Director –Mohammed Alatar
Producer – Stefan Ziegler
“Broken” is a film by renowned film director Mohammed Alatar about International Law, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Israeli Wall in Palestine: a tangled web of law, politics and power, and how history refuses to turn.
When the International Court of Justice elevates the Israeli-Palestine conflict to a new level of visibility in 2004, many see it as turning point in the history both of Palestine and of International Law. But will history turn? BROKEN is a filmmaker’s journey across three continents, attempting to find answers.
AdvocacyProductions has delegated all artistic and technical aspects of making the film to the Palestinian-American filmmaker Mohammed Alatar, within the framework of a fixed budget and a clear overall description and vision of the film. Mr. Alatar is using Palestinian and European resources for the shooting and editing. All funds, logistical support and research backing has been provided by AdvocacyProductions to the director’s filmmaking process from the very start. Distribution, communications and some of the post-production activities will also be carried out from Switzerland.
In 2002 the Israeli government began the construction of a 700 km-long wall in the West Bank, predominantly on the Palestinian side of the “Green Line”. Two years later, the UN General Assembly asked the ICJ to advise on the legality of the Wall. In its advisory opinion of 2004, the ICJ declared the construction of the Wall on occupied Palestinian territory to be contrary to international law and called upon Israel to desist from further constructing it and also to make reparations for all damages caused.
For Palestine and for international law, the ICJ’s advisory opinion was an historic turning point. But history does not turn easily! Today, twelve years later, Israel has not desisted or made reparations. To the contrary: the Wall is nearing completion and most States have made little effort to ensure compliance by Israel of its obligations under international law.
To understand what happened, the filmmaker crosses three continents so as to meet ICJ judges, diplomats, experts and United Nations officials. They speak with unrestrained candour, and provide compelling insights.
List of Contributors
- Judge Thomas Buergenthal, former Judge at the International Court of Justice (2000-10), Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, George Washington University Law School (United States),
- Judge Bruno Simma, former Judge at the International Court of Justice (2003-12), affiliated member, University of Michigan Law School (United States), judge/arbitrator at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal at The Hague, former Dean of the University of Munich Faculty of Law.
- Judge Theodor Meron, President of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (The Hague), former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Professor Emeritus, New York University School of Law (United States), former legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
- Ambassador Nasser Al-Qudwa, former Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations (1991-2005), until 2014 United Nations Deputy Mediator on Syria.
- Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, former Judge of the ICJ and former Prime Minister of Jordan.
- Professor Pieter Bekker, former Senior Counsel to Palestine at the International Court of Justice hearings on the Wall (2004), Chair in International Law, University of Dundee (Scotland).
- Professor John Dugard, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2001-08), Professor of Law, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (South Africa).
From my house in the occupied Palestinian city of Ramallah I can see how the Wall encircles the city, blocking our horizon and imposing itself on the way we live, move and exist.
My first major film, “The Iron Wall”, was about this very subject. It was released a few months after the 2004 International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion. Then, I had hoped soon to see the end of the story of the Wall and its dismantlement. How naïve I was; the Wall is still there, titanic.
So when Stefan Ziegler, former head of the UN’s Barrier Monitoring Unit, suggested making a documentary about the ICJ opinion, my immediate answer was “yes”. The idea of “Broken” was born.
Our combined experience and the existence of enormous amounts of film archives from that time, allow us to reconstruct more than a decade of the Wall piece-by-piece, zooming in on the trail the Wall has left on the ground and in the International Community.
Many questions haunt me. What was the cause behind the international community’s failure to uphold the legal obligations, including “to respect and to ensure respect” of international humanitarian law? How can two UN resolutions and an ICJ Advisory Opinion be so easily disregarded, without action? Who is to be held responsible for such a failure? What does the failure to implement these high-level decisions mean for international (humanitarian) law and its relevance today? And where can the people whose lives were ruined by the Wall seek justice, and by which means? “Broken” is my attempt to address these questions.
“Broken” takes a direct and factual approach to the story, coming in from different angles and capturing the reality of the Wall. The story is supported by a very distinguished group of characters: judges, diplomats, experts, United Nations officials as well as Israeli and Palestinian voices. When the last image of “Broken” fades from the screen, some of these questions will be answered, others will be raised, and a whole tangled web of law, politics and power is exposed.
The story of Israel’s Wall in Palestine, of its daily impact on Palestinian lives, has been told from many different perspectives. The other story, the story of the Wall and the broken promise of international law, is yet to be told. “BROKEN” tells that story.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared the Wall illegal, and called on States to support its Advisory Opinion. Although international representatives pledged their governments’ support at the UN General Assembly no tangible results have emerged to date, to the contrary, the Wall is nearing completion.
As a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and later as head of the UN’s Barrier Monitoring Unit, and now as a film producer, I have been working on documenting the Wall’s impacts since 2005. I put my life’s blood into a job which could only be done by an outsider. When my Unit was disbanded in May 2013 due to lack of funds and lack of will, my job came to a sudden end. I asked myself, could I blithely leave my work there and continue my career elsewhere. Could I morally live with myself if I simply dropped my work and moved on to another job? Could I ignore a subject which I knew in more depth than almost anyone else? Could I abandon all these countless people, and all the communities directly impacted by the Wall, without regret?
Well, I could not! Because of my personal commitment and in all consciousness, I could not simply leave the Wall on the rubbish tip of history. So I decided to put all of my effort into a feature-length documentary film, capturing those questions I had previously put to diplomats, foreign ministers, army officers, and journalists, unrelentingly, in search of the answer of international law’s applicability.
The Wall has contributed to worsening the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the Wall also represents an opportunity. Palestine seems to be an insoluble problem, probably the most intricate in the world, with so many cultures and their religions colliding in one small stretch of land. How does it get solved? The Wall brings the problems of the occupation into a very clear focus.
If the international community has the will to deliver on its own promises, the resolution of conflict, based on the norms of international law, might be much more straightforward than could be anticipated. This is where the Wall and the precedent of the ICJ’s opinion can serve as a mechanism for change. It could mark the beginning of a process, applying international law universally, finally bringing two peoples together, if not in harmony, at least in toleration.
More generally however, the Wall and the ICJ opinion also throw up vital questions, not only about international law in the current world, questions of the universality of international law, its coherence, the promises it makes, and its limitations, but also questions about the phenomenon of increasing walling-in of nations everywhere. This film will help increase awareness of international law’s potential in resolving this and other international conflicts.
I have set up AdvocacyProductions – Dare to Envision – to produce documentary films aspiring to high ethical standards and inherent educational value.
Phase I – Autumn 2014 – End of April 2015
- Research and draft treatment
- Researching archival footage
- Research verification
- Contacting interview partners and meetings in Europe
Phase II – May 2015 – July 2016
- Filming in the Middle East, Holland, USA, Switzerland
- Establishing film crew
- Acquisition of filming equipment
- Administration linked to legal issues for filming rights on location
- Travel arrangements
- Contracting and Insurances for crew members
- Archive visits
- Treatment finalised
- Production of trailer
- Website content
Phase III – July 2016 – End of 2016
- Editing of all film materials
- Sound Mastering and Colour Corrections
- Rough cut version readied for film festivals
- Music rights purchase
- Graphic enhancement
- Script editing
International Law Context “The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.”http://www.icj-cij.org/homepage/index.php
Important Quotes from the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion
“The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated régime gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order. The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments” (§ 137); …
The Court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law” (§ 142); …
“Since the Court has concluded that the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to various of Israel’s international obligations, it follows that the responsibility of that State is engaged under international law” (§ 147); …
“Israel is first obliged to comply with the international obligations it has breached by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (§ 149); …
“Israel also has an obligation to put an end to the violation of its international obligations flowing from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (§ 150); …
“Israel accordingly has the obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built by it in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem … [C]essation of those violations entails the dismantling forthwith of those parts of that structure situated within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. All legislative and regulatory acts adopted with a view to its construction, and to the establishment of its associated régime, must forthwith be repealed or rendered ineffective” (§ 151); …
“Israel has the obligation to make reparation for the damage caused to al1 the natural or legal persons concerned” (§ 152); …
“Israel is accordingly under an obligation to return the land, orchards, olive groves and other immovable property seized from any natural or legal person for purposes of construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the event that such restitution should prove to be materially impossible, Israel has an obligation to compensate the persons in question for the damage suffered. The Court considers that Israel also has an obligation to compensate, in accordance with the applicable rules of international law, al1 natural or legal persons having suffered any form of material damage as a result of the wall’s construction” (§ 153) …
It also stated that “The obligations erga omnes violated by Israel are the obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and certain of its obligations under international humanitarian law”(§ 155), recalled its “assertion that “the right of peoples to self-determination, as it evolved from the Charter and from United Nations practice, has an erga omnes character” (§ 156)” and that “that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.
It is also for all States, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to see to it that any impediment, resulting from the construction of the wall, to the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination is brought to an end. In addition, all the States parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 are under an obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.” (§ 159)
“Finally, the (Court is of the view that the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”(§ 160). …
“Israel has the obligation to make reparation for the damage caused to al1 the natural or legal persons concerned” (§ 189); …
For the entire document see: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1671.pdf
Mohammed’s Other Films and current Trailer
“The Iron Wall” 2006, one of the most viewed Palestinian documentaries, broadcast on 19 TV stations around the world.
“Jerusalem the East Side Story”, 2008
“BROKEN” – the Trailer:
Author of the academic journal publication article entitled: Communicating the Community in “Humanitarian Assistance in West Africa and Beyond”, 2016 – A discussion of Advocacy, Research and Networking http://www.friedensburg.at/uploads/files/Humanitarian_Assistance_in_West_Africa_Edited_Volume.pdf published by the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in conjunction with KAIPTC (Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre), Accra, Ghana.
Author of “West Bank Wall – Impacts on the environment, agriculture, water supply and waste management” in the Swiss Urban Landscape and Architectural Magazine Athos, p. 66-67, winter edition 2013.
Co-author of the chapter “Academic Cooperation to Foster Research and Advocacy Competences in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (West Bank)” in “Technologies for Sustainable Development – A Way to Reduce Poverty?” published by Springer, detailing the implementation of the Academic Cooperation Palestine Project (ACPP) methodology developed in conjunction with local and international academic partners.
Publication of the Barrier-impacted communities report, 2013, as well as nine technical papers focusing on Wall monitoring mechanisms to help increase local capacity. Four pamphlets and four short films relating to the environmental impact study published with local partner “Applied Research Institute Jerusalem” (ARIJ).
Co-authoring OCHA’s Barrier Update “Seven Years after the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ on the Barrier: The Impact of the Barrier in the Jerusalem Area”, 2011. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_barrier_update_july_2011_english.pdf
Contributing to OCHA’s Barrier Special Focus in collaboration with WHO in commemoration of the 6th Anniversary of the ICJ Opinion: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_special_focus_july_2010_english.pdf
Initiated the UN Barrier-related advocacy film “Walled Horizons” narrated by Roger Waters, co-produced by OCHA/UNRWA.
Co-authoring the joint OCHA/UNRWA Barrier Report for the 5th Anniversary of the ICJ Opinion on the West Bank Barrier:
Co-authoring the joint OCHA/UNRWA Barrier Update # 8 – The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier. Launch of a media, donor and UN-wide campaign on the 4th Anniversary of the ICJ Opinion on the West Bank Barrier. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/Barrier_Report_July_2008.pdf
Co-author of 3 OCHA Special Focus Reports: “The Barrier Gate and Permit Regime Four Years on: Humanitarian Impact in the Northern West Bank”: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/OCHA_SpecialFocus_BarrierGates_2007_11.pdf
and: “Three Years Later: The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier Since the International Court of Justice Opinion”: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ICJ4_Special_Focus_July2007.pdf
and: “Barrier stops Palestinians accessing land”: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/OCHA_Special_focus_8_Nov_2006_Eng.pdf
– ICRC: Geneva Conventions https://www.icrc.org/en/war-and-law/treaties-customary-law/geneva-conventions
– B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories “Arrested Development” 2012 http://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files2/201210_arrested_development_eng.pdf
– Historical Web Pages on UNRWA’s Barrier Monitoring Unit Link [already established]
– Ray Dolphin “The West Bank Wall – Unmaking Palestine” http://www.wrmea.org/2006-november/waging-peace-west-bank-wall-security-or-settlement.html