Jerusalem24 – A little over a week ago, Human Rights Watch signed a European Citizen’s Initiative. The initiative registered with the European Commission in September 2021 and began on February 20, 2022, calls for adopting legislation to prohibit products originating from Israeli settlements from entering the EU market and ban EU exports to settlements.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population to a militarily occupied territory is illegal. Trading in products produced in settlements in occupied territory or with them helps to sustain these violations of international humanitarian law. It also entrenches the human rights abuses that often stem from settlements, including land confiscation, natural resource exploitation, and displacement of and discrimination against the local population.
“Settlements unlawfully rob local populations of their land, resources, and livelihoods,” said Bruno Stagno, chief advocacy officer at Human Rights Watch. “No country should be enabling the trade in goods produced as a result of land theft, displacement, and discrimination.”
The EU should also ban trade that contributes to unlawful resource extraction in occupied territories, which is also a violation of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch joins more than 100 civil society organizations, grassroots movements, trade unions, and politicians in backing the Initiative. It utilizes a provision designed to enable European citizens to direct the European Commission to consider proposed legislative action. If it amasses a million signatures, the Commission will be legally obliged to consider a ban on the trade of settlement goods.
The initiators of the ECI originally filed for registration in July 2019, but the Commission initially refused to register it, because the initiative sought a sanction. The European Court of Justice nullified this decision in May 2021, finding that the Commission had failed to consider the initiative as a general commercial measure. This decision prompted the Commission to reverse course, register the Initiative, and recognize its authority to regulate trade with settlements.
In this episode of Wake Up Palestine, Omar Shaker the Director of Human Rights Watch in Israel and Palestine talks about the European Citizen Initiative. From why Human Rights Watch signed this to what comes next.