UN must protect Palestinian rights and guarantee respect for international law in Jerusalem

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHRS) welcomes the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adoption of Resolution A/ES-10/L.22on Thursday December 21st concerning the status of Jerusalem, as the outcome of the 10th Emergency  Special Session meeting based on the “Uniting for Peace” resolution. The resolution passed with the affirmative vote of 128 states, 35 abstentions and 9 votes against.  The text, which reiterates previous Security Council resolutions with regards to Jerusalem, demands “that all States comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions.” Despite welcoming the resolution,CIHRS regrets the UNGA’s failure to guarantee its implementation through concrete recommendations and mechanisms.

The General Assembly was convening in response to the United States’ recognition of illegally annexed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an act in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and previous UN resolutions.As the main body mandated to safeguard peace and security from acts of aggression, the Security Council (UNSC)had previously failed to pass the very same text three days prior to the UNGA meeting. This failure resulted from the US use of its veto power as a permanent member of the body; and represents a continuation of several other failings to effectively protect peace and security in the Middle East region, most particularly in Syria and Yemen, as a result of the abusive use of the veto power by permanent members of the council.

Uniting for Peace” resolutions under UNGA 377 (1950) is a way to overcome a UNSC veto. Through such a resolution, the UNGA can call an emergency special session to consider a matter “with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures.” In that sense, we regret that the resolution has been silent on recommending any effective remedies to ensure protection of Jerusalem’s status from Israeli annexation policies on the ground. The text has also failed to reflect the grave humanitarian and human rights situation, including the ongoing forcible displacement of Palestinians, the series of collective punishments against civilians, and the excessive use of force against Palestinians currently legitimately protesting US actions.

While CIHRS recognizes that there is no alternative to a genuine political process achieving a just and lasting peace to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the legal status of Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territory is not a matter of negotiation – it’s a simple matter of implementing the law. The occupying power is legally required to withdraw, to leave the territory to the Palestinian people as the rightful sovereign to determine its fate freely.

We strongly call upon the UNGA to remain seized of this matter, and consider concrete measures to uphold and implement the relevant resolutions, and bring an end to the prolonged military occupation of Palestinian territory.  In this regard, we urge the UNGA to ensure the resolution’s implementation through:

  1. Calling upon the UNSC to draw international legal parameters that would permit the resumption of genuine talks between the parties in an adequate time frame;
  2. Refer the situation of prolonged occupation to the International Court of Justice to determine the scope of third state responsibility in responding to Israeli breaches;
  3. Call on all UN member states to exert the necessary pressure both individually, regionally, and collectively to compel the occupying power Israel to cease its illegal policies in Jerusalem; including by removing all hindrances to Palestinians’ access to the city, most notably the separation wall and checkpoints,  halting settlement building, and permitting political representation of Palestinians in their national institutions.

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