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PCHR: Highlights of Israel’s continued violations of international law on the 5th anniversary of the ICJ advisory opinion on the Apartheid Wall

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

8 July 2009

On 5th Anniversary of ICJ Advisory Opinion on ‘The Wall’ PCHR Highlight Israel’s Continued Violations of International Law, and the International Community’s Complicity in Illegal Acts

9 July 2009 marks the five year anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) landmark Advisory Opinion on ‘the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.’ This Advisory Opinion marked the first time that the ICJ turned its attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In its Advisory Opinion, which represents an authoritative interpretation of international law, the ICJ held, inter alia, that: the construction of the Wall and its associated administrative regime are illegal and amount to de facto annexation; the Wall violates Palestinians’ legitimate right to self determination; the Wall must be dismantled, and reparation made to affected Palestinians; all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the Wall, and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the resultant illegal situation.

On the five year anniversary of the Advisory Opinion, The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) wish to highlight the continued construction of the Wall in occupied Palestinian territory, Israel’s continued violations of international law, and the international community’s inaction as regards the obligations to ensure respect for international law and not to recognize the situation created by Israel’s illegal acts.

To date approximately 350 kilometers of the Wall have been constructed. When complete the illegal Wall will stretch for 724 kilometers, trapping approximately 237,000 Palestinians between the Wall and the Green Line (the 1967 borders), and confining approximately 160,000 Palestinians in isolated enclaves with limited access to the outside world. As noted by the ICJ, the Wall has a devastating impact on Palestinian’s fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of movement, the right to health, the right to work, the right to education, and the right to the highest attainable standard of living. Ultimately, the Wall, and Israel’s longstanding occupation policy, deny the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, a fundamental right enshrined in the UN Charter and numerous human rights treaties.

Despite the ruling of the ICJ, construction of the illegal Wall continues. Israel continues to annex Palestinian land, and to destroy lives and livelihoods. Palestinian civilians continue to suffer the consequences.

The ICJ ruled that, in accordance with inter alia common Article 1 of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, all States are under an obligation to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law. Additionally, States are under a legal obligation “not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created” by the construction of the Wall.

Five years after the ICJ Advisory Opinion, Israel has yet to be held to account for its widespread and systematic violations of international law, including the continued construction of the Wall, and international aid continues to flow to the State of Israel. For example, the United States continues to extend significant financial and military aid to the State of Israel, absent any human rights based conditionality, while the EU has failed to enact the human rights clause contained within Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The international community’s continued support for Israel in the face of the State’s widespread violations of international law is a direct violation of the obligation to ensure respect for international law. This continued support is tantamount to complicity. By continuing to support Israel, or by turning a blind eye to its illegal acts, the international community is contributing to a pervasive climate of impunity. As long as impunity continues to be granted, Israel will continue to violate international law; Palestinian civilians will continue to suffer the horrific consequences.

This impunity manifests itself in numerous violations of international law which extend beyond the construction of the Wall. Israel continues to violate international humanitarian law in its attacks on Palestinians, as dramatically highlighted by the recent offensive on the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in an attempt to further consolidate the city’s annexation. Israel continues to impose a strict closure on the occupied Palestinian territory, including the closure of the Gaza Strip, a form of collective punishment which has now been in place for more than two consecutive years. On a daily basis, Israeli forces subject Palestinians to degrading and humiliating treatment, exercising control over the most mundane aspects of daily life, and violating these individuals’ fundamental right to human dignity.

The combined effects of Israel’s illegal actions are catastrophic: Palestinians are denied the most basic of human rights, and forced to live in a humanitarian emergency amid rising levels of unemployment and poverty.

PCHR wish to highlight the ICJ finding that “the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.” The Court further held that, “the route chosen for the wall gives expression in loco to the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements”; the Wall is intended to support Israel’s illegal settlement project.

International attention has returned to Israel’s settlement project in recent weeks. PCHR stress the fundamental illegality of the settlements, and their disastrous impact on Palestinians right to self determination, and other fundamental human rights.

PCHR affirm that political considerations cannot be prioritized over international law and individual’s legitimate rights. PCHR firmly believe that, although legal questions may have political overtones, the only possibility for a just and sustainable peace lies in a solution based on international law. All States must fulfill their international obligations, and hold the State of Israel accountable for its illegal acts. Civilians must be afforded the legal protections that are their right.

Significant findings of the ICJ:

  • The Wall and the associated administrative regime violate Palestinian’s fundamental right to self-determination
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, remain applicable to Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territory
  • The Wall must be dismantled, and reparation made to its victims.
  • The State of Israel is not entitled to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter (the right to self defense) with respect to the occupied Palestinian territory.