Saturday 12 April 2014

Swiss Depository accepts Palestine's accession to the Geneva Conventions

On 2 April 2014, the State of Palestine notified the Swiss Federal Council, depository of the Geneva Conventions, of its intention to accede to the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I. The accession of the State of Palestine to the Conventions and Protocol was formally accepted by Switzerland via a letter issued on 10 April.

This is a highly significant development for the recognition of Palestine as a state. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation first sought to join the Geneva Conventions in 1989, which was rejected by the Swiss Foreign Ministry 'due to the uncertainty within the international community as to the existence or the non-existence of a State of Palestine.'

Israel argues that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to the West Bank and Gaza, because no state claimed sovereignty over the territory. This position was rejected by the International Court of Justice, stating that Section III of the Fourth Geneva Convention 'which concerns “Military authority over the territory of the hostile State”, is particularly pertinent in the present case.' Similarly, UN Security Council Resolutions have consistently called upon Israel to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention in Palestine. The Israeli position, while already on very dubious legal grounds, has become even more difficult to justify with this latest development.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations circulated notifications regarding the State of Palestine's accession to 14 other treaties on 9 April. The notification regarding the Genocide Convention can be found here.

Thanks to Evelyne Schmid and Yousef N. Zeidan.

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