Human Rights Groups: Golan Oil Drilling Contravenes International Law

Attorneys write to ministers after test drillings were approved earlier this month.

Courtesy

Human rights groups active in the Arab community and in the Golan Heights have asked National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Ministry officials to cancel the permits for oil drilling in the Golan Heights, saying they violate international law, which sees the Golan as occupied territory.

Earlier this month the Northern District Planning Committee approved a request for a permit to carry out test drilling for oil on the Golan at 11 locations on the Heights.

“The rule under which force may not be used to lead to or cause a transfer or change of sovereignty constitutes one of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law,” wrote attorney Suhad Bishara of Adalah, which works to protect the rights of Israeli Arabs, and Karama Abu Saleh, from Al-Marsad – the Arab Human Rights Center in the Golan Heights. “An expression of this fundamental principle is also found in Section 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which establishes, inter alia, the application of the convention to the population of an occupied territory, even if it has been annexed by the occupying force.”

The lawyers also argued that under the Hague Convention and international law, the occupying regime is allowed to use the public assets it manages, and even its yields, to fulfill its obligations under occupation laws, but it may not destroy these assets, transfer ownership to others or deplete them.

With regard to the oil, they argued that exploiting the oil reserves in the Golan Heights would be considered using public assets in contravention of these rules. Since oil is a finite resource, its production constitutes harming public property and is considered a violation of the Hague regulations.

It should be noted that the proposals to drill for oil on the Golan Heights have also come under broad criticism by Israeli environmentalists.