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News > Palestine

Ten Countries Condemn Israeli Occupation Before The Hague Court

  • Palestinian women carry the bodies of loved ones killed by Israeli bombings, 2024.

    Palestinian women carry the bodies of loved ones killed by Israeli bombings, 2024. | Photo: X/ @mevlude_0555

Published 20 February 2024

The ICJ continues with hearings on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

On Tuesday, the hearings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the legal consequences of the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continued on their second day.


Israeli Policies on Palestine Mean Apartheid: South Africa

The United Nations General Assembly had demanded in a resolution on December 30, 2022, from the ICJ to deliver an advisory opinion on the matter. The opinion is not binding but has a political and moral weight. The ICJ is the UN’s highest court.

Before the public hearing, Israel and its allies argued that the court had no jurisdiction to deliver such an opinion.

One of them was Canada. In its written testimony, which TeleSUR had insight to, the country argued the court could no held jurisdiction, because it lacked the consent of Israel. Canada was to make its oral presentation today, but withdraw in the very last minute. Here are the summaries of the other 10 countries that spoke today before the court.

South Africa: Israel establishes apartheid

The delegation of South Africa spoke through two representatives, Vusi Madonsela, the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands, and Pieter Andreas Stemmet, Acting Chief State Law advisor at the Department of International Relations, that is the country’s foreign ministry.

South Africa “bears a special obligation to ensure to call out practices of apartheid” and for calling out those responsible, Madonsela stated.

He reminded that the court already argued against the wall around Gaza in 2004, with placing Israel under obligation to dismantle it. Still, emphasized the ambassador, are thousands of Palestinians since then being discriminated and objected to arbitrary arrests, their houses demolished and their movement restricted.

In a sign of apartheid, Palestinian children are trialed by military judges in miliary courts, while illegal settlers are subject to an entirely different, civil law regime with plenty of rights, Madonsela stated, inviting the court to “examine the practices alongside the criteria of apartheid”.

The second representative of South Africa, Stemmets, referred to the historic South Africa versus Namibia, and reminded that the court had “South African “prolonged presence in Namibia illegal”. Stemmets stated Israel’s “policies and practices have reached the threshold of apartheid within the meaning ascribed to it in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.”

Stemmets called UN organs to “use all measures” to end occupation, “continuously monitor any order the court may give to end apartheid and racial discrimination” and proposed the “re-establishment of the special committee on apartheid” with respect to Palestine.

The South African called on the court “to assist in bringing about the immediate and unconditional end to unlawful violation of Palestinian delf-determination”.

Algeria: Occupation turns into annexation

On behalf of Algeria spoke Ahmed Laraba, the country’s legal counselor. “Israel’s goal is to reach a point of no return in order to discard all possibility of the creation of the Palestinian state” Laraba stated, indicating the importance of applying domestic Israeli law onto Palestinian territories since 1967. This process continues until today, explained the representative, presenting examples of different Israeli Basic Laws, and concluded this was a process of annexation, where Israeli law prohibited the “transfer of any form of government” to Palestinians.

Laraba also compared Israel to imperial Rome, by quoting Roman Senator Cato, who used to end every speech with the words “Besides, I think Carthage must be destroyed.” Today, Israel says the same for Gaza, said the Algerian representative.

“Judges of the court” concluded Laraba, “Algeria is profoundly convinced that impunity is the fourth law of oppressors, your duty is to tell them there is a law and this law must be upheld”.

Saudi Arabia: Israel’s occupation was illegal since 1967

On behalf of Saudi Arabia spoke Ziad al Atiyah, who expressed “profound revulsion and condemnation of the horrendous death, destruction and displacement of Palestinian civilians brought about by Israel's illegal and brutal war” since October 2023.

The Saudi representative emphasized that in the written statements, “not one state has sought to defend the legality of Israel’s policies and practices”.

The representative objected opinions which argued the court should not present an opinion, because a negotiation process was going on between Israel and Palestine and this was a bilateral matter anyhow. Such arguments were brought forward by countries in defense of Israel, such as Canada.

The representative reported from the Arab Peace Initiatives beginning 2000s, proposed by Saudi Arabia, adopted by the Arab League and reindorsed later on in 2007 and 2017. Israel considered it a “non-starter, because it would have to give land for peace”, al Aiyah said.

“To be clear, Israel's occupation was, from its commencement in 1967, an illegal use of force and continues to be so”, said the representative, and demanded it to “cease its wrongful conduct, resume compliance with its obligations, and offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition”. The Saudi representative called all UN organs to ”take steps to bring Israel’s violations to an end.”

Netherlands: Presentation without mentioning Israel or Palestine

The representative for the Netherlands, René JM Lefeber gave an interesting presentation, as during his whole speech, he mentioned the names of Israel and Palestine just one, when quoting the title of the proceedings. Later on, he only referred to “states”.

Lefeber justified this approach saying, “the request should be regarded in a broader frame”. Despite that, the Dutch representative acknowledged that “a state that occupies territory is under an obligation to respect and promote the right of self-determination”, including decisions on future political leadership.

He said that General Assembly resolutions recognize the legitimacy of “armed struggle” for independence and against foreign occupation but reminded this had to occur “in accordance with international law”.

On the other side, stated the representative that the occupation of foreign territory “can be legitimate” in exercising self-defense in response to an armed attack.

Here, Lefeber reminded of state responsibility. The occupying power has to act with the law of occupation, he stated, which demands respect for territory, persons living in it and private property, while prohibiting any exercise of sovereignty, forced transfer of population from or into the territory – the latter being a case of settlement. “Such transfers are a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”, the Dutch representative said.

Bangladesh: Here to contribute to Palestine’s self-determination

The representative of Bangladesh, Riaz Hamidullah, started his presentation by reminding that his country fought 23 years to achieve independence, losing 3 million lives, but with a constitution in result, whose article 25C demands the country to support and struggle worldwide against imperialism, colonialism or racism.

“In accordance with this duty, Bangladesh is participating in these advisory proceedings to contribute to the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”, the representative said.

“Ultimately, Israel's occupation, characterized by its aggressive, colonial and annexationist nature represents a clear violation of international law. It serves as a means for the illegal acquisition of territory and must be brought to an immediate and unconditional end”, the representative said, reminding that Israel also had violated several UN Security Council resolution.

Hamidullah demanded that “all states must ensure” to end repressing of Palestinian self-determination, “recognize” the illegality of Israel’s occupation and “must not provide assistance to it.

“The Palestinians are no expandable people. As much as this advisory opinion involves legal questions, it poses an exceptional moral issue for humanity.”, the representative from Bangladesh concluded.

Belgium: States should not recognize situation brought about by force

The Belgian delegation started with a clear statement: “Israel has established a veritable policy of settlement in the occupied Palestine territory for decades now. This policy is carried out by a means of associated measures which are indissociable from the establishment of settlements themselves”.

Belgium’s legal expert Vaios Koutroulis condemned the use of violence of by settlers and called Israel to punish them. He evaluated settlements as a way to alternate the demographic structure.

The representative also called on “all states not to recognize a situation brought about by violence”.

Belize: Israel must withdraw entirely

Assad Shoman started the presentation of Belize. Gaza is under Israeli occupation since 1967, said Shoman, emphasizing it controls who enters and leaves the strip since then. 

Shoman then elaborated on the occupation, calling it “certainly not necessary nor proportionate”. If it ever was, this was right after the war of 1967 until the peace treaties, the Belize representative stated.

Criticizing Guatemala’s statement, Shoman also declared that Israel’s response to October 7 was neither necessary nor proportionate” – an intrinsic demand of international humanitarian law. “The fundamental issue is that it is unlawful for Israel to be exercising any control at all in respect to Palestinian territory”, Shoman added.

After demonstrating how Israeli policies in the occupied territories violate the law, “Israel must entirely withdraw from Palestinian territory” the representative from Belize demanded.

He also called the court to state that the establishment of settlements have no legal effect in respect to the land they are located on.

The representative finally called other states to “recognize the illegality” of Israel’s actions and invited them to “regulate private actors to ensure their conduct does not support Israel’s illegal practices”. Philippa Webb and Ben Juratowitch also made statements on Belize’s behalf.

Bolivia: States must cooperate to stop Israel

On behalf of Bolivia spoke the country’s ambassador to Netherlands, Roberto Calzadilla Sarmiento, stating that “Bolivia considers Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation to be in violation o international law.” Sarmiento said Israel was violating the basic principle of not acquiring territory by force.

In addition, Israel is violating the international provision of racial discrimination when it establishes a system of apartheid, the ambassador said.

Sarmiento called the court to “clarify and affirm the obligation and rights of the states”. He criticized the expropriation of land and property and the settlement policies too.

Sarmiento declared his country considers all Israeli presence established by force such as in “East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan as illegal”.

The Bolivian representative said international organizations and other states “under obligation to take measures and prevent Israel from continuing to violate Palestinian rights of self-determination.” He said these measures could include “diplomatic actions, economic sanctions, political pressure and legal measures.” 

Brazil: Statement from a commitment to multilateralism

On behalf of Brazil spoke Maria Clara Paula de Tusco, the head of the United Nations division at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. De Tusco made a presentation with a strong political emphasis. Brazil had already provided a written statement, she stated.

The oral presentation “stems from the country’s historical commitment to multilateralism”, de Tusco said.

She said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories “cannot be accepted, let alone normalized by the international community”, while the court’s hearing “could not be timelier”.

De Tusco emphasized that the “recent events are intrinsically linked to the occupation of Palestine” and reminded that already back in 1967, the Security Council had demanded from Israel to withdraw its troops from Palestinian lands.

“The prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territories, including measures aimed at altering demographic composition, character and status of these territories, including Jerusalem violate relevant international law”, the Brazilian representative said.

She called the existence of two different legal systems in Palestine discrimination and expressed expectation that “the court reaffirms that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal”. She stated this occupation amounts to “annexation”.

“First of all, Israel must put an end to the occupation of Palestine. Its primary obligation is to cease and not repeat the acts and omissions by which it occupies and prolongs the occupation of Palestinian territories”, de Tusco stated.

The Brazilian representative also mentioned possible reparations and stated that “states must cooperate” to bring an end to occupation. 

She reiterated that Brazil is fully committed to complying with these obligations. advocating for a two-state solution, allowing for the creation of an independent, sovereign, and economically viable Palestinian state, coexisting with Israel in peace and security within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders, which includes the Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Chile: Settlement policy is a war crime

Last to speak on Tuesday’s agenda was the representative from Chile, Ximena Fuentes Torrijo, who demanded from the International Court of Justice to address the facts that Israel violates international and basic international principles. The Chilean representative stated that occupation and annexation “become indistinguishable”.

She displayed various examples of violation of international humanitarian law and referred to the settlement policy as “war crime”. Israel is under obligation to cease the violations”, Torrijo said.

She also called other states to cooperate among other to stop Israel’s violations and provided the cooperation between Mexico and Chile as an example. Both countries together opened a case before the International Criminal Court against Israel.

Torrijo stated that Israel was acquiring territory by force and demanded the court to recognize this fact. She also stated violations by Israel amounted to “state policy.

The public hearings will continue on Wednesday. Several countries will make their oral statements, among them Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, the U.S, Russia and France.

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