EU and accountability: A History of a selective bargain

The UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem, and Israel (CoI-OPTI), presented its first report on 13 June 2022. The report was met with tepid response by some European countries, and with strong critique by others, trumpeted by the US. EuroMed Rights is gravely concerned at attempts to discredit accountability efforts by the international community in Israel/OPT, in a context of systemic impunity for human rights violations that Israel consistently refuses to investigate.

On 27 May 2021, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), in a special session on the human rights situation in the OPT and in Israel adopted a resolution that established an ambitious, ongoing Commission of Inquiry “to investigate, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up and since 13 April 2021.”

The resolution was supported by 24 UN HRC members, but not a single EU member state: five abstained (Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Poland), while three others even voted against (Austria, Bulgaria, and Germany). Yet, this UN HRC resolution was an unprecedented step toward unveiling the structural policies behind gross violations of international human rights, international humanitarian and international criminal law.

Roughly one year later, on 13 June 2022, the UN CoI-OPTI presented its findings in a first report. In a nutshell, the report finds out that “the continued occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and discrimination against Palestinians are the key root causes of the recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict in the region.”

Six EU member states, namely, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands and Germany left no place for doubt: In the face of the Commission of Inquiry’s findings, these European states, heralded by the US, criticised the open-ended nature of Commission’s mandate and denounced a “long-standing disproportionate scrutiny” of Israel.

By contrast, EU member states that are also members of the UN HRC have supported in block all Commissions of Inquiry that are examining multiple human rights crises across the globe since 2009, including the 2018 Commission of Inquiry into the situation of Myanmar, which was also open-ended.

Indeed, the only long-standing reality is the one of Occupation and policies of apartheid against Palestinians, as exposed by the report and many other UN bodies and civil society organisations. To recall, out of roughly 580 resolutions of the UN Security Council in the last decade, only one dealt with the human rights situation in Palestine, UNSC Resolution 2334 (2016).

Other EU member states, such as Luxembourg, France and Ireland expressed more nuanced positions. These states touched upon, to varying degrees, the most notable human rights violations in Israel/OPT in the last months. In turn, the EU presented a watered-down statement that shows, first and foremost, the internal divisions when it comes to accountability for violations in Israel/OPT.

The EU’s continuous lack of support for accountability measures for human rights violations in Israel/OPT by systematically turning a blind eye, is a blatant disregard of the growing and plural voices that relentlessly denounce the systematic nature of human rights abuses against Palestinians.