‘Pariah’ UK government faces backlash for ‘blindly backing Israel’ on International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Israel’s entrenched occupation of Palestine

London, 7 September 2023 – The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has written a letter to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, criticising the UK Government’s efforts to block an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s entrenched occupation of Palestine. 

According to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the advisory opinion plans to address “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. Such an opinion would crucially guide all states and the United Nations on the legal ramifications of Israel’s policies deciding on the legality of the ongoing occupation and the rights of Palestinians.

On the 23rd July 2023, the UK government submitted a legal document known as an ‘amicus brief’, urging the ICJ to decline the UNGA’s request to produce an advisory opinion on Israel’s occupation. The request came following a resolution passed by the UNGA in December 2022, Resolution 77/247. The ICJ’s jurisdiction to consider such requests from UNGA is enshrined in the UN Charter, the ICJ Statute, and the Rules of Court. 

Such move aims to stifle the pursuit of justice and facilitate Israel’s continued attack on Palestinian people’s human rights. The UK’s stance is at odds with countries such as Ireland and France, which have written in support of the ICJ’s decision. The Guardian reported in August 2023 that the UK’s position is shared by only a handful of the 57 opinions sent to the court by states and non-governmental organisations.

Despite the General Assembly’s numerous resolutions calling on Israel to comply with international law, the expansion of illegal settlements and actions aimed at the illegal annexation of the West Bank continue, in direct violation of these resolutions and international law. This situation has led to the systematic violation of Palestinians’ rights, including the right to self-determination, freedom of religion, free expression, and association, as well as freedom of movement, fair trial, property rights, cultural rights, and protection against arbitrary detention and torture.

In this context, ICJP calls upon the UK Government to recognise the urgency of an ICJ advisory opinion given the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to withdraw their efforts to block an opinion, which risk undermining the UK’s to engage on this topic in a productive manner. 

ICJP Legal Officer, Dania Abul Haj said: 

“In seeking to silence the ICJ’s advisory opinion, the UK Government is attempting to stifle the efforts to secure justice and accountability for Palestinian people who have faced human rights violations. We stand firm in condemning this attempt to silence critique of Israel and reaffirm our commitment to defending the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.

This move shows how out-of-step the UK is with fellow Western European countries such as France and Ireland. The UK risks becoming a pariah if it continues to hold this minority position of blindly backing Israel regardless of blatant, longstanding and systematic human rights abuses.” 


Notes to Editors

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law. 
  2. UNGA Resolution 77/247 can be found here.
  3. The August 2023 Guardian article can be found here.
  4. For more information or media inquiries, please contact: Jonathan Purcell, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, at [email protected]