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UN Movie 'Walled Horizons' Marks Five Years to the ICJ Wall Opinion

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!

3 Comments

  1. Guy Guy 5 September 2009

    One wonders why this post goes to great lengths to appear ‘objective’, when it is clear that in judicial opinions – especially on these topics – everything is subjective.
    The ICJ’s methods of examining the issues are debatable, just as the Israeli Supreme Court’s methods on the very same subject are equally debatable. For my part, I think it’s wrong to treat the wall as a whole. Certain parts of the wall violate international law; others do not. But that’s my take on the subject, and I do not — as opposed to Ms. Azarov — display my, or any, view as objectively correct.

  2. Valentina Azarov Valentina Azarov Post author | 5 September 2009

    Dear Guy,
    As far as I recall my intention in putting up this post was only to draw our readers’ attention to the new UN movie in commemoration of the Opinion. So, to a certain extent, you were looking for my critical perspective on the practice of the ICJ or any other UN body where no such normative statements were even intended to be included. I would largely agree with you on the fact that their judicial methods are not unproblematic and at times even quite detrimental to their credibility. Still, there are many objective, legally speaking, conclusions that only the most distorting interpretations of international law could reject. It is these judicial conclusions with regards to the violations of clear cut international norms that many different bodies ‘display…as objectively correct’.
    This brings me to your point on the legal rationale of the Court, namely the fact that it had concluded that the Wall is illegal as a whole, instead of looking at specific parts of it and assessing their legality individually. I will not go into the whole discussion with regards to the various arguments surrounding the construction of the Separation Wall, but I will note that the fact that the Court considered the Wall as a whole was considerably due to the fact that almost 90% of it is in the West Bank and there is overwhelming evidence that it is a means for achieving a very different ends than that acclaimed by the Israeli government, i.e. national security. Instead, the evidence presented by the UNGA and many other state and non-state bodies attests to the fact that the Wall is a means for annexing as much land as possible, including as many settlements as possible, and acquiring more exposed land in order to expand and build new settlements, inter alia. All this, the Court appreciated in not so many words, was done under the guise of the magic keyword, ‘security’.
    Moreover, it was the Israeli government in its response to the ICJ, that argued that the Wall was an act of self-defense invoking the argument of necessity. In order to examine the validity of these legal positions, the Court had no way but to consider the Wall as a whole.
    I am happy to receive your thoughts but would like to just highlight that the legal questions considered in the ICJ Wall Opinion are much less contentious than the political motives that the Court or any other body may have had in admitting the case and handing down the Opinion (which very arguably would not have happen in many other cases). I would be happy to provide you with further information on the legal parameters of the Opinion.
    Best,
    Valentina

  3. […] It should be made clear that the Court did not consider any of the international legal arguments that the petitioners invoked with regard to the illegality of the Wall itself or the settlements taken in by the route of the Wall resulting in the annexation of territory, a grave violation of international law. In fact, no provisions of international law were invoked by Justice Beinisch in her rationale, apart from those relating to protected persons, which she then proceeded to erroneously apply. The lawless approach undertaken by the Court in this decision, like in many other cases on the route of the Wall, produces another direct assault on international humanitarian law and the unequivocal submissions made by the ICJ in the Advisory Opinion on the Separation Wall rendered by the World Court over five years ago (previously covered here). […]

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