10 Years since the ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Wall, Still No Accountability for Israel’s Violations
On the tenth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Israel’s Construction of a Wall in the West Bank, EMHRN calls on the EU and its Member States to take action to oppose the Wall and bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from its construction.
Ten years ago, the ICJ issued an Advisory Opinion addressing the legal consequences of the construction of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). This opinion called on Israel to cease the construction of the Wall, to dismantle the sections already built, and to make reparations for damage caused. Ten years on, Israel has continued to build the Wall while failing to provide any reparations in complete disregard of the Advisory opinion.
The Wall deviates extensively from the path of the Green Line, at some points veering up to 22 kilometers into the occupied West Bank. As confirmed by the ICJ Opinion, the Wall is designed to incorporate Israel’s illegal settlements, which themselves represent a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition against transfers of population. Indeed, recent years have witnessed an unprecedented increase in settlement construction.
Over the years, the Wall and its associated regime has fragmented Palestinian society in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, depriving Palestinians’ of their right to self-determination. It has placed severe and arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population, violating their right to an adequate standard of living, health, work, and education. The Wall also encroaches on the land and resources of the West Bank, resulting in extensive destruction and requisition of Palestinian property.
The ICJ Advisory Opinion highlights the obligations of both Israel and the international community. In line with these conclusions, European governments have the duty as third states, not to recognize, aid or assist the illegal situation created by the construction of the Wall, as well as the duty to cooperate to bring these violations to an end. EU Member States High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, also have an obligation to respect and ensure Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law.
In July 2004, the EU unanimously voted in favour of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Advisory Opinion and has in previous statements maintained its position that the Wall contravenes international law, including in the December 2009 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions. The EU has also reiterated its position that settlements are illegal under international law. However, it has failed to exert meaningful pressure on Israel to dismantle and end the construction of the Wall and to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.
Although long overdue, EMHRN welcomes the EU’s recent efforts to limit the scope of its agreements with Israel to its pre-1967 borders, and the recent publication of business guidance by several EU Member States warning against the risks of economic activities in settlements. This guidance should also be extended to all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including activities related to the Wall and its associated regime in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Such guidance should also be provided during EU‐supported business-to-business networking fora, such as the EU missions for growth. EMHRN notes with great concern that several businesses allegedly involved in violations of international law participated in previous EU missions for growth and calls on the EU to take appropriate steps to avoid this in the future.
In this context, EMHRN regrets Israel’s recent election as Vice-President of the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee upon nomination by the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) which is composed of several EU Member States. This decision runs contrary to the mandate of the committee and undermines international efforts to ensure compliance with international law.
In line with current EU positions and its international obligations as delineated in the ICJ Advisory Opinion, the EU and its Member States must:
- Take effective action to push Israel to cease the construction of the Wall, dismantle it and provides reparations to those affected for damages caused;
- Take action to ensure Israel immediately halts and reverses its illegal construction of settlements;
- Use all mechanisms at their disposal – including in the context of their bilateral relations and through the operational measures foreseen in the EU Guidelines on international humanitarian law – to hold Israel accountable for its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law;
- Exclude settlement products from entering the EU market and ensure the full and effective application of EU legislation with regard to settlement products. This includes adopting EU guidelines on the correct labeling of settlement products and guidance to businesses on how to avoid the risk of involvement in or support for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law;
- Limit the application of all bilateral agreements with Israel to the pre-1967 borders and implement similar measures at Member State level.
 These foresee, amongst other things, the use of public statements, dialogues with 3rd states, demarches with 3rd states as well as local reporting mechanisms to raise compliance of IHL.