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Pakistan terms Israel policies as apartheid at UN court

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday joined over 50 countries in advancing its argument in the historic proceedings being conducted by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to rule on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

The case was triggered by a request from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on December 30, 2022, when a majority of members voted to seek the court’s opinion on the legal consequences of the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestine. Arab countries, Russia, and China voted in favour of the move, while Israel, the US, Germany, and 24 others voted against it.

The ruling would take several weeks and would not be binding, but many observers believe that if the ICJ declares the occupation illegal, that would certainly put pressure on Tel Aviv.

The proceedings kicked off on February 19 and would continue until February 26. As many as 52 countries have been presenting their arguments before the 15-member ICJ. Israel declined to give oral arguments, while the US and UK were the only countries so far that came out in open support for the Jewish state.

Pakistan was represented by its Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam, who reiterated the country’s stance. “Pakistan presented its oral statement before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague today in the context of the ongoing hearing on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

Delivering the oral statement on behalf of Pakistan, the Federal Minister for Law and Justice said that Israeli occupation continued to severely impede the exercise of the right to self-determination by the Palestinians.

“Through its illegal settlement policy, Israel is trying to create irreversible facts on the ground; perpetuate its illegal occupation, and deny access to the Holy places in Jerusalem. Israeli policies and practices amounted to systematic racial discrimination and apartheid against the Palestinians. The ICJ would fail to discharge its judicial functions if it did not stop Israel from profiting “from its own continued grave wrongs,” the statement added.

Aslam said that Pakistan has been led to “the conclusion that Israel’s occupation is unlawful and unlawfulness must have consequences.”

Criticising the Israeli settler policy, he said that through this policy Tel Aviv creates irreversible facts on the ground which make it difficult to bring an end to its prolonged occupation.

“Its policies and practices of occupation deny the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and amount to systematic racial discrimination and serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” he said, urging the UN top court to take this seriously.

He said that Israel’s ongoing actions are against international law and seek to acquire Palestinian territory while killing and displacing its people.

The oral hearing comes at a time when the Palestinians are facing a brutal onslaught from the Israeli occupation forces.

“In this backdrop, the Government and the people of Pakistan continue to express their unwavering solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters at all international forums, including at the ICJ,” the FO said.

It further said that Pakistan had been calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, provision of sufficient, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the besieged people of Gaza, and the need for a just, comprehensive, and durable solution through the establishment of a secure, viable, contiguous, and sovereign State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

The top UN court is currently hearing oral statements by states on South Africa’s case against Israel over its war on Palestine, where the death toll since Oct. 7 is rapidly approaching 30,000 since Tel Aviv launched attacks on the besieged enclave of Gaza.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by the Palestinian group Hamas which killed some 1,200 Israelis.

Besides injuring some 60,000 people, the Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

Hostilities have continued unabated, however, and aid deliveries remain woefully insufficient to address the humanitarian catastrophe.