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Thursday, February 19, 2004

Israel, the U.S. and EU all boycotting the hearing at the Hague next week

JPost: The US and Europe have joined Israel in boycotting the oral hearing at the International Court of Justice next week – leaving the stage largely to the Palestinians and their supporters – as The Hague judges hear testimony regarding Israel's right to construct a security fence in the territories.

A senior diplomatic official said that international community was divided from the start. The decision by many countries not to show up reflects the belief held by many that this issue should not be handled by the court, he said.

It does make the event "anti-climactic," he said.

While 44 entities submitted written testimony, only 14 governments, plus two organizations, plan to testify during the three days of oral proceedings. The hearing starts with the Palestinians on Monday morning and ends with the League of Arab States on Wednesday morning.

The other 13 countries are South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Belize, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Senegal, Sudan, and Turkey. The Organization of the Islamic Conference will also testify.

An Israeli bus, destroyed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Jan. 29, 2004 killing 11 passengers, is carried away from a garage in Jerusalem Tuesday Feb. 17, 2004. ZAKA, a volunteer group that deals with rescue work at the sites of suicide bombings and gathers body parts to ensure proper Jewish burial, is shipping the bus to the Hague, the Netherlands on Wednesday, as an illustration of the results of such attacks. The project was funded by the 'Christians for Israel'' organization in the Netherlands, which donated about US$10,000 and the Dutch government has approved a site for the display near the world court where a hearing about Israel's West Bank barrier will take place. (AP Photo/Baz Ratner)

Outside the Peace Palace, where the world court sits, lobby groups supporting and opposing the barrier prepared for several days of demonstrations, lectures and a mock trial. ZAKA (Disaster Victims Identification) is shipping the charred remains of the No. 19 bus that was blown up last month in Jerusalem, killing 11. It will be placed outside the court.

Israelis and Jewish students are also planning to stage protest demonstrations. . .

Red Cross yesterday declared that the fence violates international humanitarian laws

But even before the ICJ ruling, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared Wednesday that the fence is illegal because it violates international humanitarian laws. It called on Israel to halt its construction of the barrier.

"The measures taken by the Israeli authorities linked to the construction of the barrier in occupied territory go far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law," the Red Cross said in a press release.

The Red Cross monitors compliance with the universally accepted Geneva Convention on warfare and occupation, requiring protection of civilian populations, victims and prisoners of war.

The ICRC usually discusses problems in private with the occupying authorities, as it has done with US forces in Iraq. Only rarely does it go public with its concerns.

Ya'acov Levy, Israeli ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, regretted the ICRC's decision to go public and said it threatened to undermine Israel's "good relationship" with it and compromises the agency's neutrality.