Tue 20 Feb 2024 6:05 pm - Jerusalem Time

International Court of Justice to examine 57 years of Israeli occupation

Fifty-two countries to participate in hearings regarding Israel's practices towards the Occupied Palestinian Territory

A large number of countries and international organizations will participate in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings on the Israeli occupation beginning on February 19, 2024, Human Rights Watch said today. today. Fifty-two countries and three international organizations will participate in the oral proceedings, more than in any other case brought before the ICJ – the highest court in the world – since its creation in 1946.

The broad participation in the hearings and numerous written submissions reflect growing global momentum to address the decades-long failure to ensure respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“The International Court of Justice is being called upon for the first time to broadly examine the legal consequences of nearly six decades of Israeli occupation and mistreatment of the Palestinian people,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. . “Governments presenting their arguments before the Court should use these historic hearings to highlight the serious abuses that Israeli authorities are committing against Palestinians, including the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. »

The oral proceedings follow a request for an advisory opinion transmitted by the United Nations General Assembly to the Court in December 2022, regarding the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. The Court will have the opportunity to address the question of the continuing occupation, to examine the practices and policies of Israel violating the international prohibition of racial discrimination and constituting the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, and to assess the legal responsibilities of other countries and the UN to respond to violations of international law arising from the occupation.

Although ICJ advisory opinions are not binding, they often carry significant moral and legal authority, and may ultimately become part of customary international law, which is legally binding on states.

These proceedings, which will last six days, are separate from the case brought by South Africa before the ICJ, alleging that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention in the context of hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups which erupted after the attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7, 2023.

In December 2003, the UN General Assembly requested for the first time from the ICJ an advisory opinion concerning the Occupied Palestinian Territory, regarding the construction by Israel of a wall in this territory. In July 2004, the ICJ published an advisory opinion which concluded that the route of this separation wall violated international law, and called for its dismantling.

The request sent to the court in December 2022 has a broader scope. The General Assembly asked the Court to give its opinion on the "legal consequences of Israel's continued violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, its prolonged occupation, colonization and annexation" of the Palestinian Territory. occupied, as well as the adoption by Israel of “laws and related discriminatory measures”. The General Assembly also asked the ICJ to issue an opinion on the “legal consequences arising therefrom for all States and the United Nations”.

This new request gives the Court the opportunity to reassess the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, two decades after its last advisory opinion on this subject, and to provide legal guidance within the framework of international humanitarian law and human rights law. . The Court could notably assess Israel's actions under international human rights law, which prohibits racial discrimination, and under international criminal law, which prohibits crimes against humanity such as apartheid and persecution.

The ICJ decides disputes between states and issues advisory opinions on international law. However, the Court does not have jurisdiction over the conduct of non-state armed groups like Hamas. In contrast, the International Criminal Court (ICC) deals with serious international crimes allegedly committed by individuals, including members of armed groups. The ICC Prosecutor has confirmed that since March 2021, his office has been investigating alleged atrocities committed in Gaza and the West Bank since 2014, and that the ICC has jurisdiction over international crimes committed by all parties to the hostilities. current situation between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

Human Rights Watch has previously concluded that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians. Given that an occupying power's responsibilities for the rights of the occupied population increase over time, Human Rights Watch also called on Israel to grant Palestinians living in the occupied territories rights at least equal to those afforded Israel provides its own citizens with the protections of international humanitarian law.

The ICJ is made up of 15 judges elected by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council for a nine-year term. As of July 2023, before the escalation of hostilities in October, 57 “written statements” had already been filed by various states and international organizations as part of the procedure. In October and November 2023, 15 other States and international organizations filed additional written comments. Among the States and entities that will participate in the oral proceedings are Palestine, South Africa, Belgium, Brazil, China, the United States, France, Indonesia, Namibia, Pakistan, the Kingdom -United States, Russia, Switzerland and the African Union. Israel submitted a written statement, but chose not to participate in the hearings.

The ICJ will issue its legal opinion later, on a date which has not yet been determined. Given the Court's previous practices, it can be assumed that it will issue its opinion before the end of 2024.


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International Court of Justice to examine 57 years of Israeli occupation