Europe bans trade with illegal settlements
European trade with occupied territories settlements contributes to human rights violations.
Human Rights Watch announced today that the European Commission intends to outlaw EU trade with settlements in occupied regions around the world, as part of a European Citizen's Initiative (ECI).
The citizen-led initiative, which was registered with the European Commission in September 2021 and launched on February 20, 2022, demands legislation to restrict items from illegal settlements from accessing the EU market, as well as to limit EU exports to settlements.
Trading in or with products made in occupied area settlements contributes to the continuation of these violations of international humanitarian law. It also legitimizes the human rights violations that frequently accompany settlements, such as land confiscation, natural resource exploitation, and displacement and discrimination against indigenous residents.
“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 prohibit trade that aids in the illegal extraction of resources in occupied territory, which is, therefore, a breach of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch said.
More than 100 civil society organizations, grassroots movements, trade unions, and politicians have signed on to support the Initiative, including Human Rights Watch. It makes use of a clause that allows European citizens to request that the European Commission take into account proposed legislative action.
The Commission will be legally obligated to examine a ban on the trading of settlement goods if it receives a million signatures.
Has the ECI applied before?
The ECI's creators applied for registration in July 2019, but the Commission initially denied, citing the initiative's request for punishment as a reason.
This judgment was overturned by the European Court of Justice in May 2021, after the Commission failed to examine the initiative as a general commercial activity. It reversed course after this judgment, registering the initiative and recognizing its own competence to regulate commerce with settlements.
According to Human Rights Watch, the EU and its member states should prohibit settlement commerce to fulfill their responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions to maintain respect for international humanitarian law.
Settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law, as stated in the International Committee of the Red Cross's 1958 commentary on the Geneva Convention, in part because of their strong link to discrimination and economic harm to the local community.
Israeli illegal settlements
This phenomenon has been observed by Human Rights Watch in Occupied Palestine, where Israeli occupation authorities have committed crimes against Palestinians for years, since the beginning of the occupation, also building illegal settlements.
Among other egregious violations, Israeli authorities have restricted Palestinians to dozens of isolated enclaves, razed thousands of Palestinian houses, and put wide limitations on millions' freedom of movement and basic civil rights.
EU calls for end of settler violence
Earlier, the European Union called on "Israel" to stop settler violence in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied Al-Quds, warning against "irresponsible provocations" in what they described as a "sensitive area".
This came in a statement by the European Union mission in the occupied Palestinian territories, which was published this evening, Sunday, on its account on Facebook.
The statement said that the EU is "concerned about ongoing developments in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem [Al-Quds], with violent clashes leading to several injured and arrests."