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UN Special Rapporteur visits Leiden: ‘Suspend the supply of arms to the warring parties’

Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, visited Leiden Law School on 8 December within the scope of International Human Rights Day. She spoke, among other things, about the legal implications of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

As a special rapporteur, Albanese monitors and reports to the UN on violations of international law and human rights in the Palestinian territories. ‘When I see violations of international law, it is my responsibility to fight for justice and prevent further abuse and international violence.’

Life under military occupation

The Italian lawyer and researcher used various examples to help the audience understand what life under 56 years of military occupation has meant for Palestinians. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967. Albanese explained that ever since, various military measures have regulated the minutiae of Palestinian life, from taxation and education to business and traffic. The Israeli army has also claimed the right to invade Palestinian cities and does so thousands of times a year.  

Neither necessity nor justification

‘There is no military necessity that justifies this occupation’, said Albanese. ‘The Israeli army is only there to protect Israeli settlements built in occupied territory. This is a violation of Article 39 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of civilians in time of war.’ However, this does not justify Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, she stressed, ‘There are rules that even people in occupied territories must abide by. You do not kill or kidnap civilians. It is also forbidden to kidnap soldiers to use them for negotiations.’

No self-defence

But neither does Hamas’s brutality against Israeli civilians justify the violence Israel is now using against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, said Albanese. ‘Israel had the right to protect its population and neutralise threats, but what the Israeli army is now doing does not in any way meet the standards of international law, not even the criteria set in international law for the term “self-defence”.’ Albanese and fellow UN rapporteurs have since sounded the alarm several times, alleging serious human rights violations against the Palestinian population. 

Stopping the violence

At the end of Albanese’s lecture, several students in the audience asked how she believes the violence can be ended. Albanese said that this will not happen as long as other countries simply say in general terms that Israel must abide by international law. ‘This is what most Western countries are doing at the moment. For the violence to truly stop, you need diplomatic, political and economic measures. And to suspend the supply of arms to the warring parties.’

Photos: Marc de Haan

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