UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UN Human Rights Commissioner’s Office is Wrong on Israel’s obligations

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has written to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, pointing out that her Office has published incorrect statements regarding Israel’s obligations to vaccinate Palestinian people, which should be immediately retracted.

The UN Human Rights Commission’s press release on 14 January 2021 reported statements by Michael Lynk and Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteurs appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, regarding Palestinian coronavirus vaccinations. According to the press release, they said that

“as the occupying power, Israel is required under the Fourth Geneva Convention, ‘to the fullest extent of the means available to it’, to maintain health services in the occupied territory. Article 56 requires Israel to adopt and apply ‘the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’ in cooperation with national and local authorities”

“If the protected population is inadequately supplied, the occupying power is required under the Convention to facilitate relief schemes ‘by all means at its disposal’. Even if relief consignments, including ‘medical supplies’, are provided by others, Article 60 states that such consignments ‘shall in no way relieve the occupying power of any of its responsibilities’ for health care to the protected population.”

In fact, Articles 56 and 60 of the 4th Geneva Convention are not included in the provisions specified in its Article 6(3) that bind an Occupying Power for the duration of an occupation. In accordance with Article 6(3) they cease to apply in an occupied territory one year after the general close of military operations.

The International Court of Justice advised in the so-called “Wall” case: Since the military operations leading to the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 ended a long time ago, only those Articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention referred to in Article 6, paragraph 3, remain applicable in that occupied territory.” (para 125)

Therefore, even if the West Bank and/or Gaza are “occupied territory” within the meaning of the 4th Geneva Convention, Articles 56 and 60 ceased to apply to them in 1968. The statements quoted above are thus wrong and misleading on any view.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented:  “It is regrettable that incorrect statements were  promulgated by the UN High Commissioner on such a sensitive matter. The press release has undoubtedly exacerbated antisemitism around the world.   We have demanded the immediate retraction of these erroneous statements and an apology.”

UKLFI is an association of lawyers who seek to ensure the correct understanding and application of laws in matters relating to Israel.

We are grateful to Dr Gerry Adler for drawing the error made by by Michael Lynk and Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng to our attention.

Don’t miss UKLFI Charitable Trust’s webinar on “Palestinian Healthcare – Whose Responsibility?” on 3 February – book here: