UN Human Rights office Friday called on Israel to halt forced evictions, which would flout international law and could be a “war crime” in East Jerusalem where 8 Palestinian refugee families face forced removal due to a legal challenge by a settler organization.
“You may have seen in the news in recent days a lot of tension and drama surrounding an area called Sheikh Jarrah where Palestinians have been protesting the risk of eviction of families,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Speaking at a UN press briefing, Colville said that eight Palestinian refugee families residing in the East Jerusalem neighborhood face the risk of eviction following a legal challenge by the Nahalat Shimon settler organization.
For 4 of the families, he said the risk of eviction appears imminent.
“The evictions, if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel’s obligations under international law,” said Colville.
Colville cited a survey by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2020, in which at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem, including the families in Sheikh Jarrah, have eviction cases filed against them.
Initiated by settler organizations
“And the majority of these have been initiated by settler organizations,” said Colville.
They place around 970 people, including 424 children, at the risk of displacement.
“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.
“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,” said the UN rights office spokesman.
“And the transfer of parts of an occupying power civilian population into the territory that it occupies is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” said Colville.
According to several UN Security Council resolutions, all legislative and administrative measures and actions were taken by Israel, the occupying power, which has 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.
“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,” said Colville.
The UN Rights Office further called on Israel to respect freedom of expression and assembly, including those protesting the evictions, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force while ensuring safety and security in East Jerusalem.
“So we call on Israel to immediately hold all forced eviction, 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.”