UK Government Accused of Undermining Justice and Enabling Israeli Actions in Palestinian Territories
The United Kingdom’s government is facing strong criticism from the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) for obstructing justice and enabling the Israeli prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories. In a scathing letter addressed to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, the ICJP accused the UK of hindering an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s entrenched occupation of Palestine.
The ICJ advisory opinion, which is supported by a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution (Resolution 77/247) passed in December 2022, aims to address “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” This opinion is expected to provide crucial guidance to nations and the United Nations on the legal implications of Israel’s policies, determining the legality of the ongoing occupation and the rights of Palestinians.
Obstruction of Justice?
The controversy began on July 23, 2023, when the UK government submitted an ‘amicus brief’ to the ICJ, urging it to decline the UNGA’s request for an advisory opinion on the Israeli occupation. The ICJ’s authority to consider such requests from the UNGA is enshrined in the UN Charter, the ICJ Statute, and the Rules of Court.
Critics argue that the UK’s stance undermines the pursuit of justice and effectively supports the Israeli actions in Palestinian territories. Notably, the UK’s position contrasts with countries like Ireland and France, both of which have expressed support for the ICJ’s decision. An article in The Guardian in August 2023 highlighted that the UK’s position aligns with only a small minority of the 57 opinions submitted to the court by states and non-governmental organizations.
Despite numerous resolutions from the General Assembly calling on Israel to adhere to international law, the expansion of illegal settlements and efforts toward the illegal annexation of the West Bank persist, flagrantly violating these resolutions and international law. This situation has led to the systematic violation of Palestinians’ rights, including their right to self-determination, freedom of religion, free expression, association, and movement, as well as fair trial, property rights, cultural rights, and protection against arbitrary detention and torture.
In response to these developments, the ICJP has called on the UK Government to recognize the urgency of the ICJ advisory opinion, given the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They are urging the government to withdraw its efforts to block the opinion, emphasizing that this move risks undermining the UK’s ability to engage constructively on this matter.
Dania Abul Haj, a Legal Officer with the ICJP, stated, “In seeking to silence the ICJ’s advisory opinion, the UK Government is attempting to stifle efforts to secure justice and accountability for the Palestinian people who have endured human rights violations. We stand firm in condemning this attempt to silence criticism of Israel and reaffirm our commitment to defending the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.”
This controversy has highlighted the UK’s isolation on this issue within Western Europe, with its stance sharply contrasting with that of neighboring countries like France and Ireland. Critics warn that the UK risks becoming increasingly isolated if it continues to uphold this minority position of supporting the Israeli occupation in the face of longstanding and systematic human rights abuses. The debate over the ICJ advisory opinion is poised to remain a contentious international issue for the foreseeable future.