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At ICJ, Slovenia stresses the right of Palestinians to self-determination

Slovenia presented its intervention at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the context of the request for advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, initiated by the UN General Assembly in December 2022. Slovenia’s main arguments are the right of Palestinians to self-determination and the obligations of Israel as an occupying force.

In this case, the International Court of Justice is considering a wide range of Israel’s allegedly controversial practices since 1967 in the entire occupied Palestinian territory, i.e. in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Court will examine the legal implications of the alleged controversial practices in the light of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law, and the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

In an oral hearing before the ICJ in The Hague on 23 February 2024, Slovenia stressed that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination cannot be denied. According to the Declaration on the Foreign Policy of the Republic of Slovenia, the self-determination of peoples is one of the cornerstones for achieving a strong multilateral system. “The Slovenian people were able to exercise this right in circumstances that are well known to the Court, in order to freely establish their own sovereign and independent State. In view of its history, the Republic of Slovenia is convinced that the right to self-determination is an essential and indispensable pillar of the international legal order,” pointed out Dr Daniel Daniel Müller, expert in international law representing Slovenia in the case, in today’s hearing.

To date, the Palestinian people have been unable to exercise their right to self-determination under international law. The occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel’s settlement policy and its construction of a wall present a significant obstacle to the establishment of the State of Palestine.

Israel – the occupying force – is also bound by the prohibition on permanently changing the status of the occupied territory and by the principle that military occupation can only be temporary. “The practices and policies pursued by Israel as the occupying force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory do not respect the basic obligations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Court already confirmed this in 2004 in relation to the construction of the wall. However, the colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the establishment of settlements with the aim of introducing lasting demographic changes, as well as the displacement of Palestinians and the destruction of their homes and property, have only accelerated,” underscored Dr Müller. The occupying forces are also responsible for providing food, water and medical care to the civilian population.

Slovenia has repeatedly reminded Israel as the occupying force of all these obligations and duties; in its political interventions in international organisations, it has also consistently recalled the obligation of States to promote, together with other States or separately, the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter. Furthermore, States Parties to the Geneva Conventions are committed to ensuring that the obligations under the Conventions are respected in all circumstances.

States are therefore held not only to cooperate, but also to seek redress for breaches of international law. States are also obliged not to recognise the situation created by Israel’s breaches in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and must abstain from rendering any aid or support to Israel in maintaining this situation.

“It is deeply concerning that despite the efforts of the United Nations and the numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, negotiations have been stalled. As we speak, the prospects for a mutually agreed solution seem to be more and more uncertain. Slovenia reaffirms its unwavering support for a negotiated two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 borders resulting in two sovereign, democratic states living together in peace and security, in full respect of international law,” said Slovenia’s co-agent, Mr Helmut Hartman, legal adviser at Slovenian embassy in The Hague.

Slovenia therefore expects from the actors of the international community, in particular the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the UN and the EU, a more ambitious, responsible and coordinated approach that will constructively support the Middle East peace process leading to a lasting peaceful coexistence between the two peoples and a two-state solution, as set out in the Declaration on the current situation in Palestine and Israel, adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia on 28 November 2023.

Dr Müller concluded Slovenia's intervention with a powerful message: "The painting by Paul-Albert Besnard that adorns this great hall recalls the cardinal principle of the contemporary legal order: 'Peace by Justice'. The Republic of Slovenia firmly believes that the rigorous respect for international law, of which this Court is the principal judicial organ, can put an end to the unacceptable and untenable situation in the Middle East and thus contribute to the efforts for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security."

Slovenia participated in the oral hearing before the ICJ on the basis of the Government’s decision of 10 January 2024. Slovenia believes that the advisory opinion can make an important contribution to a negotiated and consensual solution based on international law. The legal principles and rules on the basis of which the Court is requested to give an advisory opinion are the basis for a peaceful, just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question.