Amnesty International Australia has written to the Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, to urge her to publicly reaffirm Australia’s commitment to international law by stating that “annexation”, including that of the West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories, is illegal.
On 3 June 2021 during Senate Estimates, Senator Janet Rice asked the Minister to clarify if the Australian government considers the unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as ‘illegal’ under international law. Mr Benjamin Hayes, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that Australia “does not take a position” on the legality of such annexation under international law. Amnesty International Australia holds deep concerns about this ‘non-position’.
‘Annexation’ is acquiring territory by force and, as such, is a flagrant violation of international law. It violates both the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Convention, and is contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible.
Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities numerous times to abandon any plans to “annex” territory in the occupied West Bank because they will exacerbate decades of systematic human rights violations against Palestinians and aim to deprive Palestinians in the OPT of the protection of international humanitarian law.
As outlined in the letter to the Minister, Amnesty International is concerned that “annexation” can have serious implications on the human rights of Palestinians.
Australia, and all members of the international community must enforce international law and re-state that “annexation” of any part of the occupied West Bank is null and void. They must also work to immediately stop the construction or expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is particularly important in light of the recent appointment of pro-annexation Prime Minister, Neftali Bennett.