9 July 2009 – On the fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) finding that Israel’s building of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory was illegal, a United Nations independent human rights expert today spoke out against what he says is Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.
“Tear down that wall, Mr. Netanyahu,” Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said at an international conference at The Hague on the ICJ’s 2004 Advisory Opinion.
That opinion called on Israel to halt construction and bring an end to its system of curbing the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.
By a majority of 14 to 1, the judges found that the barrier’s construction breaches international law, saying it violated principles outlined in the UN Charter and long-standing global conventions that prohibit the threat or use of force and the acquisition of territory that way, as well as principles upholding the right of peoples to self-determination.
Although Israel claims the barrier is only a temporary security measure, the ICJ said that the specific route chosen is unnecessary to achieve its security objectives, with most of the barrier running inside the West Bank, instead of the so-called Green Line, or 1949 Armistice Line.
The barrier is still under construction, and “despite this Israeli refusal to comply [with the ICJ’s decision], the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations have totally ignored Israel’s defiant behaviour, which has resulted in a major encroachment on Palestinian rights, as well as sending the cynical message that power trumps law,” Mr. Falk said today.
Israel’s refusal to dismantle the barrier is just another example of its “unlawful conduct,” including settlement expansion and imposing collective punishment on Gaza’s population, he added.
Yesterday, the West Bank branch of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the barrier, which is 60 per cent completed, “is but one element of the wider system of severe restrictions on the freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinian residents of the West Bank.”
At present, more than 600 closures block Palestinians’ movement in the West Bank, while an increasingly segregated road system restrict travel for them while Israelis can move freely, the Office said. Such constraints not only curtail Palestinians’ freedom of movement, but also impede a host of other human rights, including the right to work, health, education and an adequate standard of living.
“And Palestinian residents currently lack meaningful access to an effective remedy – judicial or otherwise – for their plight,” OHCHR said, calling on Israel to comply with the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion and make reparations for any damage caused.