January 17, 2024
JAKARTA – The Foreign Ministry has assembled a team of experts to help formulate Indonesia’s arguments in an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory case that seeks to hold Israel accountable for its “policies and practices” in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Speaking on Tuesday to dozens of international law experts and academics gathered in Jakarta in preparation for the advisory hearing at The Hague, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi reaffirmed the government’s support for the Palestinian cause and its desire to hold Tel Aviv responsible for the occupation.
“Today’s meeting is incredibly important,” said Retno. “It will not only support Indonesian diplomacy but also [help] uphold a world order based on international law, as well as supporting our brothers and sisters in Palestine.”
Leading the closed-door discussion were some of the country’s top international law experts, including Eddy Pratomo of Diponegoro University, Hikmahanto Juwana of the University of Indonesia (UI), Sigid Riyanto of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and Enny Narwati of Airlangga University.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hikmahanto said the talks mainly focused on formulating Retno’s 30-minute speech, which aimed to present “strong arguments” against Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
“Much of the arguments on technicalities have been submitted through Indonesia’s written statement. The speech will not repeat these points but rather encourage countries to think about the issue,” Hikmahanto said.
Since the conflict in Gaza began on Oct. 7, when a surprise attack launched by militant group Hamas ignited a massive reprisal from Israel, Indonesia has involved itself in various diplomatic efforts to promote three goals: a total cease-fire, humanitarian assistance and an investigation of Israel’s military activities.
In July, Jakarta submitted a written statement to the ICJ as part of an advisory case that seeks clarity about “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. The ICJ inquiry began at the request of the United Nations General Assembly in late 2022.
More than a dozen other countries and groupings, including the United States, Qatar and the League of Arab States, have submitted comments that will be considered by the court before the hearing on Feb. 19, during which several countries will deliver oral statements.
‘Law of the jungle’
The ICJ’s judgment on the matter, called an advisory opinion, is not legally binding but is considered to carry moral weight and could add to international pressure on Israel.
In mid-November 2023, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told reporters that international “pressure has begun to bear on Israel”, with many countries having recalled their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.
A month later, the United States, Israel’s most important ally, was reported to have warned Tel Aviv to moderate its military offensive in the Gaza Strip through high-level visits, amid domestic pressure in Washington.
A two-day public hearing last week at the ICJ, part of South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, also saw support from the international community, although many of Tel Aviv’s Western allies, such as the European Union, have remained silent on the issue. The case goes beyond seeking an advisory opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“The number of countries supporting Palestine-related resolutions at the UN has increased, while the number of countries abstaining from or rejecting them has decreased. The domestic pressure felt by key countries has only escalated,” Retno said.
But in managing expectations for the Feb. 19 advisory hearing, Hikmahanto warned that it was unlikely that any opinion issued by the ICJ would stop Israel from continuing its offensive in Gaza.
“Let us not be pompous in our expectations. International law is the law of the jungle. We don’t have much might, so we have to be realistic,” he said.
Still, there was power in a well-written, well-delivered speech, he said.
“When Sukarno delivered his speech at the UN about Indonesian independence in 1960, it inspired many countries to fight for their freedom. That’s what we’re looking at. That’s what [today’s] discussion was about, so that Retno can do that in February,” Hikmahanto said.