Israel must stop oil explorations in the occupied Golan Heights

Adalah & Al-Marsad: International law states the oil is property that cannot be exploited, and doing so would be a war crime under the Rome Statute.

On 17 February 2016, Adalah and Al-Marsad (the Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights) sent an urgent letter to the Israeli Minister of Infrastructure and the Head of the Ministry's Division for the Northern District, demanding the immediate cancellation of permits, issued at the beginning of February 2016, to begin drilling for oil in 11 different locations in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara and Al-Marsad Attorney Karama Abu Saleh wrote in the letter that, "the Golan Heights is occupied territory, and its inhabitants are under occupation and are considered protected peoples under the Fourth Geneva Conventions." The International Court of Justice in The Hague, in its advisory opinion on Israel's separation wall in the occupied West Bank, had also confirmed that the inhabitants of territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including the Golan, are protected by international humanitarian law (IHL).


Attorneys Bishara and Abu Saleh stressed that, because the Golan is occupied territory, the state is "prohibited from altering, transferring or confiscating immovable properties," as well as looting it of its resources.


All of Israel's actions as an occupying power are bound by international humanitarian law, including the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949. Israel's current plans would specifically violate Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, which states that the occupying power must "safeguard the capital of these properties."


The letter further argued that Israel's plans to excavate for oil violate the principle of sovereignty over natural resources and the collective right of the Golan's residents to use and benefit from those resources. These are based on a United Nations resolution of 1962, which ensures that the peoples of a territory have control over their natural resources; and a United Nations General Assembly resolution of 2006, which emphasizes the exclusive right of the people of the Golan to use those resources.


The letter concluded that, "According to international humanitarian law, the oil is property that cannot be exploited, and doing so would be considered a war crime under the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court." Therefore, Israel must immediately cancel all the permits for exploring and drilling for oil.


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