Border dividing the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights from the rest of Syria, taken in Majdal Shams. Photo credit: Eviatar Bach

The following resolution was adopted at the IADL Bureau meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 6 April 2019:

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers strongly condemns U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration purporting to recognize the Israeli annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is sovereign Syrian territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. No country in the world other than the United States recognizes Israel’s claim to have annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.

This marks the latest blatant challenge to international law at the hands of President Donald Trump, akin to his attempt to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem in December 2017. Once again, this marks not only an attempt to legitimize ongoing violations of international law but direct involvement and complicity in those international crimes. The Israeli occupation of the sovereign territory of the Syrian Arab Republic is a belligerent occupation and an ongoing crime of aggression. Furthermore, this declaration is an act of direct participation in the ongoing war crimes in the occupied Golan Heights, including the construction of 32 illegal Israeli settlements.

It comes in direct violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions on the Golan Heights, including resolutions 242, 338 and 497. UNSC resolution 497 was adopted unanimously in 1981 and declared the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights to be null and void and unrecognized by the international community.

This declaration cannot be separated from Trump’s active involvement in denying Palestinian rights, especially the right to self-determination, and in the promotion of Israeli expansionism, as well as direct U.S. funding and military support of the Israeli army that occupies the Golan Heights as well other occupied Palestinian and Arab lands.

It is also an attempt to provide a gift to Trump’s far-right ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the upcoming Israeli elections. Indeed, Trump sat beside Netanyahu while purporting to authorize the blatant confiscation and annexation of Syrian territory by the state of Israel. Netanyahu’s campaign for re-election has been marked by new attacks on Gaza, repression against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and competition over which party can promote an even harsher approach to the Palestinian people and their rights.

Trump’s declaration is an attack on Syrian sovereignty. It must be noted that it comes amid ongoing acts of war on Syria by other means, including bombing raids, the presence of U.S. military forces on Syrian territory and ongoing and intensified sanctions (unilateral coercive measures) imposed on the Syrian Arab Republic.

The IADL reaffirms that the Golan Heights is the sovereign territory of the Syrian Arab Republic under belligerent occupation, and any declarations by U.S. or Israeli officials have no impact on its internationally recognized status. This U.S. declaration is an attempt to legitimize ongoing war crimes and violations of international law through the use of military might, flouting the provisions of the UN Charter and the role of international institutions.

In response, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reaffirmed the territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan Heights. The UN Security Council voted 14-1, with the U.S. the sole opponent, in condemnation of Trump’s declaration, and the European Union and its member states reaffirmed that they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over occupied Syrian territory. However, the occupation of the Golan Heights has persisted for over 50 years without meaningful international action to bring this ongoing aggression to an end.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers calls upon international bodies and states to take decisive steps to compel the U.S. administration to rescind this unlawful declaration and its earlier declaration on Jerusalem. In addition, we urge the ICC to investigate the U.S. President and other officials for their role in aiding and promoting illegal Israeli settlement activities in the Golan Heights in violation of the Geneva Convention.

We join with the many responses from concerned social movements and U.S., Arab and international organizations to reject this illegitimate declaration. We also urge further involvement from U.S. civil society groups and international legal organizations in working to end ongoing U.S. support for and involvement in Israeli occupation, colonization, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Golan Heights and other occupied Palestinian and Arab lands.

Kuala Lumpur
6 April 2019