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EU must ban trade with illegal settlements, including Israel, HRW says

A general view shows ongoing construction work in the Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, on 28 October 2021 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images]
A general view shows ongoing construction work in the Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, on 28 October 2021 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images]

Trade with settlements in Occupied Territories contributes to human rights abuses and must be banned, as part of a European Citizen's Initiative (ECI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated yesterday.

"The transfer of an occupying power's civilian population to a militarily occupied territory violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is a war crime," HRW said in a statement.

The trade of goods produced in those areas, the group continued, "helps to sustain these violations of international humanitarian law," and "entrenches the human rights abuses that often stem from settlements".

Those abuses include land confiscation, natural resource exploitation, displacement and discrimination against the local population.

The ECI, which was registered with the European Commission in September 2021 and launched on 20 February, 2022, demands legislation to restrict items from illegal settlements from accessing the EU market, as well as to limit EU exports to settlements.

Read: Israel slams Belgium over settlement products labelling

It has already received backing from over 100 civil society organisations, grassroots movements, trade unions and politicians.

The text needs at least one million signatures, based in at least seven different European countries, in order to progress to the next stage during which organisers would be invited to meet with European representatives.

The petition calls on European states and MPs to adopt laws banning the import of products made in illegal Israeli settlements and outlawing the export of EU products there.

Among the settlements HRW addressed are those exploited by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

"Settlements unlawfully rob local populations of their land, resources and livelihoods," said Bruno Stagno, Chief Advocacy Officer at Human Rights Watch. "No country should be enabling the trade in goods produced as a result of land theft, displacement and discrimination."

Read: Unilever expects new Ben & Jerry's 'arrangement' for Israel by year-end

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