International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is based in The Hague, Netherlands and works as the main judicial body of the United Nations. It was established in 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations (UN) to settle legal disputes between states.1 Fifteen judges from various countries are used to give “advisory opinions on legal matters referred […] by duly authorised United Nations organs and special agencies.”2 This court is not used for individuals to present their grievances, but a UN Member State can represent a case on an individual’s behalf against another UN Member State, making it a dispute between states.
Palestine is not currently considered a full UN Member State, so it is unable to present grievances directly to the ICJ. Instead, Palestine-related concerns for the ICJ must be presented through the UN General Assembly, which presents cases to the ICJ on Palestine’s behalf.3 For example, in December 2003, the UN General Assembly asked the ICJ to provide its advisory opinion regarding the consequences for Israel failing to adhere to international law concerning the building of the Separation Wall. The Court concluded that Israel has a responsibility to comply with international law and instructed the cessation of further construction, as well as the destruction of the existing wall at the time. The Court also encouraged other nations to not recognised or fund the building of the illegal wall and encouraged Israel to make reparations to compensate Palestinians for losses accrued from the existence of the wall.4 However, since the Court’s rulings are only advisory and not binding, Israel failed to comply with the recommendations. Click here to see an infographic explaining the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the wall.
In 2014, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People released a statement declaring that the situation in Israel concerning the rights of Palestinian people and the building of the Separation Wall had not improved since the ICJ had made its recommendations 11 years prior.5 In order for the Court to work effectively, all participating states are called upon to abide by its recommendations.
For resources on the ICJ, see:
- Hugh Thirlway, The International Court of Justice
- Serena Forlati, The International Court of Justice: An Arbitral Tribunal or a Judicial Body?
- More information concerning the International Court of Justice, including cases, jurisdiction, and history can be found at: http://www.icj-cij.org/en
- The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was founded in 1975 as a way for “Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination without external interference, national independence and sovereignty; and to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced.”6 The Committee reports to the UNGA annually. This is a useful means of having Palestinian rights brought to the UN since Palestine does not have full UN member state status. https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/1ce874ab1832a53e852570bb006dfaf6/1201bbc82984ff1f852579840067fde8?OpenDocument
- The United Nations General Assembly is one of six organs of the United Nations. It is a policy-making and representative organ, as well as the only UN organ in which all UN Member States are equally represented. http://www.un.org/en/ga
- The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) works to promote and protect the political, civil, economic, and cultural rights of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel and to further the domestic implementation of international human rights principles. http://www.arabhra.org/en/online