EU must ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements: HRW

“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 the statement.

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LONDON: Trade with settlements in occupied territories contributes to human rights abuses and must be halted, Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued Monday.

The group honed in specifically on the EU, urging the European Commission to “prohibit EU trade with settlements in occupied territories globally.”

Among the settlements HRW addressed are those exploited by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the existence of which, it said, amount to a war crime.

“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 the 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.

Bruno Stagno, chief advocacy officer at HRW, said: “Settlements unlawfully rob local populations of their land, resources, and livelihoods. No country should be enabling the trade in goods produced as a result of land theft, displacement, and discrimination.”

In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the statement said, abuses have been supported by Israeli authorities, who “have for decades imposed harsh military rule over millions of Palestinians while governing hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israeli settlers under Israeli civil law.”

Over 2,000 square km of Palestinian land has been confiscated by Israeli authorities during the occupation. Thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished, meanwhile, and sweeping restrictions have been imposed on the free movement of Palestinians, with their basic civil rights ignored.

HRW said: “Countries have a duty under international humanitarian law not to legitimatize, even if inadvertently, the transfer of civilians into settlements in the occupied territory.”

The group pointed out that the EU has been outspoken against Israeli abuses in the past, including on the illegality, under international law, of settlements, but has yet to effectively regulate trade with Israeli settler enterprises.

EU imports from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank amounted to about $300 million in 2012, according to the World Bank.

“The EU rightly deems settlements illegal and yet fails to regulate the trade of settlement goods,” Stagno said.

If the EU wants to be “taken seriously,” he added, it “should put its money where its mouth is.”

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