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Annexation is a flagrant violation of international law

GENEVA (20 June 2019) - Recent statements by senior Israeli political leaders and US diplomats in support of the annexation of parts or all of the occupied West Bank by Israel fly in the face of the absolute prohibition against the annexation of occupied territories, a UN human rights expert said today.

“International law is very clear: annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. “The Security Council, beginning with Resolution 242 in November 1967, has expressly affirmed the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war or force on eight occasions, most recently in 2016.”

This reflects the seminal observation of Lassa Oppenheim, a renowned scholar of international law, who wrote in 1917, amidst the bloodbath of the First World War, that: “There is not an atom of sovereignty in the authority of the occupying power.”

Since the Second World War, the nations of the world have accepted that allowing war and conquest to remain a legitimate policy of modern statecraft is folly, Lynk said. “Without this absolute prohibition, acquisitive states would have a strong incentive to obfuscate the origins of the territorial acquisition, leading us backwards to the days when borders were impediments to overcome, rather than frontiers to respect.”

The Special Rapporteur observed that the absolute prohibition against annexation applies whether the occupied territory was acquired through a war of aggression or a defensive war.

“While annexation has not disappeared from the modern world, this strict prohibition in international law has had a considerable dampening effect,” said Lynk. He noted that the instances of annexation since 1948 have significantly declined, compared to the 120 years before the Second World War. “The power of the prohibition is that annexations in the modern world, when they do happen, are rarely recognized by other nations. International law, when married to international resolve, works.”

The Special Rapporteur called upon the international community to state now, clearly and comprehensively, that any further de jure annexations of occupied Palestinian territory by Israel will be condemned and will not be recognized. He also requested the international community to access its menu of international remedies and countermeasures, and to demand accountability from Israel with respect to its settlement enterprise and its current and planned annexation measures.

“International criticism, absent any consequences, can no longer be justified in the current circumstances,” said Lynk “If annexation proceeds, the chances for a genuine and just peace in the foreseeable future will have gone from implausible to unimaginable.”

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