The following Open Letter was sent to FIFA and UEFA leaders by Ms Bina Ahmad, Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, Mr John Dugard SC, Mr Richard Falk, Mr Michael Mansfield QC, Mr Tareq Shrourou. They argue that FIFA should not explicitly or implicitly continue to endorse the current situation which undermines respect for the international rule of law and basic human rights for Palestinians.
Mr. Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA,
Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, Chairman, FIFA’s Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee.
Ms. Samba Diouf Samoura, Secretary General, FIFA,
Mr. Aleksander Ceferin, President, UEFA,
Mr. David Gill, Vice President, FIFA,
Mr. Theodore Theodoridis, Secretary General, UEFA.
22 September 2016
Dear Mr. Infantino and Mr. Sexwale,
Settlement clubs exclusion from Israeli FA leagues
We write as lawyers in relation to the current inquiry of the FIFA’s monitoring committee into football clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. We understand that the monitoring committee will soon decide on whether or not these clubs should have FIFA’s consent to play in the Israeli football league. It is our firm position that FIFA should withdraw its consent in order to uphold its respect for the international rule of law and fundamental human rights. We briefly outline our reasoning below.
At the outset, it is important to confirm that the football clubs at issue are based on ‘occupied’ territory as opposed to ‘disputed’ territory. The International Court of Justice, in its 2004 Advisory Opinion on ‘The Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, affirmed this is the correct legal position when noting at paragraph 78:
“The territories situated between the Green Line (see paragraph 72 above) and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories, as described in paragraphs 75 to 77 above, have done nothing to alter this situation. All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.” (Bolded by us for emphasis)
This authoritative legal determination by the world’s foremost court underscored the long-held unanimous position of the international community that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip is occupied Palestinian territory. This position is shared by the United States, the EU and Switzerland under whose jurisdiction FIFA operates. It is only the State of Israel that maintains that the territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is ‘disputed’. Although Israel passed legislation in 1980 to unilaterally annex occupied East Jerusalem this decision has not been recognised by the international community given its illegality under international law.
The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 places legal obligations on an occupying power. An obligation of central relevance to the monitoring committee’s inquiry is Article 49(6), which prohibits the occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory. The official establishment of Israeli civilian settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is a clear breach of this legal prohibition. Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, including the establishment of football clubs on occupied Palestinian territory, impedes and accordingly violates the Palestinians fundamental right to self-determination and a range of other basic human rights.
International law places obligations on all states not to recognise nor to assist a situation which entails a breach of the fundamental right to self-determination. UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980) explicitly “calls upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connexion with settlements in the occupied territories.” It should be noted that states also have a duty to ensure correct legal compliance by private entities operating under their jurisdiction. Against this backdrop, the UN Human Rights Council has mandated the creation of a database of private entities – both Israeli and international – with activities in or related to the settlements.
It is, in our view, unconscionable that FIFA should explicitly or implicitly continue to endorse the situation outlined above which manifestly undermines respect for the international rule of law and basic human rights for Palestinians. We strongly recommend that FIFA, as a major and high profile international body which has recently placed respect for human rights at the cornerstone of its constitution, should properly adopt these duties of non-recognition and non-assistance in this specific scenario, and accordingly withdraw its vital consent for football clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements to play in the Israeli football league.
Thank you for your careful consideration of the above, and we look forward to your organisation’s important decision on this significant matter.
Ms Bina Ahmad, US attorney, former member of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, chair of the British Institute of Human Rights
Mr John Dugard SC, Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice
Mr Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton
Mr Michael Mansfield QC, Professor at Law at City University, London
Mr Tareq Shrourou, Director, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights