This Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, was delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the request of the UN General Assembly on July 9th, 2004. The opinion and all the arguments of the judges who entered separate opinions can be read via this link.
In 2000 Israel initiated the construction of a separation barrier at the border with the Palestinian West Bank. The legality of this project was immediately called into question: its construction caused significant damage to Palestinian property in the border region, in some areas it effectively annexed Palestinian land, and the wall itself created a serious impediment for all Palestinians in the entire West Bank who needed to enter Israel e.g. for work, for medical visits or to visit family members residing there. According to the Israeli government however, the construction was warranted and necessary to defend the country against attacks on its soil.
After a Security Council draft resolution that would have declared the construction of the wall illegal was vetoed by the United States, the UN General Assembly requested the ICJ for an Advisory Opinion on the matter. Such an Opinion, unlike an ICJ judgment in a case between states, does not have binding consequences. Israel, contesting the Court’s findings, therefore is not held to comply with them.
The Court reaches the following conclusions (paragraph 163):
A. The construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is contrary to international law.
B. Israel is under obligation to terminate its breaches of international law, to cease the construction of the wall, and to dismantle it forthwith.
C. Israel is under obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall. (Please see paragraphs 145, 152 and 153 for the Court’s considerations amounting to a rather broad interpretation of this obligation.)
D. Third states are under the obligation not to recognise the illegal situation caused by the construction of the wall.
This Advisory Opinion led to UN General Assembly Resolution ES 10/15, which, reiterating the findings of the Court listed above, was adopted by 150 States 11 days later, with 10 States abstaining and 6 voting against.