Five years after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Israel’s building of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory was illegal, the situation has not improved, the United Nations human rights arm said today, calling for the dismantlement of the barrier.
Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of the Court’s Advisory Opinion, in which it 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.
But in the five years since the Advisory Opinion was issued, “Israel continues to disregard the views of the ICJ, and the Wall remains under construction,” being 60 per cent completed, the West Bank branch of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today.
“The Wall 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,” according to a press release issued by OHCHR.
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.
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.
For his part, Maxwell Gaylard, the top UN humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory, said today in Jerusalem that “there is still time to change the situation.”
UN humanitarian agencies, he added, are calling for a freeze in the construction of the barrier in the West Bank and its re-routing to the Green Line, in light of both the Advisory Opinion and the humanitarian impact.
In Gaza, Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), welcomed a group of Gazan youth who recently returned from a three-week recreational tour to Poland to her office today.
Organized by the Polish Government with the aim of helping children affected by the recent hostilities in Gaza, more than 70 youngsters spent one week in the capital, Warsaw, undergoing psychological and medical treatment, and then the next two weeks touring the Eastern European nation.
They visited castles, a water park, a zoo and a cinema, with one child telling Ms. AbuZayd that the day he boarded the plane to Warsaw was “the best day of his life.”
One of the children on the tour, 12-year-old Mahmoud Samouni, lost 48 members of his extended family during the three-week clashes which killed at least 1,300 Palestinians and wounded some 5,300. The heavy bombardment and fighting also reduced buildings and other infrastructure to rubble.