The Palestinian Association for
Human Rights (Witness) held on 15/10/2015 a legal seminar entitled
"International Law and Crimes of the Israeli Occupation in Jerusalem.” The
seminar brought together a select of Arab experts in international law and
those interested in the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The
seminar was held in Lancaster Hotel in Beirut and moderated by Mr. Saleh
Armouti, former head of Jordan's Bar Association.
The one-day seminar comprised three
sessions and discussed three working papers primarily aiming at studying the
current legal status of Jerusalem and presenting a legal assessment of the
ongoing developments in the city. It also aimed at exploring the Palestinian
and Jordanian position vis-à-vis Jerusalem, studying the possibility of
benefitting from legal opportunities on the Arab and international levelin
addition to establishing an advisory body that would be concerned with
presenting legal opinion meant to rectify legal performance regarding
The following closing statement was
issued at the end of the seminar:
Greetings and respect to the
resistance and resilience of the Palestinian people in the occupied
territories, especially in Jerusalem, and to the Murabitoun and Murabitatin Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The issue of Jerusalem has been the
core of the Arab-Israeli conflict since Israel occupied the western part of the
city in 1948 and then its eastern part in 1967 while granting itself, as an
occupying power, wide legislative, executive and judicial authorities thus violating
the temporary nature of military occupation as provided for in the 1907 Hague
Regulations and the 1949 Geneva Convention. It also violated the principle
which stipulates that the occupying power cannot establish any national,
economic or social benefits not necessitated by security need. Ultimately,
Israel was able through its arbitrary plansand practices to pursue a fait
accompli policy and change Jerusalem facet in serious contravention of UN
resolutions in addition to other resolutions adopted by international bodies
and conferences that confirmed the applicability of Geneva Convention to the
occupied territories. Despite clear international position towards Jerusalem, Israel’s
policy of Judaization and expanded settlement has increased and its arbitrary
practices continue to threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque with temporal and spatial
division parallel to targeting Jerusalemites with harsh punitive measures.
Israel’s continued targeting of the
sanctity of the holy sites in Jerusalem,as well as in other Palestinian
occupied territories, and its aggression on worshippers and preventing them
from reaching holy sites and praying there constitute a flagrant violation of
freedom of worship and the right to practice religious rites as guaranteed by
international laws and conventions, especially by the International Convention
of Human Rights. Israel’s practices also constitute a violation of Article 53
of the 1977 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Convention which prohibits committing
any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or
places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of
peoples. In addition, Israel’s practices fall within the scope of Article 8(b)
of the 1998 Basic Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which stipulates
that intentionally attacking buildingsdedicated for religious purposes is a war
Israel’s ongoing violation of the
freedom of worship and access to holy sites for Muslims and Christians in
occupied Jerusalem and limiting freedom of movement to Jews and allowing them
to reach Al-Buraq Wall without restrictions or obstacles is a form of racial
discrimination. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have
reiterated the right of every individual to freedom of thought, conscience and
religion and the right to practice religious rites whether individually or in
community with others. Thus, the question is raised here regarding the
responsibility for breaching the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque from an international
law perspective in terms of the special rules it has embraced regarding the
protection of places of worship during armed conflict or military occupation.
The foreign affairs committee at
UNESCO's executive board adopted in April 2015 a resolution that reaffirms the
definition of Al-Aqsa Mosque as the entire sacred complex surrounding it. The
resolution, submitted by Jordan and Palestine and supported by the Arab and
Muslim group, also confirmsthat Bab al-Magharbeh is an indivisible part of
Al-Aqsa. Ultimately, the conduct of the occupation in this respect is a
flagrant violation of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of
1954 and its two additional protocols.
inevitable consequence of the criminal conduct by the occupation in Jerusalem
and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinians were engaged in a wide uprising that
reached territories occupied in 1948. Not deviating from a long-standing criminal
policy against the Palestinians, the Israeli authoritiescommitted cold blooded
murder and summary executions and leftthousands of Palestinians wounded in an
attempt to put an end to the uprising.
Palestinian issue is an international legal issue par excellence, and the
current state of dereliction is stark evidence of official Arab, Islamic and
Palestinian ignorance of the legal aspect of the Palestinian issue besides
turning a blind eye by the West to the crimes of the occupation. It could be
said that the weakest link in this legal ignorance was manifested in 1993 when
the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership signed an international
treaty (Oslo) with the Occupation State with no international legal presence
whatsoever on the delegate that led the negotiations on the Palestinian side compared
to a group of prominent international lawyers on the Israeli side.
and provisions of public international law and its lofty principles are on the
side of the Palestinian people and its just cause. However, the weak political
performance and the absence of Palestinian legal system based on international
law and specialists’expertise have left the legal dimension of the Palestinian
issue empty of its elements of power.
1. The need to respect the Convention for the Protection
of Cultural Property of 1954 and its two annexedProtocols. The aggressionby the
occupation authorities on the places of worship could be a war crime, which
calls forpreparing a file documenting the crimes in Al-Aqsa Mosque tobe
submitted to the ICC.
2. PromotingArticle 22 of the UN Charter
in the General Assembly (GA)after every Israeli violation or attack for us to
be able to prosecute the occupation leaders in international tribunals instead
of sticking to political demands in the Security Council that might end up with
a US veto or a mere condemnation from the Council through a presidential
statement or the like.
3. Resorting to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to
issue an edict stressing the illegitimacy of the unjust Israeli blockade on
Gaza according to Article 65 (1) of the ICJ Statute similar to the edict issued
by the Court regarding the Separation Wall.
4. Seriously considering the suspension of Israel’s
membership in the UN, including in the GA and all affiliated bodies given that
the occupation entity was established based on UNGA Resolutions 181 and 194,
and a preliminary condition providing that Israel should be peace-loving.
5. Following up on the ICJ opinion on the Separation Wall
in order to hold accountable those European, foreign and local companies that
participated in building the Wall in contravention of the 1949 Fourth Geneva
Convention signed by their respective countries and urge them to pay
compensation for those affected.
6. Establishinga Palestinian, Arab and international
legal system including specialists and experienced figures to providelegal
opinion and seek possible legal options to prosecute occupation leaders before
7. The need to legally train Palestinian youths,
particularly in Jerusalem, in order to document Israeli violations according to
international standards pursued in this respect.
8. Boosting coordination and joint work between the PLO
and Jordan and sides entitled to pursue necessary legal measures in order to
defend occupied Jerusalem more effectively.
9. Halting security coordination between the Palestinian
Authority and the occupation authorities in compliance with decisions by the
PLO Central Council in March 2015.
10. Demanding the Egyptian authorities to open Rafah
crossing normally in line with the spirit and provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva
Convention given that Egypt is a party to this convention and all its annexes.
11. More media efforts need to be put into action to
reveal the occupation crimes before international public opinion and to resist
Israeli media machine which forges facts and tries to present Palestinians as