Accountability Matters: States Must Uphold International Law

After almost 6 months of violence in Gaza, on 25 March 2024, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire to last during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. This was voted on by 14-1, with the US abstaining. 

However, what does this actually mean for responsible international actors dedicated to ensuring that international law is upheld? 

Given the total decimation of Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, - in which over 300 civilians have been killed - and the air strike of an aid agency vehicle in which 7 aid workers - 6 foreign nationals and a Palestinian - were killed, it is clear that Resolution 2728 is being flagrantly breached. 

It is important to note that this resolution - despite what may have been stated by US officials - is binding under international law. All UNSC resolutions are binding in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter, which has been ratified by the US. The Namibia 1971 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion also highlights that ‘those general implied powers give the Security Council to impose any obligation upon Member States, so long as the Council acted for such purposes’.  

However, since 1968, Israel has stood in contravention of circa 40 UN resolutions and continues to remain in violation of circa 30. These contraventions include illegal settlements in the West Bank, the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, and its refusal to open its secret nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Authority. Therefore, for this resolution to have any weight or meaning, the Security Council and Security Council members individually will need to take further action. This is particularly pertinent given the wreckage at Al Shifa Hospital, as well as the targeted killing of aid agency workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK). 

Not only do states need to ramp up diplomatic pressure through negotiations, but more concrete steps need to be taken. The UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Francesca Albanese, has argued in her “Anatomy of a Genocide” report, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold for genocide has been met by Israel. This means that third-party states are actually obligated to act under their non-derogable obligations to prevent and put an end to what could be constituted as an ongoing genocide. Given the failure to abide by Resolution 2728, as well as the enactment of war crimes including (albeit not limited to) the targeting of a hospital and aid workers, such steps could include: 


  1. Fully fund the ICC investigation and push for the ICC to accelerate its investigations so that relevant parties can be properly held to account regarding war crimes. 
  2. Immediately impose an arms embargo on Israel as well as other economic and political measures including sanctions necessary to ensure an immediate and lasting ceasefire and full humanitarian access. 
  3. Ensure that the ICJ provisional measures are adhered to in full including ordering Israel to facilitate aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Third-party states should remind Israel, that as the occupying power, it is obligated to provide aid to the population of the territory it occupies territory, as laid out in the Fourth Geneva Convention
  4. Israel grants full ICRC access to Palestinian detainees taken in Gaza as well as those from the West Bank. None has been granted since 7 October. Hamas should also facilitate such access to hostages in Gaza. 


Even wars have rules, yet the situation in Gaza has already surpassed what we would deem as catastrophic, where every day a new atrocity seems to unfold. States have a duty to uphold international law standards and ensure that Israel complies with its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. It is paramount that they do so, in order to prevent more countless horrors from being enacted against a besieged and now starving civilian population.