July 2009 was the fifth year ‘anniversary’ of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Consequences of the Construction of a Separation Wall in the occupied Palestinian territories, rendered by the Court on 9 June, 2004.
In its Advisory Opinion, the ICJ found that the Israeli construction of the Wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including in and around East Jerusalem, violated Israel’s obligations under international law. The ICJ stated that Israel is under an obligation to cease the works of construction of the Wall within the OPT and bring down the parts within the OPT that had already been built. This was also noted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his statement on the 9 July, 2009. The Commissioner proceeded,
[T]he ICJ indicated that the specific route Israel has chosen for the wall is not necessary to attain its security objectives and that the construction of the wall constitutes “breaches by Israel of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments”. The overwhelming majority of the planned route of the Wall – 86 percent, runs inside the West Bank, not along the 1949 Armistice Line (the Green Line). The ICJ pointed out that the route of Wall had been planned to encompass the bulk of the Israeli settlements in the OPT – settlements which are illegal under international law… Since the ICJ Advisory Opinion, about 200 kilometers have been constructed, bringing the total amount constructed to 413 kilometers – 60% of the planned 709 kilometre long route… These severe restrictions violate not only the right to freedom of movement. They also effectively prevent Palestinian residents from exercising a wide range of other human rights, including their right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living.
Moreover, the Court condemned 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, which violate the most fundamental of the rights of the Palestinian people, the right to self-determination. Namely, 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.
Despite this, 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 – for instance, the United States continues to extend significant financial and military aid to Israel, absent any human rights based conditionality, and the EU has failed to enact the human rights clause contained in 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, being in certain cases tantamount to complicity.
In the last months, and in honour of the commemoration of the Opinion, the UN has supported the production of a film, titled ‘Walled Horizons’. The UN OCHA website notes the following:
The film is narrated by Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd founding member, who visits the Wall in the Palestinian territories and comments on his observations as a musician and a songwriter who has written on walls. The film explores how Palestinians in urban and rural areas have been impacted by the Walls construction since the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion in 2004, which declared the Wall’s route in the West Bank illegal. Several senior Israeli security officials are interviewed in the film, two of whom were directly responsible for planning the Wall route and who explain the Israeli position for constructing it.
The film in its full 20 minutes is available on YouTube. Enjoy the screening!