Living in denial: The application of human rights in the occupied territories

Orna Ben-Naftali, Yuval Shany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Are human rights norms applicable to occupied territories in general, and to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in particular? The article examines the controversy that had arisen between Israel and the UN treaty monitoring bodies in relation to this question and critically analyzes Israel's three objections to such applicability: 1) the mutual exclusivity of humanitarian regime and human rights regime in occupied territories, the former being thus the only applicable law; 2) a restrictive interpretation of the jurisdictional provisions treaties; and 3) the lack of effective control in some of the territories. The article posits that the universal object and purpose of human rights treaties, which inform the proper interpretation of their jurisdictional clauses, require their applicability in all territories subject to the effective control of the state parties, as well as to other extra-territorial exercises of government power directly affecting individuals. Consequently, international human rights law and international humanitarian law apply in occupied territories in parallel and not to the exclusion of one another. This position is confirmed by extensive practice of the international human rights monitoring bodies, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and by some decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court. In conclusion, the paper posits that Israel's refusal to apply the six principal human rights treaties to which it is party to the Occupied Territories is incompatible with its international law obligations and proceeds to propose modalities for the co-application of both human rights and humanitarian law in occupied territories.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)17-118
Number of pages102
JournalIsrael Law Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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