The Jerusalem Desk was originally created as Diakonia International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Resource Centre in 2004 with a mandate to address the ongoing violations of IHL that characterise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal to increase respect for and implementation of international law, and IHL in particular.
Why we work with International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
IHL specifically regulates armed conflict
IHL is the applicable body of law in situations of occupation, regardless of their duration. It sets out the basic rules of armed conflict and aims to limit the humanitarian impact of such conflict on civilians. Since 1967, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, has created a complex situation of repeated and increased violations of IHL and international human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Israel.
Addressing violations is a means of improving the humanitarian situation and advancing peace
We believe that addressing violations of IHL and international human rights law is a means of improving the humanitarian situation in the occupied territory and would go a long way towards resolving the protection crisis that continues to exist for much of the protected Palestinian population.
By raising awareness of IHL within Israeli and Palestinian societies and the international community and by advancing IHL’s implementation in this conflict, Diakonia also hopes to address some of the root causes that have contributed to the prolongation of the occupation of the oPt.
Furthermore, the principle accountability, which is a central component of IHL, promotes adherence to international law and ensure a form of redress for victims. In addition to discouraging future violations, accountability and justice - and international law in general – are crucial elements of any genuine and long-lasting peaceful solution.
In short, Diakonia has chosen to address the occupation through the prism of IHL for the following rationale:
By addressing IHL violations it is possible to tackle the root cause of the humanitarian crisis and the conflict in the oPt;
Increased respect for IHL would contribute to peace in the region;
IHL provides an objective tool for advocacy beyond moral, political and religious argumentation;
IHL is unique and clear in setting out that there are strong and direct legal obligations for third states with regard to a situation of armed conflict and occupation;
It is not a political decision to address or to not address IHL. There is a legal requirement to do so. This commitment was established following the atrocities of the Second World War. It would, in most cases, be more political to ignore IHL violations than to act to bring them to an end.
Increasing awareness and understanding of IHL
The absence of knowledge and a shortage of political will are usually the major contributing factors that allow violations of IHL to continue with impunity. Our work promotes understanding amongst decision makers and the international community of their obligations under IHL in the hope that policies and practices will be amended to reflect the principles of international law.
Diakonia’s programme seeks to increase awareness of IHL among:
- The international community present in the oPt - international NGOs, international agencies such as United Nations and European Union bodies, international media and diplomatic missions as well as decision makers visiting the area;
- Israeli and Palestinian civil society, media, lawyers and the general public in Israel and Palestine;
- EU and UN bodies based in Brussels and Geneva;
- International corporate actors active in the oPt.
Where possible, the disseminated IHL information and work with partner organisations also includes a gender perspective.
How we work
The IHL program consists of four interlinked components:
- Legal research and briefings to civil society and the international community;
- Education and information, including through the creation of an IHL Helpdesk and work with local partners;
- Monitoring of and reporting on IHL violations;
- Advocacy from Diakonia's Head Office in Stockholm.