Bachelet calls for calm in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel and for all parties to abide by international law
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: May 15, 2021
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for strict adherence to international law, calling on all parties to take the required steps to calm the worrying conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The situation has reached an alarming level:
In a statement published by the Media Center of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet said:
“Over the past 10 days, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel has deteriorated at an alarming rate. The situation in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, triggered by threats of forced evictions of Palestinian families; the heavy presence of Israeli Security Forces and violence around the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan; the severe escalation of attacks from and on Gaza; and the shocking race-based incitement in Israel have all led to vicious attacks and mounting casualties in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel”
“Rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them. Once again, we are seeing lives lost and terrified people being forced to flee or hide in their homes, subjected to attacks that are being carried out by both sides in what may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the High Commissioner added.
Palestinian rockets and Israeli shelling in violation of humanitarian law:
Bachelet warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets at Israel by Palestinian armed groups, including on densely populated areas, constitutes a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to war crimes.
In Gaza, whose densely populated areas are subject to large-scale air strikes and missile attacks from land and sea, there are concerns that some of the attacks launched by Israeli forces have targeted civilian objects that do not meet the necessary requirements for being considered, under international humanitarian law, as military objectives, stressing that the failure to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations amounts to a serious violation of the law of humanitarian states, and may constitute a war crime.
“I urge both sides to ensure strict respect for their obligations under international law. Israel, as the occupying power, has a duty to ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance to the Gaza strip. Those found to be responsible for violations must be held to account,” said Bachelet.
Systematic and reciprocal violence between the two parties:
The High Commissioner also called on the Israeli government to take the necessary measures to stop the disturbing outbreak of violence between extreme right-wing Jewish groups, including groups of Israeli settlers and Palestinian citizens of Israel, in various cities, especially in Lod, Jaffa, Ramla and Haifa.
Bachelet indicated that there are a number of reports that have spoken of settlers from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, sometimes in organized groups to join local groups. Mob violence erupted in Bat Yam and Acre this week, including attacks on places of worship and cultural heritage. Some Palestinian citizens of Israel violently attacked Israeli Jews.
“I am particularly concerned at reports that Israeli police failed to intervene where Palestinian citizens of Israel were being violently attacked, and that social media is being used by ultra-right wing groups to rally people to bring ‘weapons, knives, clubs, knuckledusters’ to use against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Bachelet said.
“I remind the Government of Israel of its duty to protect all its residents and citizens without discrimination based on notions of ‘nationhood’, religious or ethnic origin, and to ensure equal treatment before the law. Political leaders must refrain from any action that will inflame tensions, but must take action to prevent and address incitement to hatred and violence and ensure all citizens of Israel are fully and equally protected, including by taking preventive action,” Bachelet added.
Israel used live ammunition against the protests:
The High Commissioner also expressed her grave concern about reports that the Israeli security forces use live ammunition in the context of protests and clashes in the West Bank, which led to the killing of 10 Palestinians on May 14 alone. “Any use of force by the Israeli security forces in the West Bank must adhere to the Basic Principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement, which state in particular that firearms can only be used against individuals representing an imminent threat to life or of serious injury, and only as a matter of last resort. In a situation of occupation, the unjustified and illegal resort to firearms by law enforcement officials may constitute a war crime,” said Bachelet.
Bachelet also called for independent, transparent and thorough investigations to be conducted into all allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“We know from recent history how such a grave situation can advance with utterly catastrophic consequences for thousands of civilians,” Bachelet said. “There can be no winner, no sustainable peace resulting from the furtherance of the cycle of violence. I urge all sides – and States with influence – to take immediate measures to ensure respect for international law, ease tensions, and work to resolve – rather than fan – the conflict,” she concluded.