UN Assembly votes overwhelmingly to demand Israel comply with ICJ ruling

20 July 2004 – The United Nations General Assembly today voted overwhelmingly to demand that Israel comply with an advisory opinion issued earlier this month by the World Court, which declared the construction of a separation barrier in and around the West Bank to be illegal.

In adopting a resolution by a vote of 150 to 6, with 10 abstentions, the Assembly also called on all UN Member States to comply with its obligations as contained in the finding by International Court of Justice (ICJ), which include a duty "not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem" and "not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction."

On 9 July the ICJ - the UN's principal judicial organ - issued an advisory opinion saying the separation barrier was illegal and that construction must stop immediately. The Court also said Israel should make reparations for any damage caused, and that the Assembly and the Security Council should consider what steps to take "to bring to an end the illegal situation" created by the barrier.

The resolution, brought forward by Jordan on behalf of the Arab States, also asks Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a register of all damage caused to "all the natural or legal persons" in connection with Israel's construction of the barrier.

The Assembly called on both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to immediately implement their obligations under the Road Map peace plan sponsored by the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and United States, which calls for a series of parallel and reciprocal steps by each party leading to two States living side-by-side in peace by 2005.

Voting against the measure were Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the United States. The countries that abstained were Cameroon, Canada, El Salvador, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

Speaking after the voting, Israel's representative voiced appreciation for those countries that had opposed the measure as well as those that had “tried to introduce some semblance of balance into the text.” Israel, he said, was not above the law and would continue to review the fence's route to protect the human rights of the Palestinians, but it rejected attempts to politicize the law.

The Observer for Palestine expressed thanks to the Assembly for the “magnificent results” that had been achieved in support of international law as well as peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Calling the ICJ opinion “historic,” he voiced confidence that all Member States would implement the resolution's provisions with utmost seriousness.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), registered opposition to the route of the barrier. But the EU disagreed with elements of the advisory opinion and supported Israel's right to act in self-defence. The most important step was for all sides to desist from further violence.

The resolution's adoption today culminated a resumed emergency session which began on Friday, with consultations on the draft continuing until the last moment. Just before the vote, the sponsors announced revisions to the text which would, among others, call on “the Palestinian Authority to undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks, and the Government of Israel to take no actions undermining trust, including deportations and attacks on civilians and extrajudicial killings.”

Video of meeting:
- Part I [10mins]

- Part II [58mins]