The International Court of Justice should rule on the legality of the 1967 Occupation

Sir Vincent Fean writes:

Last year the UN General Assembly voted to request that the International Court of Justice should deliver an advisory opinion which would consider the question of the legality of the Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem, the rest of the West Bank and Gaza. The occupation is now in its 56th year. Our Government voted against the request, but lost.

UN member states then had the opportunity to submit observations to the Court. The British Government has done so, against the advice of distinguished legal experts. Their letter of 24 May to the Foreign Secretary can be read here.

The UK’s observations are to the effect that the ICJ should decline to consider the request by the General Assembly. The UK put forward the same argument to the ICJ in 2004, hoping to prevent ICJ consideration of the legality of the Israeli separation barrier, constructed almost entirely on occupied Palestinian land. The UK argument failed then. It deserves to fail again now.

The Israeli anti-occupation NGO Yesh Din has published a legal opinion: “The Legal Status of the Israeli Occupation”. One of the authors is Michael Sfard, a lawyer who spoke at the 2021 Balfour Project conference: “Israel-Palestine: in search of the rule of law”.

The legal opinion concludes that the Israeli occupation is illegal. Further, it affirms that the crime of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank, which is in the process of accelerated annexation by the Government of Israel.

The full Yesh Din legal opinion (38 pages) is here.

Sir Vincent Fean was UK Consul-General, Jerusalem (2010-14). He is a trustee of the Balfour Project.

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