Legal opinion

Expert opinion relating to the conduct of prolonged Occupation in the occupied Palestinian territory

Professor Emeritus Michael Bothe|Published 14. Jul 2017
The Legal Expert Opinion, authored by Professor Emeritus Michael Bothe, was commissioned given the fact that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has now lasted for fifty years and requires a thorough stocktaking of applicable international law and an assessment of patterns of violations which have transpired.

The Expert Opinion analyzes the situation of occupation, governed by rules belonging to four different fields of international law, namely international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law (IHRL), the law relating to the use of force (jus contra bellum) and the law relating to the self-determination of peoples.

The Opinion concludes that the law of belligerent occupation was violated by a number of measures and policies adopted by Israel, in particular the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and various measures restricting the freedom of movement of, and preventing the beneficial use of land by the Palestinian population. These measures include the construction of a wall and systematic destruction of homes; measures that went far beyond what could be justified by Israeli security interests.

Taken together, these measures amount to a policy which was designed to create a coercive environment which would permanently change the demographic structure of the oPt in favour of Israeli territorial interests, thus amounting to the de facto annexation of major parts of Palestinian territory, which violated the principle of the provisional character of occupation.

The de facto annexation also violated the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by the use of force, which constitutes aggression. These measures also violate the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Due to the fact that many of the norms which have been violated apply erga omnes (owed by States towards the community of States as a whole), and in the light of the obligation of States parties to the Geneva Conventions to ensure the respect thereof, third States have the legal possibility and even the duty to take measures in order to induce Israel to comply with the relevant obligations.