Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research: Reparation for Civilians Living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2010

This policy brief provides humanitarian practitioners with a basic understanding of the legal framework applicable to the issue of civilians living in the OPT who wish to seek reparation for damage sustained as a result of alleged Israeli violations of International Law.

Part I addresses the issue of reparations under International Law, explaining that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has long accepted the principle that a State must pay compensation for those acts of its armed forces that were in violation of IHL.

Part II deals with the question of whether individual victims have a right to claim such compensation. Although the law has gradually come to accept the idea that victims, in and of themselves and irrespective of their State, have a right to compensation, it has not yet crystallized to the point where States are obliged to open up their court system to that aim.

Part III discusses whether avenues are open before Israeli domestic courts, then briefly looks at the question of whether avenues exist before domestic courts of other States. Regrettably, the answers to these questions are largely in the negative.

Part IV addresses reparations at the international level, asking whether appropriate international or supranational bodies exist or could be established to deal with the specific context of the OPT.

Part V discusses the 2004 International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences for the construction of the Wall and the establishment of the UN Register of Damage.

Conclusion: only future political negotiations at the international level will determine whether civilians will have an opportunity to obtain reparations. Nonetheless, humanitarian practitioners should seize the opportunity to record the damage in the UN Register, as it may one day turn out to be extremely useful.