BRUSSELS, 16 – 17 March 2013


Objectives and functioning of the RToP

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is an International People’s Tribunal created following the international community’s inaction regarding Israel’s recognized violations of international law.

At five sessions, the RToP dealt with different aspects of the complicity and responsibilities of states, international organisations and corporations in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the perpetuation of the violations of international law committed by Israel. It also highlighted the continuity and comprehensiveness of Israeli policy that intends, ultimately, to render impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The legality of the Russell Tribunal comes from both its absolute powerlessness and its universality”.[1] The RToP has no legal status, and draws its strength from the will of citizens who wish to put an end to the impunity that Israel enjoys while denying the Palestinians their most basic rights. It does not compete with other jurisdictions (domestic or international), but works to complement such jurisdictions in enforcing the law in Palestine.

The RToP created an International Support Committee whose members include Nobel Prize laureates, a former United Nations Secretary-General, two former heads of state, other personalities who have held high political office, and representatives of civil society who are writers, journalists, poets, actors, film directors, scientists, professors, lawyers and judges (see

The jury of the RToP consists of the following members:

  • Stéphane Hessel(†), Ambassadeur de France, Honorary President of the RToP, one of the original drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France.
  • Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate 1976, Northern Ireland.
  • John Dugard, Professor of International Law, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, South Africa.
  • Lord Anthony Gifford QC, UK barrister and Jamaican attorney-at-law.
  • Gisèle Halimi, lawyer, former Ambassador to UNESCO, France.
  • Ronald Kasrils, writer and activist, former government minister, South Africa.
  • Michael Mansfield QC, UK barrister, President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, United Kingdom.
  • José Antonio Martin Pallín, emeritus judge, Chamber II, Supreme Court, Spain.
  • Cynthia McKinney, former member of the US Congress and 2008 presidential candidate, Green Party, USA.
  • Alberto San Juan, actor, Spain.
  • Aminata Traoré, author and former Minister of Culture, Mali.
  • Alice Walker, poet and writer, USA.
  • Roger Waters, songwriter, bass guitar player, vocalist and founding member of the band Pink Floyd, UK.
  • Miguel Angel Estrella, pianist and Ambassador to UNESCO, Argentina.
  • Angela Davis, political activist, scholar and author, USA.
  • Dennis Banks, leader, teacher, lecturer, activist and author, USA.

With the death of Stéphane Hessel on 26 February 2013, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine has lost one of its founders, its honorary President and an active member of the International Organising Committee.

Stéphane Hessel had attended all sessions of the Tribunal and was preparing to join the jury in Brussels for the final session. An advocate for the application of international law in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was the driving spirit of the RToP and tributes were paid to him during the final session.

Organisation of the sessions

The first international session of the RToP was organised in Barcelona, Spain, from 1 to 3 March 2010, to consider the complicity and responsibilities of the European Union and its member states in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the perpetuation of the violations of international law committed by Israel, with complete impunity.

The second international session of the RToP took place in London, United Kingdom, from 20 to 22 November 2010. It examined international corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The third international session of the RToP took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 5 to 7 November 2011. It dealt with the following question: Are Israeli practices against the Palestinian people in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law?

The fourth international session of the RToP took place in New York City, USA, from 6 to 8 October 2012. It dealt with US complicity and UN failings in dealing with Israel’s violations of international law towards the Palestinian people.

Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on 16 and 17 March 2013, the jury of the RToP was composed of the following members: Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Lord Anthony Gifford, Ronald Kasrils, Michael Mansfield, Cynthia McKinney, John Dugard, Miguel Angel Estrella, Angela Davis, Dennis Banks, and Roger Waters. It was assisted in its work by a team of legal experts composed of Eric David, Daniel Machover and John Reynolds.

After several weeks of exchanges through the Internet, the jury had the whole day on Saturday, 16 March, to work behind closed doors, adopt the final conclusions and agree on the main points that were presented to a packed house on Sunday, 17 March, by Michael Mansfield and Angela Davis. On that occasion, messages were also issued by Fadwa Barghouti, on behalf of her husband Marwan Barghouti, and initiators of the Tribunal Nurit Peled and Leila Shahid.

The final session of the RToP was organised by:

-          The International Organising Committee (IOC): Ken Coates (†), Pierre Galand, Stéphane Hessel (†), Marcel-Francis Kahn, Robert Kissous, François Maspero, Paulette Pierson-Mathy, Bernard Ravenel, Brahim Senouci, Gianni Tognoni;

-          The Committee’s International Secretariat: Frank Barat and Virginie Vanhaeverbeke, under the general coordination of Pierre Galand;

-         The South African, Algerian, British, Catalan, Chilean, Danish, DRC, Dutch, French, German, Indian, Italian, Irish, Israeli/Palestinian, Luxembourger, Portuguese, Spanish, US and Swiss Support Committees;

-         The Belgian Support Committee.

The International Organising Committee wishes to thank all the individuals, organisations and foundations that facilitated the convening of the final session of the RToP.

Conclusions of the final session of the RToP

At its final session, the RToP continued to pursue its historic mission which consists, at a time when the international community is faced with enormous challenges, in building a citizen-based protest structure and denouncing intolerable situations. The United Nations Charter begins with the words “We the peoples of the United Nations”. Hence it was not created solely for the purpose of protecting state power.

At the final session, the RToP summarised the findings of the four preceding sessions.[2] The findings address in succession:

  1. The particular violations of international law committed by Israel;
  2. Overarching features of Israel’s regime vis-à-vis the Palestinians – apartheid and sociocide;
  3. The responsibility of states and in particular the United States of America, which assists Israel in its violations of international law;
  4. The responsibility of international organisations (the UN and the EU), which assist Israel in its violations of international law;
  5. The responsibility of private corporations that assist Israel in its violations of international law;
  6. Future action and the ways forward.

It is worth noting that, with a view to respecting the adversarial principle, institutions, countries and companies implicated in each session were invited to appear before the Court to express their views. Some written responses were received but no representative appeared at the sessions. The RToP regrets that it could not benefit from the assistance that their arguments and supporting evidence might have provided.

Important events subsequent to the New York session

The jury first of all noted a number of events that had occurred subsequent to the New York session (October 2012) and which confirmed:

  • Israel’s violations of international law;
  • the support of the United States for these violations; and
  • the failure of the United Nations to respond meaningfully to Israel’s violations of international law.

First, there was Israel’s attack on Gaza from 14 to 21 November 2012 in Operation Pillar of Defence. Although an Israeli ground offensive was avoided, Israel caused considerable loss of life (158 Palestinians were killed compared with six Israelis) and damage to property. War crimes were committed during the offensive. In one attack twelve persons were killed: two men, six women and four children. The Security Council failed to take any decision on the offensive. Although the US Government played an important role in securing a ceasefire, the US Congress gave support and encouragement to Israel.

On 29 November 2012 Palestine was accorded “non- member observer status” in a General Assembly resolution adopted by 138 votes to 9, with 41 abstentions. This constitutes recognition of the statehood of Palestine but falls short of UN membership. The United States joined Israel in voting against the resolution.

In response to the UN decision, Israel announced that it had approved plans for the construction of 3,000 settlement units in the controversial E1 corridor between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim, which will destroy the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. While the European Union has taken a strong position against this decision, the United States has failed to do so. The Security Council has not adopted any resolution on the subject.

In February 2013, the EU consulates in Jerusalem published, as they do every year, a report on the situation in the occupied city, in which they are once again highly critical of Israeli settlement policy in East Jerusalem and in which they recommend measures to reduce trade between the EU and the Israeli settlements and to reduce their direct or indirect funding. These reports to the EU authorities have never been adopted to date and no official statement has ever been issued by the EU.

In January 2013 the Independent Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Implications of Israeli Settlements established by the United Nations Human Rights Council concluded that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had produced a dual legal system of segregation, in which settlers enjoyed superior rights to Palestinians and which violated the human rights of Palestinians in social, political and cultural areas. Although the Mission did not use the word apartheid to describe the regime, there can be no doubt that the system of segregation it described is a form of apartheid. The Security Council has failed to respond to this important report.

Further, in an unprecedented move, Israel failed to attend its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 29 January 2013 by the UN Human Rights Council. Israel’s decision to boycott the UPR was yet another demonstration of its contempt for international human rights norms.[3]

The Tribunal also notes with concern developments within Israel, including violent police raids of Bedouin villages[4] and revelations concerning forced contraceptive injections of Ethiopian Jewish women.[5]

I. Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinian people: particular violations of international law

The Tribunal emphasises that it fully respects the rights of the Israeli people and it stands in opposition to anti-Semitism in whatever form it manifests itself. Such principles are fully honoured while bearing witness to Israeli conduct towards the Palestinians, calling on Israel to cease and desist from violating Palestinian rights, and calling on states and corporations to cease and desist from all acts that assist Israeli violations. As noted by the Tribunal at its previous sessions,well-documented acts committed by Israel constitute violations of the basic rules of international law (customary international law, treaties, United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions: see in particular the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) onthe Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory):[6]

  1. Violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination codified in General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and 2625 (XXV) and reaffirmed by the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion on the Wall;
  2. In relation to the construction of the Wall, as stated at paragraph 142 of the Advisory Opinion: “The Court considers that Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall resulting from the considerations mentioned in paragraphs 122 and 137 above. The Court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law”; and at paragraph 149 the ICJ noted that “Israel is first obliged to comply with the international obligations it has breached by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [identified at paragraphs 114-137 of the Advisory Opinion]. Consequently, Israel is bound to comply with its obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Furthermore, it must ensure freedom of access to the Holy Places that came under its control following the 1967 War”;
  3. Violation of international customary law, human rights norms (A/RES/194/III, § 11), customary IHL as codified by the ICRC in 2005 in Rule 132, and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by prohibiting the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes;
  4. Violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions requiring Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territory (88 in total as at the end of 2012), and of the UN Charter which obliges Member States to “carry out the decisions of the Security Council” (Art. 25);
  5. Violation of “[…] the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” (UNSC Res. 242) as well as of the Security Council resolutions condemning the annexation of Jerusalem. The Tribunal notes that the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) refers to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as to the Gaza Strip, since Israel’s 2005 withdrawal did not end the occupation of the 360-square-mile territory. This appears from the fact that Israel still maintains effective control of all air and maritime spaces of the Gaza Strip, as well as control along the land border and inside the Gaza Strip, a 300-metre-wide buffer zone (600 and 1,500 metres wide in some places), which is a no-go zone depriving Gaza of 35% of its cultivable areas;[7]
  6. Violation of the Palestinian people’s right to their natural resources and wealth through Israeli use of Palestinian agricultural land, the exploitation of Palestinian water reserves and denial of Palestinians’ access to more than 10% of their safe drinking water reserves (A/RES/64/292);
  7. Violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) prohibiting:

-    the establishment of Israeli settlements (4th Geneva Convention (GC) of 1949, Arts. 49 and 147, Advisory Opinion of the ICJ on the Wall, 2004) and the expulsions of Palestinians from their territory (idem);

-    the demolitions and expropriations of Arab houses and lands situated in the occupied country (1907 Hague Regulations, Arts. 46 and 55);

-    mistreatment, torture and prolonged administrative detention of Palestinians in Israeli prisons (4th GC, Arts. 3, 32 and 78);

-    non-compliance with the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes (A/RES/194/III, para. 11, and customary IHL as codified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2005, Rule 132);

-    military attacks against civilians, and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against Gaza and Palestinian refugees camps (customary international humanitarian law, Rules 1 and 14);

-    collective punishment of the Palestinian population of Gaza, where the World Health Organization reports that life will not be sustainable by the year 2020 (Art. 33, 4th GC);

  1. Violation of fundamental rights and freedoms such as freedom of movement, freedom of religion, and the right to work, to health and to education because of the Israeli Wall and checkpoints in the occupied territory, which deny Palestinians free access to their workplaces, schools, health services and places of worship (1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Arts. 12 and 18; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Arts. 6, 12, 13).

In its deliberations in Brussels on 16 and 17 March 2013, the jury expressed particular concern over the continued imprisonment of Palestinians on a large scale by the Israeli authorities. It noted that the mass incarceration of political prisoners, including internment without trial, is typically a particularly prevalent issue in colonial contexts.

In its March 2013 submission to the Tribunal, Palestinian prisoner rights organisation Addameer detailed the relevant statistics: since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been detained under Israeli military orders in the OPT. This number constitutes approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the OPT and as much as 40% of the total male Palestinian population. It also includes approximately 10,000 women jailed since 1967, as well as 8,000 Palestinian children arrested since 2000.

Palestinian human rights defenders, political representatives and civil society activists have been targeted and imprisoned as a technique of silencing and containment. Palestinian prisoners have routinely been subjected to coercive interrogation techniques, excessive use of solitary confinement and isolation, medical neglect, and physical and mental abuse amounting to ill-treatment and torture. Conditions of detention, particularly with regard to hygiene, nutrition and access to health care, typically fail to meet minimum standards, and family visits are routinely denied. The circumstances of Palestinians in detention have been brought back to the forefront of international concern in recent times through the initiation of widespread hunger strikes by prisoners. The Tribunal expresses its solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners, and condemns in the strongest possible terms:

  • the use of military law to criminalise political expression;
  • the prosecution of Palestinian civilians, including children, by military courts in violation of international standards for fair trial;
  • the systemic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees;
  • the pervasive policy of internment without charge or trial.

Several of these violations of international law are criminally sanctioned: war crimes (Israeli settlements, inhumane treatment, torture, indiscriminate attacks, home demolitions, forced population transfer, collective punishment: 1996 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, Art. 20; 4th GC, Art. 147; Rome Statute, Art. 8.); crimes against humanity (persecution defined by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Art. 7, codifying international custom); and the crime of apartheid (1973 UN Convention, Art.1) – as to which see further below.

The violations of international law committed by Israel against the Palestinian people are particularly grave because they have been systematic and continuous, since at least 1967, and because most of them are in legal terms criminal.

Further, much of the evidence heard by the Tribunal led it to consider the crime of persecution, which is a crime against humanity according to the statutes of the international criminal courts and tribunals and the ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (Art. 18(e)). Persecution involves the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights of the members of an identifiable group in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population. Following deliberations at its Cape Town session, the Tribunal concluded that the evidence supports a finding of persecution against the Palestinians, particularly in relation to the following acts:

  • the siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip as a form of collective punishment of the civilian population;
  • the targeting of civilians during large-scale military operations;
  • the destruction of civilian homes not justified by military necessity;
  • the adverse impact on the civilian population effected by the Wall and its associated regime in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
  • the concerted campaign of forcible evacuation and demolition of unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev region of southern Israel.

II. Overarching features of Israel’s regime vis-à-vis the Palestinians: apartheid and sociocide


Evidence brought before the Tribunal clearly demonstrate that the Israeli authorities have been conducting, since 1948, concerted policies of colonisation and annexation of Palestinian land. At its Cape Town session, the Tribunal also found that Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. This discriminatory regime is manifested in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognised human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concluded that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.

The State of Israel is legally obliged to respect the prohibition of apartheid contained in international law. In addition to being considered a crime against humanity for which individuals may be prosecuted, the practice of apartheid by a state is universally prohibited. The Tribunal considered Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people under its jurisdiction in the light of the legal definition of apartheid which applies to any situation anywhere in the world where the following three core elements exist: (i) that two distinct racial groups can be identified; (ii) that “inhuman acts” are committed against the subordinate group; and (iii) that such acts are committed systematically in the context of an institutionalised regime of domination by one group over the other. On these points, the deliberations of the Tribunal returned the following findings:

i) Racial groups

The existence of “racial groups” is fundamental to the question of apartheid. On the basis of expert evidence heard by the Tribunal in Cape Town, the jury concluded that international law gives a broad meaning to the term “racial” as including elements of ethnic and national origin, and therefore that the definition of “racial group” is a sociological rather than a biological question. Perceptions (including self-perceptions and external perceptions) of Israeli Jewish identity and Palestinian identity illustrate that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can readily be defined as distinct racial groups for the purposes of international law. From the evidence received, it was clear to the jury that two distinct, identifiable groups exist in a very practical sense and that the legal definition of “racial group” applies to all circumstances in which the Israeli authorities exercise jurisdiction over Palestinians.

ii) Inhuman acts of apartheid

Individual inhuman acts committed in the context of such a system are defined by international law as crimes of apartheid. The Tribunal heard abundant evidence of practices that constitute “inhuman acts” perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities. These include: widespread deprivation of Palestinian life through military operations, “targeted killings” and the use of lethal force against demonstrations; torture, ill-treatment and internment; forced population transfer and denial of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes; systematically discriminatory Israeli policies in the socio-economic spheres of education, health and housing. The jury found that such measures frequently go beyond what is reasonably justified by security concerns and amount to a form of racialised domination over the Palestinians as a group.

Since 1948 the Israeli authorities have pursued concerted policies of colonisation and appropriation of Palestinian land. Israel has through its laws and practices divided the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian populations and allocated them different physical spaces, with varying levels and quality of infrastructure, services and access to resources. The end result is wholesale territorial fragmentation and a series of separate reserves and enclaves, with the two groups largely segregated. The Tribunal heard evidence to the effect that such a policy is formally described in Israel as hafrada, Hebrew for “separation”.

iii) A systematic and institutionalised regime

The inhuman acts listed above do not occur in random or isolated instances. They are sufficiently widespread, integrated and complementary to be described as systematic. They are also sufficiently rooted in law, public policy and formal institutions to be described as institutionalised. In the Israeli legal system, preferential status is afforded to Jews over non-Jews through laws on citizenship and Jewish nationality, the latter of which has created a group privileged in most spheres of public life, including residency rights, land ownership, urban planning, access to services and social, economic and cultural rights. The Tribunal heard expert evidence detailing the relationship between the State of Israel and the quasi-state Jewish national institutions (the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organisation, and Jewish National Fund) that embed and formalise many of the material privileges granted exclusively to Israeli Jews.

Regarding the West Bank, the conclusions of the Cape Town session emphasised the institutionalised separation and discrimination revealed by the existence of two entirely separate legal systems: Palestinians are subject to military law enforced by military courts that fall far short of international fair trial standards; Israeli Jews living in illegal settlements are subject to Israeli civil law and a civil court system. The result is a vastly different procedure and sentence for the same crime, committed in the same jurisdiction, by members of a different group. An apparatus of administrative control implemented through pervasive permit systems and bureaucratic restrictions adversely affects Palestinians throughout the territories under Israeli control. In contrast to the explicit and readily available South African apartheid legislation, the Tribunal drew attention to the obscurity and inaccessibility of many laws, military orders and regulations that underpin Israel’s institutionalised regime of domination.

Developments after Cape Town

On the basis of the above factors, the Tribunal held in its findings for the Cape Town session that Israel was in clear breach of the international legal prohibition on apartheid. The first international legal treaty to codify the norm against apartheid was the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Article 3 of this Convention “particularly condemns” apartheid and segregation as especially egregious manifestations of racial discrimination, and obliges states parties to the Convention, of which Israel is one, “to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction”. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the performance of states that have signed the Convention on a rotating basis every few years. Israel came before the Committee in Geneva for review in February 2012. Based on its findings in the Cape Town submission, the Russell Tribunal made written and oral submissions at the Committee’s hearings on Israel.

In its concluding observations, issued in March 2012, the Committee “took the unprecedented step of censuring Israel under the rubric of apartheid”.[8] The Committee reiterated concerns it had raised in previous reviews of Israel about the general segregation of Jewish and non-Jewish sectors of Israeli society, before going on to say that it was “particularly appalled at the hermetic character of the separation” between Jewish and Palestinian populations in occupied Palestinian territory. It deemed this separation to include the separate legal systems and institutions, physical infrastructure, access to services and resources, and entitlements to freedoms and rights. Accordingly, the Committee urged Israel, pursuant to Article 3 of the Convention, to prohibit and eradicate policies or practices of racial segregation and apartheid that “severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population”.[9]

Most recently, in February 2013, the report of the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the colonial settlements in occupied Palestine similarly condemned Israel’s segregationist policies: “The legal regime of segregation operating in the OPT has enabled the establishment and the consolidation of the settlements through the creation of the privileged legal space for settlements and settlers. It results in daily violations of a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians in the OPT, including incontrovertibly violating their rights to non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law.”[10]

Far from fulfilling the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Council, or the calls of the Russell Tribunal in Cape Town “to immediately dismantle its system of apartheid over the Palestinian people, to rescind all discriminatory laws and practices, not to pass any further discriminatory legislation”, Israel’s discriminatory and segregationist policies have only proliferated. In early March 2013, for instance, the Israeli bus company operating in the West Bank under the auspices of Israel’s Ministry of Transportation implemented a plan to operate segregated Palestinian-only and Israeli Jewish-only bus lines between the West Bank and central Israel. The Ministry had mooted such a plan from November 2012 on, at the behest of Jewish settler leaders.[11]

In light of such developments, the Tribunal’s findings and calls for action regarding Israel’s policy of apartheid take on all the more urgency.


Positive international law does not recognise the crime of sociocide as a distinct crime in and of itself. There is evidence neither of its existence in international law nor of a current trend in international affairs that would soon lead to its recognition as an international crime.

While the notion of a crime of sociocide therefore remains, as such, an academic concept, this was also the case with “genocide” when the notion was first used in 1944, yet within four years it was adopted as a legal concept (Genocide Convention 1948).

The systematic destruction of the essence of a social group, i.e. of all the elements that make a group more than the sum of its members, will inevitably result in the destruction of the group itself even though its members are, for the most part, still physically unscathed.

A widespread and systematic destruction of some Palestinian social and political structures is currently taking place in Palestine. Through the continuing military occupation of the OPT, the continuing building of settlements, the construction of a Wall that places parts of the Palestinian territory out of reach of the Palestinian Authority and, finally, through the blockade of the Gaza strip, the Israeli authorities have materially impeded Palestinians from organising a political structure that would fully be able to administer them as a distinct national group.

Israel is in clear violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The opposition of the Israeli authorities to the organisation of Palestinians as a national group has been widespread and systematic. Israel’s behaviour could result, in the long run, in the destruction of the Palestinian population as a distinct national group and leave nothing but a sum of individuals under Israel’s political administration. The Palestinian population as a national group is being prevented from effectively exercising self-determination and is clearly the victim of colonialism; and is therefore currently facing a sociocide.

Most of the acts which constitute sociocide are already condemned in their own right by current positive international law as being either pre-existing well-recognised crimes against humanity or war crimes or apartheid crimes under, as the case may be, the ICC Statute, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1977 1st Additional Protocol, or the 1973 UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Accordingly, following further deliberations by the jury of the Tribunal on 16 and 17 March 2013, the jury supported further work being done on a legal definition that emphasises the illegal and criminal nature of colonialism and preventing a people from exercising their collective right of self-determination.[12]

An example of destruction of an ethnic and social way of life which amounts to sociocide is particularly clear in the case of the Palestinian Bedouins living in the Israeli Negev (Naqab in Arabic). Since the 16th century, it has been the custom of the Naqab Bedouins to move around their usual settlements with their herds of goats and camels which changed grazing according to seasons. During the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbours, Israel compelled the Bedouins to leave these traditional settlements and to stay in a small area of the northern Naqab. Israel promised that they would be allowed to come back to their ancestral lands six months later. The promise was not fulfilled and today half of the Naqab Bedouins live in 46 “unrecognized” villages, only 10 of which are in “the process of recognition” by Israel.[13] By destroying the traditional Bedouin way of life, Israel not only breaches the 2007 UNGA Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Art. 25 ff.)[14] but also commits a sociocide.

III. Responsibility of states, in particular the United States of America

In its 2004 Advisory Opinion, the ICJ observed at paragraph 155 that “the obligations violated by Israel include certain obligations erga omnes. As the Court indicated in the Barcelona Traction case, such obligations are by their very nature ‘the concern of al1 States’ and, ‘In view of the importance of the rights involved, al1 States can be held to have a legal interest in their protection (Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, Limited, Second Phase, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1970, p. 32, para. 33). The obligationserga omnes violated by Israel are the obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and certain of its obligations under international humanitarian law” (emphasis added).

The Court further reminded states of their obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law as stated in common Article 1 of the four Geneva Conventions and went on to say that “It follows from that provision that every State party to [the Fourth Geneva] Convention, whether or not it is a party to a specific conflict, is under an obligation to ensure that the requirements of the instruments in question are complied with.” (para. 158)

At paragraph 159 the following clear statement was made that sets down the duties of states as follows: “Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. It is also for all States, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to see to it that any impediment, resulting from the construction of the wall, to be the exercise of the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination is brought to an end. In addition, all the States parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 are under an obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”

States have entirely failed to comply with those obligations but it is of particular note that Israel’s ongoing colonial settlement expansion, its racial separatist policies, as well as its violent militarism would not be possible without the unequivocal support of the United States. Following World War II, especially in the context of the Cold War, and since then, the US has demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s establishment and viability as an exclusionary and militarised Jewish state at the expense of Palestinian human rights. While US administrations initially offered moral support, since the Six Day War in 1967 the US has provided unequivocal economic, military, and diplomatic support to Israel in order to establish and maintain a qualitative military superiority over its Arab neighbours in violation of its own domestic law: Israel has been the largest recipient of US foreign aid since 1976 and the largest cumulative recipient since World War II in the amount of approximately $115 billion; US diplomatic support has been such that between 1972 and 2012 it has imposed the sole veto on UN resolutions critical of Israel forty-three times (thirty of which concerned the OPT); moreover, pressure has been imposed on Member States to prevent efforts to pass or enforce General Assembly resolutions holding Israel accountable; and Israel has received 60% of US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds, making it the largest recipient of US military funding.

The following are examples of the obstructive diplomatic conduct of the United States:

  • Settlements: While the United States has declared that it considers the transfer of Jewish settlers into the OPT to be contrary to international law, and has on occasion supported resolutions condemning the construction of settlements, more recently it has vetoed such resolutions (the latest such veto was cast in February 2011). The construction of settlements makes hopes for a Palestinian state illusory, and allows Israel to build a colonial empire and to practise apartheid in the OPT. The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly stated that it will not resume talks with Israel until the construction of settlements ceases. The failure of the United States to support the Palestinian Authority on this matter and its obstructive attitude provide evidence of an acceptance of the above consequences of the settlement enterprise by the United States. To aggravate matters, the United States gives indirect material support to the construction of settlements by providing financial aid to Israel without taking steps to ensure that such aid is not used in the construction of settlements or the infrastructure of settlements.
  • The Wall: The Wall that Israel is building, partly within Palestinian territory, was initially claimed by Israel to be a security wall. However, in recent times it has become clear that it is designed to serve as the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. In other words, it is an unlawful annexation and seizure of Palestinian territory. In 2004 the International Court of Justice held that the construction of the Wall violates international law. The United States, however, has never accepted the illegality of this measure even though it has been condemned by the United Nations and the European Union. The obvious UN body to take action to compel Israel to cease construction of the Wall and to dismantle the portions that have already been built is the Quartet,[15] which has been mandated by the Security Council to promote peace in the region. However, under compulsion from the United States, the Quartet has never acknowledged the illegality of the Wall or the ICJ Opinion and has done nothing to oppose it. As a result, the Advisory Opinion has been killed and the illegality of the Wall is off the international agenda.
  • Gaza and international humanitarian law: It cannot be denied that Israel committed serious violations of international humanitarian law in the course of its Operation Cast Lead of 2008-2009. In killing civilians and destroying private homes, it failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians and between military and civilian targets. Several credible intergovernmental and non-governmental reports testify to this. The United States ensured that Israel’s actions were not condemned by the Security Council at the time. Since then it has used its influence to prevent the International Criminal Court from prosecuting Israeli political and military leaders.
  • Self-determination and statehood: The United States was responsible for blocking Palestine’s admission to the United Nations in 2011 and did its best to prevent the 2012 resolution acknowledging the statehood of Palestine from being adopted.

The assessment of the conduct of the United States in terms of legal responsibility is complicated. In the first place, it is clear that the United States is in breach of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which in Article 1 require all state parties “to ensure respect for the present Convention(s) in all circumstances”. Customary international law confirms this obligation (Rule 139 of ICRC study on customary international law) and goes further in declaring that: “States may not encourage violations of IHL by parties to an armed conflict. They must exert their influence, to the degree possible, to stop violations of IHL” (Rule 144 of ICRC study).

The US has not only failed to ensure that Israel respects IHL but it has exerted little or no influence on Israel to stop key violations of IHL. On the contrary, it has on occasion encouraged Israel to violate IHL. The US has acquiesced in, and indirectly encouraged, the construction of both settlements and the Wall. In the case of Israel’s assaults on Gaza, its support has been more direct and could be said to constitute encouragement. Israeli political and military leaders visit the US with impunity. US Courts have refused to entertain actions against such persons. Here the US is in violation of Articles 146 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obliges states to prosecute in their domestic courts persons that commit grave breaches of this Convention. Israel’s actions in the course of Operation Cast Lead that have been categorised as war crimes or crimes against humanity clearly fall under these provisions.

International responsibility is incurred by a state that aids or assists another state in the commission of internationally wrongful acts (Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility). The US undoubtedly assists Israel in the commission of internationally wrongful acts by providing military, material and political support to Israel.

A member state of the United Nations is required to act in good faith in the Organization. Article 2(2) of the UN Charter obliges member states to fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them under the UN Charter. This obligation applies a fortiori to a permanent member of the United Nations, which is entrusted with the veto. The conduct of the US in the UN provides evidence of bad faith on the part of the US. It has vetoed resolutions condemning Israel’s violations of international law and grossly abused its membership of the Quartet by dissuading the Quartet from taking meaningful action to promote the peace process.

IV. The responsibility of certain international organisations for failing to prevent Israel from violating international law

The Tribunal examined whether the violations of international law committed by Israel require the United Nations and the European Union to take more concrete action to prevent or bring to an end such violations and, in the event of their failure to do so, enquired about the consequences of this omission.

The Tribunal found that Israel seriously violated the international norms for which the UN is required to promote respect pursuant to the Charter, UN law and the Advisory Opinion delivered by the ICJ in 2004: the right of peoples to self-determination, basic human rights, and international humanitarian law.

In the face of violations such as these, the gravity of which is aggravated by their substance and character (violations of peremptory norms of international law and the criminal character of many violations), duration and repetition, the UN cannot limit its reaction to mere oral condemnations: its reaction must be equivalent in scale to the gravity – criminality, continuity and duration – of Israel’s violations, and it must be in line with the action that the Security Council and the General Assembly have taken in the past in response to situations which were sometimes less serious, namely the imposition of sanctions involving, inter alia, embargos on the commercial and military relations of the states concerned and, in two cases, referral of the situation to the ICC.

The Advisory Opinion of the ICJ stated that “the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion” (para. 160).

Despite this, the UN has failed to ensure compliance with the Advisory Opinion and with the rules of international humanitarian law. It failed to take action to halt Operation Cast Lead and it has subsequently failed to ensure that those responsible for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the course of this Operation are brought before the ICC, despite recommendations that this be done by a number of fact-finding missions, including that of the Human Rights Council. Whereas Darfur and Libya have been referred to the ICC by the Security Council, no such action has been taken by the Security Council in respect of crimes committed against Palestinians. Further, the International Criminal Court itself—an independent international institution charged with upholding accountability for international crimes—has, through its Office of the Prosecutor, manifestly failed to fulfil its mandate to tackle impunity when it refused to validate the Palestinian declaration accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether before or after the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestinian non-member statehood.

While international law tends to leave the matter of adopting sanctions to the political discretion of the competent UN bodies, a reasonable interpretation of the rules governing such bodies’ conduct, particularly the UN Charter, in the light of a number of precedents and of the international treaty-based and customary rules governing the right of peoples to self-determination, human rights and international humanitarian law, in conjunction with the responsibility to protect, good faith and due diligence, leads the Tribunal to conclude that the UN’s omissions are internationally wrongful acts engaging its international responsibility.

The history of the UN response to repeated and consistent violations of international law by Israel is a history of failure and complicity. In 1948 the UN admitted Israel as a member state of the UN despite the fact that its creation violated the principle of self-determination in respect of the mandate territory of Palestine. Years later, in 1967, the UN called upon states not to recognise Rhodesia when it sought to secede and establish an independent state because it denied self–determination to its black majority. The creation of the state of Israel at the expense of the right of self-determination of the Palestinians in similar circumstances placed no bar on the admission of Israel to the UN.

Since 1948 the UN has allowed Israel to violate international law with impunity.

  • It has failed to secure the return of Palestinian refugees displaced by the wars of 1948 or 1967 and it has failed to achieve a humane solution to this problem.
  • It has failed to secure the return of land occupied by Israel in 1967 and it has shamefully acquiesced in Israel’s colonisation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at a time when colonialism is viewed as unlawful.
  • It has, in the process, failed to take firm action to halt Israel’s construction of settlements.
  • It has failed to ensure compliance with the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice finding that the construction of the Wall in Palestinian Territory is illegal and that it should be dismantled. Although this Opinion is not binding upon member states, it is binding on the United Nations as it has been accepted by the General Assembly. Here the failure of the Secretary-General to concern himself with the enforcement of the Opinion is particularly glaring. As the representative of the UN in the Quartet, he has failed to ensure that the Quartet concerns itself with this matter. The Secretary-General has allowed himself to become an agent of the US in this respect.
  • The UN has acquiesced in the determination of the US to shield Israel. The complicity of the Secretary-General in this regard is further demonstrated by his appointment of a Panel of Inquiry with members friendly to Israel to undermine the findings of the Human Rights Council’s Fact-Finding Mission on Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara which sought to break the blockade of Gaza with humanitarian supplies in 2010.

The UN has failed to promote the self-determination of the Palestinian people. The mandate for Palestine of 1920 imposed a “sacred trust” of civilisation on the League of Nations to lead Palestine to independence. This “sacred trust” was inherited by the United Nations. For over fifty years the UN has failed to give effect to this “sacred trust”. It has authorized the creation of the State of Israel from the partition plan of mandatory Palestine but it has failed to recognise the statehood of Palestine. In November 2012 it accorded non-member observer status to Palestine but, under pressure from the US, it has refused to admit Palestine to UN membership.

The European Union, as a major actor in international relations, also fails to conduct itself in the manner required by international law; while the EU is not mandated, like the UN, to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security and cannot therefore be charged with negligence in this regard, it is nevertheless required by general international law, like the UN, to act, within the limits of its capacity, to ensure respect for the right of peoples to self-determination, basic human rights and international humanitarian law. As it has erected the defense of human rights as a key element of its domestic and international policies, the EU’s obligation to promote respect for human rights is also based on its own undertakings, as set forth in the Treaty on European Union and the 1995 Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement.

The EU, far from complying with the general rules of international law and those it has imposed upon itself, maintains military, commercial, cultural and political relations with Israel which, in practice, provide support for Israel’s policy of occupation and colonisation towards Palestine and hence for the former’s violations of international law to the detriment of the latter; by assisting Israel in its violations of international law, the EU renders itself guilty of internationally wrongful acts that engage its international responsibility.

In addition to the EU’s positive actions in support of Israel, its passivity in the face of the violations of international law committed by Israel also amounts to approval of such violations and constitutes an internationally wrongful act engaging its international responsibility.

International organizations, like states, incur responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. (Art. 3 of the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations). Like states, they are also under an obligation to make full reparation for injury caused by wrongful acts. In practice it is difficult to contemplate any claim for reparation succeeding against the United Nations. The fact that the UN has committed a series of internationally wrongful acts against Palestine does, however, constitute a serious indictment of its policies and practices, particularly those of the Security Council and the Secretary-General. The UN has clearly lost the moral high ground in respect of Palestine. Its failure to treat Palestine in a fair and just manner stands as a sharp rebuke to the UN.

V. The liability of private corporations for the violations of international law committed by Israel

Private corporations were involved in the Gaza conflict (2008-2009), for instance by supplying Israel with weapons and military equipment; they have also been involved in the settlements, both by supplying Israel with equipment to demolish Palestinian property, and by forging economic ties with the settlements; furthermore, they are involved in constructing the Israeli Wall in occupied Palestinian territory by supplying, inter alia, materials, construction machinery and surveillance systems. It should be noted in this connection that:

  • The Gaza conflict gave rise to disproportionate or indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza constituting a war crime;
  • The establishment of Israeli settlements also constitutes a war crime;
  • The construction of the Israeli separation Wall in Palestine is designed to protect the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and impedes the freedom of movement of Palestinians residing between the Wall and the Green Line (the demarcation line between Israel and Jordan fixed by the 1948 armistice agreements) to such a degree that they are unable to work freely in their fields and are denied free access to healthcare and educational services: it follows that the construction of the Wall constitutes persecution of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories on the east bank of the Jordan and is therefore a crime against humanity.

As private corporations have collaborated with Israel by supplying it with military equipment and materials for the construction of the Wall or demolition of buildings, they have contributed to the war crimes committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict and are therefore complicit in these crimes; it follows that the corporations incur criminal and civil liability.

Private corporations have contributed to the establishment of Israeli settlements, both through the economic ties that they have forged with the settlements and by financing the construction of real estate, by investing in businesses located in the settlements, by importing goods produced by the settlements and by providing them with commercial services. These substantive economic relations with the settlements constitute assistance and are equivalent to complicity in war crimes. Furthermore, by acquiring and holding goods and products (including financial proceeds) from the settlements, the private corporations commit, depending on the case, the criminal offences of concealment or laundering, thereby incurring criminal and civil liability.

Lastly, private corporations that become involved in the construction of the Israeli Wall in Palestine by supplying goods and equipment contribute to the crime against humanity resulting from this project and become accomplices, thereby again incurring criminal and civil liability.

VI. Future action and the ways forward

The Tribunal encourages as many people as possible to visit Palestine and to see the daily lives of Palestinians for themselves.

In the spirit of Stéphane Hessel, the honorary President of the Tribunal, the jurors issue an urgent international appeal to all political actors and civil society to bring pressure to bear on Israel to halt its violations of international law and to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary-General to use all available UN instruments to force Israel to dismantle its system of apartheid, which it currently applies to the whole Palestinian people (to those in the OPT but also to refugees and to those in Israel itself); to rescind all discriminatory laws and practices; not to pass any further discriminatory legislation; and to cease forthwith acts of persecution against Palestinians wherever they reside.

Palestine is now in a position to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and thus to become a full member of the ICC. The Tribunal supports the call of Palestinian civil society for Palestine to take those steps immediately and for the ICC to commence immediate investigations into the crimes against humanity and war crimes referred to by the Tribunal and documented by Palestinian and international NGOs and legal experts over many years, dating back to the coming into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002.

In any event, the Tribunal calls on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to accept jurisdiction over Palestine, as requested by the Palestinian authorities in January 2009, and to initiate an investigation “as expeditiously as possible”, as called for by the “Goldstone Report”, into international crimes committed in Palestinian territory since 1 July 2002, including crimes of apartheid.

Similarly, the Tribunal support the calls of Palestinian civil society for Palestine to ratify other important conventions, including:

  • The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 on the laws of war and its two Protocols of 1977;
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
  • Other important human rights conventions, notably the Convention against Torture;
  • The Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations; this would enhance Palestine’s diplomatic relations with states;
  • The Law of the Sea Convention; this would provide Palestine with a strong legal basis to claim a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles in respect of the waters off Gaza.

Specific actions at the United Nations

The RToP calls on the UN General Assembly to reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, and to convene a special session to consider the question of apartheid against the Palestinian people. In this connection the Committee should compile a list of individuals, organisations, banks, companies, corporations, charities, and any other private or public bodies which assist Israel’s apartheid regime with a view to taking appropriate measures.

The RToP calls on the  UN General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, as called for by the current and former UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, to examine the nature, consequences, and legal status of Israel’s prolonged occupation and apartheid.

The UN must withdraw from the so-called Quartet, which needs to be disbanded forthwith, given that it has operated as a block on implementation of international law while giving the false impression of presiding over a meaningful peace process.

The European Union and its member states

The Tribunal calls on the relevant EU bodies to implement the European Parliament’s resolution calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, thereby putting an end to the context of irresponsibility that Israel continues to enjoy.

In any event, the EU is called upon to ban the importation of all settlement products.

European Union member states are enjoined to strengthen mutual legal assistance and cooperation in criminal matters through the EU contact points, EUROPOL, INTERPOL, etc.

The Parliaments of Austria, France, Greece and Italy are called upon to enact laws which, in conformity with Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, would facilitate the exercise of universal jurisdiction in those states.

Action needed by all states

All states must:

  • implement the recommendations set out in paragraph 1975(a) of the UN Fact-Finding Mission Report on the Gaza Conflict (Goldstone Report) regarding the collection of evidence and the exercise of universal jurisdiction in respect of the crimes attributed to Israeli and Palestinian suspects;
  • repeal any restriction under domestic law that would impede compliance with the duty to prosecute or extradite (judicare vel dedere) any alleged perpetrator of a war crime or a crime against humanity;
  • refrain from limiting the scope of universal jurisdiction so as to ensure that no EU member state becomes a safe haven for suspected perpetrators of war crimes or crimes against humanity;
  • follow the example set by the Dutch public bodies that have investigated a Dutch corporation alleged to be complicit in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by supplying materials to Israel for the construction and maintenance of the illegal Wall;
  • enforce existing law against corporations where they are acting in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards;
  • Take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the illegal settlements in the OPT respect human rights throughout their operations.

Action required by the US

The US must cease its unequivocal economic, financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel that makes the US directly complicit in a very wide range of Israeli violations of international law. In particular, the US must cease its destructive veto policy at the UN Security Council, most notably on the issue of Israel’s colonial settlements, which the US itself acknowledges as unlawful.

Action required regarding corporations

As indicated above, evidence of complicity in war crimes and other violations of international law by corporate actors must be brought to the attention of the prosecuting authorities, shareholders etc., and feed into a series of actions including boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and civil litigation, in particular under the Alien Tort Statute in the United States, which provides a tort remedy for serious violations of international law.

With regard to the non-legal liability of corporations, the Tribunal supports submissions to OECD National Contact Points for mediation and/or investigation and a final statement.

The Tribunal joins the calls of the BDS movement and others for targeted boycotts of such corporations as Veolia, G4S, Ikea, and Caterpillar, as well as Israeli firms that assist in and profit from the occupation of Palestinian territory, such as Ahava.

Civil society initiatives

Building on the existing successes of the Palestinian-led global solidarity movement, the Tribunal commends and restates its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), which needs to be stepped up (as set out below) within the European Union and expanded to other states, regional organisations and intergovernmental institutions.

The Tribunal call upon individuals, groups and organisations to take all necessary measures to secure compliance:

  • by all States, groups of states, regional organisations, intergovernmental organisations and the United Nations itself with their aforementioned obligations including, in particular, the exercise of universal jurisdiction;
  • by corporations with international human rights and humanitarian law standards, in particular: by boycotting and divesting from corporations that are complicit in violations of international law; by holding corporations to account through shareholder action with the goal of ending such violations; by promoting divestments by pension funds from investments tainted by illegality; and by actions that continue to put corporations in the spotlight with the purpose of bringing about change in corporate actions and culture, with reference in this regard to the statement by the ICJ in the Advisory Opinion on the Wall that there is anerga omnes obligation to refrain from recognising or in any way supporting the illegality that arises from the conduct of Israel by building the Wall and violating international humanitarian law.

The Tribunal calls on civil society movements worldwide of all stripes—social justice movements, anti-racism organisations, environmental organisations, peace activists and others—to incorporate Palestinian solidarity into their work. Civil society and organisations should support litigation efforts in their jurisdictions, in part by campaigning on impunity issues and educating people on the duties of states to provide remedies arising from Israeli impunity as documented by Israeli and Palestinian NGOs.

Further, the Tribunal calls on informed civil society actors to consistently engage in public education, so as to ensure:

  • that greater publicity is given to Israel’s violations of international law and the fact that Israel’s colonial activities, including the de factoannexation of Palestinian land by means of settlements, the Wall and control of Area C, makes it increasingly difficult for the Palestinian people to meaningfully exercise their right of self-determination;
  • a better understanding of the failures of the United Nations and the complicity of the United States in Israel’s violations of international law;
  • that it is widely understood that the UN stance on the conflict in the region cannot be “even-handed” but should be unequivocally against occupation and against apartheid;
  • that “pinkwashing” and associated campaigns are not allowed to elide systemic Israeli violations of Palestinian rights;
  • that social and electronic media are used effectively to counter the biases and silences of mainstream western media on the issue of Israel’s colonial and apartheid practices.

The Tribunal promotes the idea of UN bodies acting in partnership with civil society in bringing pressure to bear on Israel through BDS, building directly on the experience of the anti-apartheid movement in relation to South Africa in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s; and of involving civil society in the mobilisation of support for UN efforts where they come under attack (e.g. the denial of access to the OPT for UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, the threats to the funding of Palestine-related agencies at the UN, etc.).

Other matters, including securing the legacy of the RToP

The Tribunal supports work on the legal definition of sociocide that would emphasise the illegal and criminal nature of colonialism and of denying a people their right to self-determination and that could be included in the draft International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity and/or in a free-standing sociocide convention; and encourages funders to support independent academic research on this subject, given the wrongs committed against the colonised peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, native Americans, the Aboriginal people of Australia and the people of the Western Sahara, as well as the Palestinian people.

The Tribunal calls for the issue of Palestinian prisoners to be addressed urgently as a matter of major international concern, with particular emphasis to be placed on the widespread detention of Palestinian women and children, the unacceptable conditions of detention for Palestinians, long-term internment without charge or trial, and the issues raised by the Palestinian hunger strikers. The jury notes the symbolic importance of prisoners in a context of colonial occupation, and emphasises the importance of freedom as the basis for a way forward. The Tribunal proposes the creation of an international committee of former political prisoners to campaign on prisoners’ issues.

While the Brussels session of 16 and 17 March 2013 marks the end of the RToP mandate, the work towards peace and justice in Palestine continues. Each individual juror reaffirms their commitment to continue working in this direction and to ensure the continual dissemination of the work of the Tribunal in their respective constituencies, societies and networks. The open letter written by jury member Roger Waters to his colleagues in the music industry serves as an example, as well the participation of Tribunal members in the World Social Forum in Tunisia. As a network of lawyers, political activists and public figures, the Tribunal members will continue to monitor developments on the ground in Palestine and retain the possibility of reconvening as the exigencies of the situation may require.

Assisted by national committees, the Tribunal further intends:

  • to carry out regular audits and updates on the implementation of the conclusions and proposed actions of the RToP;
  • to promote studies on a range of issues including how to measure the economic damage to Palestinians caused by settlement expansion; the effects of BDS on Israel’s economy; which Israeli companies are falsely labelling their products; the volume of exports from the settlements that reaches European and other markets; and which occupation technologies are exported to Europe and implemented by democratic countries;
  • to produce a “Frequently Asked Questions” document for each of the Tribunal’s findings;
  • to produce a series of short, easy-to-read, coherent fact sheets to be sent to national and EU parliamentarians, trade unionists, activists, students, law scholars, etc. setting out the Tribunal’s findings and enabling the significant body of evidence, legal arguments and findings to be readily available for use;
  • to sponsor closed strategising and brainstorming meetingsinvolving Palestinian thinkers and activists in Europe, in the US, in other parts of the diaspora (especially Latin America), in the camps, in the OPT and in Israel that pose significant questions of the day including: Where are we headed? What do we want? What are the obstacles? How do we get there? What is the way forward? After the meetings have been held, a general meeting of Palestinians will summarise the discussion, determine where the struggle is, and suggest ways forward.

[1] Jean-Paul Sartre, Inaugural Statement at the Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, 1967.

[2] The full conclusions of each session can be found on




[6] International Court of Justice, reports of judgments, advisory opinions and orders: “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, advisory opinion of 9 July 2004”.

[7] Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army”.

[8] See John Reynolds, “Third World Approaches to International Law and the Ghosts of Apartheid” in The Challenge of Human Rights: Past, Present and Future (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2012) at 214.

[9] Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “Concluding observations: Israel”, UN Doc. CERD/C/ISR/CO/14–16, 9 March 2012, para 24.

[10] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, UN Doc. A/HRC/22/63, para. 49.

[11] See, for example, Chaim Levinson, “Israel introduces ‘Palestinian only’ bus lines, following complaints from Jewish settlers”, Ha’aretz, 3 March 2013.

[12]An example of such a possible definition is set out at pp. 2 and 3 of the paper of Daniel Machover of March 2013 received by the jury at its final session. See also the final section of these conclusions as regards future actions.

[13] See Adalah, Bedouins of the Naqab – Myths and Misconceptions, in

[14] A/RES/61/295, 13 Sept. 2007, adopted by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 4 against, with 11 abstentions; 34 States were absent during the vote; Israel was among the absent States.

[15] The initiative to establish the Quartet evolved following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. On 25 October 2001, representatives of the EU, the UN and the US and Russian Governments met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and jointly expressed support for his policy of implementing ceasefire and security reforms in the Palestinian Authority. During the Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas in April 2002, the representatives of the same four entities met in Madrid and again called for implementation of ceasefire agreements brokered by the US Government. At the same meeting, they also agreed to transform their quadripartite cooperation into a permanent forum for follow-up to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


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