International Court of Justice Rules Israel's Barrier Illegal, Violates International Law, and Should be Torn Down

International Court of Justice Rules Israel's Barrier Illegal, Violates
International Law, and Should be Torn Down

9 July 2004

The World Court strongly condemned Israel's West Bank barrier as illegal Friday, saying it imposed hardship on thousands of Palestinians and must be torn down. The court said in a ruling which was ordered by the UN General Assembly and was hailed by Palestinians and rejected by Israel that the barrier violated international humanitarian law.

It called on the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly to stop the barrier's construction.

But the United States, which has vetoed Security Council resolutions against Israel in the past, dismissed the court's intervention and an American judge, Bluementhal, was the only one of the 15-member panel who did not back the ruling.

"The construction ... constitutes breaches by Israel of its obligations under applicable international humanitarian law. Israel is under an obligation ... to dismantle forthwith the structure," the court's head judge, Shi Jiuyong of China, said in the ruling.

The route of the 370-mile barrier, about a third built, "severely impeded" Palestinian rights to self-rule, he said. It curves at points deep into the West Bank around Israeli squatterments (illegal settlements) built on land occupied in the 1967 Israeli pre-emptive war.

The court, the U.N.'s top legal body, acknowledged Israel had a duty to protect its citizens but said it must do so within the law and should compensate Palestinians for homes and land lost or damaged by the building of the barrier.

"The court considers that the construction of the wall and its associate regime creates a 'fait accompli' on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case ... it would be tantamount to de facto annexation," said the ruling.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said: "This is a victory for the Palestinian people and for all the free peoples of the world."

While Israel says the barrier is vital to protect its citizens from suicide bombers, Palestinians say it is a land grab that robs them of territory they want for a state.

If it were built for security reasons, as Israelis claim, they should have built it within the Israeli border, not deep inside the Palestinian territories, as it is now.

The barrier has trapped thousands of Palestinians in enclaves cut off from fields, schools, markets, public services and cities. If it is completed as planned, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will be trapped between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. They will not be able to reach their schools, jobs, hospitals, fields, and other facilities. This situation will lead them to leave the trapped area, which will be annexed by Israelis.

Arab envoys said the Palestinians would ask the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a resolution affirming the court's ruling.

About 150 demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and holding banners reading "Boycott Israel" and "Away with Apartheid" gathered outside the court. Some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were Orthodox Jewish Americans wearing the Palestinian checkered cloth symbol of resistance to the occupation. They chanted slogans against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and against the Apartheid, Land-Grab Wall.

"I hope there will be sanctions and I hope Israel will be forced to tear down that wall," said Mariejose van Overveld, a 54-year-old Dutch housewife wrapped in a Palestinian flag

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