Q&A with UN Special Rapporteur Prof Michael Lynk

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Q&A with UN Special Rapporteur Prof Michael Lynk

Post by Sassy on Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:57 pm

Can you explain to us what your role is?

I represent one of the UN’s human rights mechanisms, which are centred in the Human Rights Council. The UN human rights system includes the multifaceted work of the Council, the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, special investigations on particular human rights concerns, and the work of approximately 57 Special Rapporteurs and independent experts and six expert groups on specific human rights concerns. The special Rapporteurs have either a country or thematic focus; mine focuses on human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. I was appointed by the Council in May 2016 and have researched and published two reports – on the right to development and on Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders. Like the other Special Rapporteurs, I am not paid for this work. My day job is as an associate professor of labour law at Western University, in London, Ontario, Canada.

What is your forthcoming report on?

It will be focused on the legality, or otherwise, of this prolonged Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. Military occupations are accepted as per se lawful in international law, but they must be temporary, they must have no intention to annex any of the occupied territory, they must be carried out in good faith and with the interests of the occupied people closely in mind. I will apply these criteria to ask whether this is the case for Israel and the oPt.
The UK government claims that there is a bias against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, do you agree?

At the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva this March, it sat for four weeks, five days a week, with sessions every morning and afternoon. That makes for 40 sessions. One of those sessions was on Israel’s occupation of the oPt. And of the 57 or so Special Rapporteurs, there is one devoted to Israel and the oPt, which is my mandate. Yes, there are annual resolutions at the Council which focus on the occupation, but this says less about any bias against Israel and much more about the fact that this is currently the longest military occupation in the world, with entrenched human rights violations and with no end in sight. Remember, the focus is not on Israel as a country, but on its conduct in the occupied territory. It is a paradox, by the way, that while the Israeli occupation has generated a rich body of rules and analysis about the law of occupation, this enrichment has done little for those it is intended to protect.
How do you see the 10-year Israeli closure of Gaza?

Israel maintains effective control over Gaza, even though it removed its military and its 8,000 settlers in 2005. It has total air, sea and almost total land control over the territory. (The only exception is the Rafah crossing with Egypt but there is an understanding between the US, Israel and Egypt over with respect to this). This is a situation that former Prime Minister David Cameron once call a “giant open prison”. Most of the water is not fit for human consumption, the unemployment rate – at 42% -- is among the highest anywhere in the world, and young people can’t travel to develop themselves. The blockade is unlawful, a form of collective punishment on a massive scale. If ever there was a story of modern human-made humanitarian despair, Gaza is its name.
What are your main concerns regarding the right to health in the oPt?

First, the Israeli blockade of Gaza has had a dire impact upon its already-fragile health situation. Lengthy and daily power shortages mean that hospitals in Gaza depend upon generators to be able to function. They lack access to medical equipment, which is sometimes blocked by Israel because of the possibility of ‘dual-use’ purposes. Patients with chronic or serious illnesses and injuries who cannot be adequately treated in Gaza face considerable hurdles obtaining permits by Israel or Egypt to travel abroad for medical care. Similarly, in the West Bank, patients with complex health conditions are frequently referred to either Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem or to Israeli hospitals. But they face the human-made obstacles of obtaining Israeli permits to cross into Jerusalem or Israel, which are not easy to obtain. I plan to devote a future report on the right to health in the oPt, because of its illustrative importance to the many inequities of the occupation.

Thank you Prof. Lynk for your time!


You can hear the interview on the link
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