A high concrete wall runs over hills, with houses next to it.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Expert Opinion: Applicability of Human Rights Law in Palestine


Title: Expert opinion on the applicability of human rights law to the Palestinian Territories with a specific focus on the respective responsibilities of Israel, as the extraterritorial state, and Palestine, as the territorial state

Author: Ralph Wilde

Publication: 2018

Executive Summary

Both Israel and Palestine are bound by most of the main international human rights treaties. These treaties cover civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights. The obligations they contain apply at all times, including during ‘wartime’ situations; their meaning is context-specific; and they include the right of self-determination. Territorial applicability is assumed, although the substantive requirements of this in the case of Palestine are modified insofar as the state’s ability to exercise control in its territory is prevented by Israel. Extraterritorial applicability—so to Israel in the Palestinian territories, and Palestine in Israeli territory—although disputed by some states, is established in authoritative jurisprudence. The test for when this happens is multiple and varied. In some cases, it covers the exercise of effective control, over either territory or individuals, and also addresses situations involving a causal role over decisionmaking, and the performance of existentially-determinative roles more generally. In other cases, there is a ‘free-standing’ basis. Each state is also liable for the extraterritorial effects on human rights of acts and omissions originating from within their respective territories. The substantive meaning of Israel’s human rights obligations in Palestine is profoundly different compared to the situation in its sovereign territory, all other things being equal. Notably, the legal self-determination entitlement of the Palestinians requires Israel to end the occupation promptly, and whereas other areas of human rights law oblige it to secure rights in areas under its control, this does not affect Israel’s obligation to give up this control insofar as it prevents full self-administration by the Palestinians