Egypt’s president, Belgium’s PM discuss developments in the Gaza Strip

Day 2 of ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’

The second day of oral proceedings began on Tuesday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the legal ramifications of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium have presented preliminary arguments.

This is said to be the largest case at the ICJ with more than 50 countries providing arguments, and at least three international organizations are slated to address the judges at the United Nations’ top court until February 26. A nonbinding legal opinion is anticipated following months of judge deliberations. 

On Monday, Palestinian representatives articulated their stance on the legal repercussions of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. They asserted that the occupation is illegal and must cease immediately, unconditionally, and entirely.

Israel has abstained from attending the hearings but submitted a five-page written statement expressing concerns that an advisory opinion would hinder attempts to resolve the conflict, citing prejudiced questions posed by the UN General Assembly.

  • 12:35 p.m. (GMT) Belgium’s legal expert condemns Israel’s settlement policy as violation of international law

Belgium’s legal expert, Vaios Koutroulis, has denounced Israel’s settlement policy, highlighting its aim to create permanent demographic changes in Palestinian territories.

Koutroulis emphasized that Israel’s settlement policy violates fundamental principles of international law, including the prohibition of acquiring territory by force and the right to self-determination.

He pointed out that the establishment of settlements leads to the creation of two separate systems, one for settlers and another for Palestinians, which exacerbates inequalities.

Belgium condemned violence against Palestinians and urged Israel to end settlement activities, restore expropriated property, and bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

Koutroulis called on third states to refrain from recognizing the legality of the situation, withhold support, and collaborate to end violations of international law.

  • 12:10 p.m. (GMT) Bangladesh argues Israel cannot use self-defense as a justification for its actions

Riaz Hamidullah, representing Bangladesh, emphasized that the principle of self-defense cannot justify prolonged occupation, addressing the ongoing situation in the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s occupation contradicts three fundamental pillars of international law: the right to self-determination, the prohibition of acquiring territory by force, and the prohibition of racial discrimination and apartheid.

In adherence to international law, any occupation must be temporary, and territorial acquisition is illegal. Israel’s extended occupation, coupled with territorial expansion, constitutes a violation of international law.

Hamidullah underscored that the right to self-defense cannot excuse breaches of international law, including the right to self-determination. Israel’s denial of Palestinian self-determination has led to widespread condemnation and hinders prospects for peace.

He called for Israel to cease all actions hindering Palestinian self-determination, including discriminatory legislation and military presence, and to provide reparations for damages incurred.

Hamidullah urged all states to ensure the cessation of any legal barriers to self-determination and to refrain from recognizing or supporting Israel’s illegal acts. Cooperation among states is essential to compel Israel to comply with international law.

He also urged the UN Security Council to consider further action to end the occupation and stressed the urgency of dismantling the apartheid system in place.

  • 11:15 a.m. (GMT) Netherlands affirms Palestinians right to self-determination 

René Lefeber, representing the Netherlands at the ICJ, affirmed the court’s jurisdiction and emphasized the universal right to self-determination as outlined in the UN Charter.

He highlighted how prolonged occupation undermines this principle and noted the conditions for the legitimacy of occupying foreign territory.

Lefeber concluded that an occupation failing to meet these criteria risks violating the prohibition against the use of force.

Occupying powers are prohibited from transferring populations in the territories they occupy, constituting a war crime under the Rome Statute, Lefeber said. 

Once an occupation begins, the occupying power must protect civilians, he added. 

Serious breaches of international norms should be addressed at the UN, and if necessary, states must cooperate to end unlawful situations, refraining from recognizing or supporting such breaches, Lefeber concluded for the Netherlands. 

  • 10:45 a.m. (GMT) Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as legally indefensible

Ziad Al-Atiyah, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, has strongly criticized Israel for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, stating that they are legally indefensible.

Al-Atiyah emphasized the importance of holding Israel accountable for ignoring international law, particularly regarding its treatment of civilians in Gaza and its continued impunity.

Saudi Arabia expressed deep concern over the killing of civilians and rejected Israel’s argument of self-defense, stating that depriving Palestinians of basic means of survival is unjustifiable.

Al-Atiyah accused Israel of dehumanizing Palestinians and committing genocide against them, calling for the international community to take action.

Regarding the jurisdiction of the court, Al-Atiyah asserted that the arguments against its jurisdiction lack merit, urging the court to issue an opinion on the matter.

Israel’s ongoing disregard for ceasefire calls and provisional measures, as well as its expansion of illegal settlements and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, were condemned by Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom highlighted Israel’s violations of international obligations, including ignoring UN resolutions condemning its conduct and preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to self-defense.

Israel’s intentions to maintain and expand illegal settlements, as evidenced by its 2018 Basic Law declaring Jerusalem as its capital, were also criticized for undermining Palestinian self-determination.

  • 10:15 a.m. (GMT) Algeria advocates against prolonged occupation of Palestinian Territories

Algeria’s legal representative, Ahmed Laraba, took the floor at the ICJ to present his country’s stance on the enduring occupation of Palestinian territories. In his address, Laraba highlighted the intricacies surrounding the concept of prolonged occupation, shedding light on its legal foundations and historical context.

Referencing Article 42 of The Hague Convention of 1907, Laraba underscored the undisputed basis of the notion of occupation, as acknowledged by the court in a previous opinion. He emphasized the temporary nature of the occupation, originally conceived to manage post-conflict situations and facilitate peace agreements.

Laraba pointed out the discrepancy between the intended temporary regime and the reality of a prolonged occupation, noting that the drafters of the time did not foresee a peaceful coexistence between the occupier and the occupied. This incongruity underscores the complexities and challenges inherent in addressing the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories.

Algeria’s intervention at the ICJ serves to advocate for a comprehensive understanding of the legal, historical, and humanitarian dimensions of the occupation issue. Laraba’s arguments contribute to the ongoing discourse surrounding the quest for justice and resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • 9:40 a.m. (GMT) South Africa shifts focus to Palestinian right to self-determination

Pieter Andreas Stemmet, Acting Chief State Law Adviser at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, announced South Africa’s commitment to advocating for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

Stemmet emphasized that the UN has repeatedly recognized the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination. He condemned Israel’s expansion of settlement activity, stating that it violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

In addressing concerns about potential apartheid in Israel, Stemmet referenced the Namibia vs. South Africa case, where the court ruled that race-based exceptions and limitations constitute a denial of fundamental rights and violate the principles of the UN Charter.

Stemmet underscored the well-documented extent of Israel’s violations and reiterated that the prohibition of apartheid applies universally, including to Israel.

Drawing parallels to South Africa’s illegal presence in Namibia, Stemmet called for attention to the legal consequences of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

  • 9:15 a.m. (GMT) South Africa urges for an end to Israel’s violations

South Africa’s Ambassador to The Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela urged for an end to Israel’s violations against Palestinian territories, emphasizing the critical importance of this advisory opinion for Palestinians.

Madonsela highlighted the prolonged occupation, spanning over 50 years, conducted in defiance of international law with little international intervention.

He questioned when Israel’s impunity for rights violations and breaches of international norms would cease, particularly amidst ongoing attacks on Gaza and Israel’s disregard for legal orders, indicating its belief in unrestricted actions against Palestinians.

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