Israel/Occupied Territories: Court should rule on illegal wall

The governments of the UK and other EU members states, the US and Israel have objected to the ICJ hearing the case, claiming that the issue is 'political'.

In a briefing issued today, Amnesty International states that construction of the fence/wall inside the Occupied Territories breaches international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The organisation is calling on the Israeli authorities to immediately dismantle the sections already built inside the West Bank and halt the construction of the fence/wall and related infrastructure inside the Occupied Territories.

Amnesty International UK Media Director Lesley Warner said:

'The construction by Israel of the 'security fence' inside the Occupied Territories violates international law and is contributing to grave human rights violations. It is entirely appropriate that a court of law examines this matter.'

'Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are suffering because of restrictions which punish them for the crimes of a handful of individuals. In these conditions people cannot work, cannot go to school or to their doctor ? in short, they cannot have any decent standard of living.'

On 8 December 2003 the United Nations General Assembly, exercising its power under Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), passed a resolution requesting the ICJ to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of the construction by Israel of the fence/wall inside the Occupied Territories.

The Israeli authorities claim that the fence/wall is 'a defensive measure, designed to block the passage of terrorists, weapons and explosives into the State of Israel'.

However, most of the fence/wall is not being built on the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank. Close to 90% of it is on Palestinian land inside the West Bank, encircling Palestinian towns and villages and cutting off communities and families from each other. It separates farmers from their land and cuts off Palestinians from their places of work, schools, healthcare facilities and other essential services.

Lesley Warner added:

'Israel's legitimate needs to secure its borders and prevent access to people who may threaten its security do not justify the building of such a 'security fence' inside the Occupied Territories.

'This could be built on Israeli territory on the Green Line, where border controls could also be strengthened if necessary.'

The building of this fence/wall inside the Occupied Territories has severe consequences for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. It imposes unprecedented, disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions on their movements within the Occupied Territories and causes other violations of their fundamental rights, including the right to work, to food, to medical care, to education and to an adequate standard of living.

The route of the fence/wall has been designed to encompass more than 50 Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, in which the majority of Israeli settlers live and which are illegal under international law.

Lesley Warner said:

'Any measure Israel undertakes in the Occupied Territories in the name of security must comply with its obligations under international law.

'The security exceptions in international law cannot be used to justify measures that benefit illegal Israeli settlements at the expense of the Palestinian population.

'The construction of the 'security fence' inside the Occupied Territories is such a measure. As it stands it violates Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.' Amnesty International urges the international community to ensure that Israel fulfils its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The organisation also reiterated its call on the Palestinian armed groups to put an immediate end to their policy of killing and targeting Israeli civilians, inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Amnesty also called on the Palestinian Authority to take urgent measures to prevent attacks by Palestinian armed groups on Israeli civilians.

For more information on the report and related material please see: www.amnesty.org/pages/isr-index-eng

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