay with a letter to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warning that she was in danger of undermining her office by fostering what they called an “existing culture of impunity for human rights abuses and internationally recognised crimes in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory)”.
In addition to speaking out against attempts to suppress the publication of the database, HRW called on the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza Protests to grant ICC prosecutors access to their findings. A UN report last month concluded that Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly protests in Gaza last year.
“We encourage the High Commissioner to give the International Criminal Court prosecutor access to information about alleged perpetrators shared with her office by the Commission of Inquiry,” HRW said. “This includes material about any officials who issued unlawful open-fire orders sanctioning the firing on protesters who posed no imminent mortal danger, who bear direct criminal liability, so they can face possible criminal prosecution. The High Commissioner should also share this information with credible national judicial authorities, so they can pursue appropriate crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction.”