On 8 December 2003, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague to render an ““advisory opinion”” on the legality of Israel's separation wall in the occupied territories after a Security Council draft resolution condemning the wall had been vetoed by the United States on 9 October. The ICJ initiated proceedings on 10 December, receiving written and oral statements over the next two months. Israel's statement focused on challenging the ICJ, while the United States and a number of European states also questioned the appropriateness of the court's rendering an opinion on a political matter. Almost a fourth of the court's sixty-four-page ruling was taken up with addressing these challenges on grounds of law and precedent. The fifteen-member court ruled unanimously that it had jurisdiction to hear the case, but there was one dissenting voice (the American judge, Thomas Buergenthal) as to whether the ICJ should comply with the request to give an advisory opinion.

At the end of six months of hearings and deliberations, the court voted on the five questions put to it by the General Assembly pertaining to the legality of the wall. The vote (paragraph 63) was fourteen to one (with Judge Buergenthal dissenting; see Doc. D3) on four of the five questions, as follows: (1) that the ““construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law””; (2) that Israel must dismantle the structure forthwith (as in para. 151 reproduced below); (3) that Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage (as in para. 153 below); and (4) 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 regime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”” Concerning the question of whether all UN member states had an ““obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the wall's construction”” (see para. 159 below), Judge Kooijmans of Holland joined Judge Buergenthal in his dissent, making the vote 13-to-2. The full text of the opinion is available online at www.icj-cij.org.

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