Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on Israel to halt forced evictions of Palestinians from Jerusalem
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Translated and edited by: The Committee for Justice
Geneva: May 9, 2021
The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, confirmed that the forced evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem violate Israel’s obligations under international law, stressing that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Evictions based on null and void laws:
In a statement published by the Media Center of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Colville said: “Eight Palestinian refugee families residing in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem are facing a risk of forced eviction due to a legal challenge by the Nahalat Shimon settler organization. For four of these families, the risk is imminent.”
“The evictions, if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel’s obligations under international law,” the High Commissioner’s spokesperson added.
Colville indicated that the eviction proceedings in these cases and in other similar cases in East Jerusalem are based on the application of two Israeli laws, the Absentee Property Law and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970.
The spokesperson explained that according to an OCHA survey in 2020, at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem, including the families in Sheikh Jarrah, have eviction cases filed against them. The majority of these have been initiated by ‘settler organizations’, placing 970 people, including 424 children, at risk of displacement.
What happens to Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem is a war crime:
“Given the disturbing scenes in Sheikh Jarrah over the past few days, we wish to emphasize that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, in which International Humanitarian Law applies,” Colville stressed.
“The occupying Power must respect and cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory, and must respect, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country. This means that Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, to evict Palestinians from their homes. “Colville said.
We call on #Israel to immediately halt all forced evictions in occupied #Palestine, including those in #SheikhJarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer. Learn more: https://t.co/XdA0KMcx3k pic.twitter.com/O6WuGSvVyr
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 7, 2021
Colville added that the Absentee Property Law and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law are applied in an inherently discriminatory manner, based solely on the nationality or origin of the owner, referring to the desire of Israel to transfer its population to occupied East Jerusalem, although it is prohibited to transfer parts of the civilian population.
“The transfer of parts of an occupying Power’s civilian population into the territory that it occupies is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” stressed Colville.
The High Commissioner’s spokesperson also confirmed that according to several Security Council resolutions, all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of East Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, are null and void and must be rescinded.
He pointed out that these forced evictions may also violate the rights to adequate housing and to privacy, and other human rights of those who are evicted. Forced evictions are a key factor in creating a coercive environment that may lead to forcible transfer, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a grave breach of the Convention.
Calls for an end to the evictions and for restraint:
Colville called Israel to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer. He also called on Israel to review the application of the Absentee Property Law and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law to ensure they are in accordance with the obligations of Israel under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
The High Commissioner’s spokesperson called on Israel to respect freedom of expression and assembly, including of those who are protesting against the evictions, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force while ensuring safety and security in East Jerusalem.