Balfour Project – virtual conference

Israel/Palestine: in search of the rule of law: 25/26 May

In May the Balfour Project is holding a virtual conference on two consecutive afternoons, focusing on the rule of law—international, and as it operates, or signally fails to do so, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank (click here to reserve your free place).

On May 25, Baroness Hale of Richmond, former President of the UK Supreme Court, who most of us will remember for her ruling in September, 2019, that the suspension of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unlawful, will open the virtual conference with a short address.

Our keynote speaker will be the eminent international criminal justice lawyer and writer, Philippe Sands QC, widely hailed for his book East West Street, the interlinked story of his family, Nazi genocide and the Nuremberg trials.

Dominic Grieve QC, former Conservative MP and Attorney General, will chair the 25 May meeting, which will include panellist eminent lawyer and activist Michael Sfard, an Israeli advocate specialising in international law and a prominent campaigner in support of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

On May 26 the second part of the conference will be introduced by Balfour Project Trustee Andrew Whitley. The first speaker will be Prof. Michael Lynk, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, followed by a panel of Israeli and Palestinian activists and lawyers who will examine different aspects of the actual operation of Israeli law: how it supports illegal settlements and the accompanying Palestinian house demolitions, sustains the Gaza blockade, puts Palestinian  children through the Israeli military court system, denies building permits, restricts the movement of people and goods, and generally acts with impunity in matters of life and death. These are daily realities of Palestinian life, in which the victims find they have little or no recourse to justice.

The conference will end on 26 May with a panel of British Parliamentarians chaired by Lord Alderdice, following remarks by Jack Straw, former Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Justice Minister in the Blair and Brown Governments between 1997 and 2010. The panel will discuss what practical steps Westminster can and should take to uphold international law in deed as well as in word.  Lord John Alderdice is former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a Liberal Democrat peer.  It is planned that as with the statement “Equal Rights for Lasting Peace” which concluded our October, 2020, virtual conference, “Jerusalem: From Past Divisions to a Shared Future?” the Balfour Project will recommend actions by our political leaders to uphold the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, rather than rhetorical condemnations of lawbreaking without practical effect.

The Balfour Project view is that continued systematic violations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions and United Nations Security Council Resolutions, must be penalised – without fear or favour.