palestinian authority, pakistan, and the world court
Pakistan has a significant opportunity to advance fundamental concepts of international law that safeguard human rights all over the world by supporting Palestinian rights at the World Court.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was asked by the United Nations General Assembly to provide an advisory opinion on the legal ramifications of Israel’s protracted occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in December 2022. Even though this is the second time the General Assembly has requested an advisory opinion from the ICJ regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the request made in December is more comprehensive. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion concluding that Israel’s separation barrier should be demolished because its path violated international law. Pakistan should make a formal submission on the issues the ICJ has been asked to resolve to influence the court’s judgment.
Pakistan has long voiced its concerns regarding the systematic oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government and acknowledged the reality of Israel’s abusive, protracted occupation. At a UN news conference in March, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto acknowledged Israel’s apartheid.
Apartheid was first used in South Africa, but it is now a term used in all legal contexts. A fundamental principle of international law is the prohibition of particularly severe institutional discrimination, oppression, or apartheid.
Apartheid is classified as a crime against humanity under international criminal law, which includes the 1998 Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, and the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
These three main components are-
(1) an intention by one racial group to dominate another;
(2) systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group; and (3) particularly severe abuses known as “special crimes.”
In its ‘A Threshold Crossed’ report from April 2021, Human Rights Watch concluded that Israeli authorities were engaging in apartheid and persecution of Palestinians by applying the law to its extensive research on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. This conclusion is shared by Palestinian, Israeli, and other international human rights organizations. It is based on documentation of an overarching government policy to maintain the dominance of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, coupled with grave abuses against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.
Israel has become more oppressive and discriminatory recently. In 2022, there were more killings in the West Bank than ever before, and more people were placed in administrative detention without charge or trial thanks to secret evidence. The Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are both considered to be “exclusive[ly]” Jewish territory, according to the current Israeli government.
The advisory opinion of the ICJ, in this case, may have important ramifications, including any findings of transgressions of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or international criminal law. Even if the court does not come to substantive conclusions about international law violations, its opinion may provide direction for interpreting these fundamental international laws, particularly those that have not yet been the subject of court proceedings, such as the crime against humanity of apartheid. Strong individual opinions by judges can be influential even if the court, which operates by consensus, does not make a definitive ruling on some issues.
Individual country submissions are a part of the court record and, as previous advisory opinions have demonstrated, can influence the court’s strategy.
In its submission, Pakistan should urge the court to consider the full range of legal ramifications of the 56-year occupation, including transgressions of fundamental norms of international law, discriminatory laws, policies, and practices of Israeli governments past and present, as well as the implications for international human rights, humanitarian law, and criminal law. It should be made clear that Israeli authorities are required to guarantee Palestinians living under occupation full protection of the rights guaranteed to everyone under international human rights law as long as they are still occupying Palestinian territory, using as a standard the rights they grant Israeli citizens and the protections they are owed under international humanitarian law.
It should also prompt the court to consider the increasingly obvious fact that Israeli authorities methodically favor Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, even though both groups are subject to the same set of laws and enjoy the same rights and privileges wherever they live. It ought to implore the court to take into account the repercussions of Israeli authorities failing to view the occupation as temporary. They have been very clear about wanting always to have absolute control over the West Bank.
It should request that the court declare that the way Israeli authorities treat Palestinians constitutes racial discrimination and that these actions constitute the crimes of apartheid and persecution as they are understood by international law.
Members of the UN must combat persecution and apartheid as crimes against humanity, stop participating in such crimes, and demand accountability. The international system based on rules is seriously threatened by the silence, inaction, and denial surrounding the crimes against humanity committed by Israeli authorities.
Israel’s continued daily, escalating oppression, humiliation, and suffering of Palestinians is made possible by the fact that it continues to hide behind the hollow platitudes of a deadlocked peace process. That has to stop. Before the World Court, one of the most significant international legal forums, Pakistan has the chance to demonstrate leadership on this important issue. It ought to seize that chance.