(Editors’ Note: This is the latest in Just Security’s weekly series keeping readers up to date on developments at the United Nations at the intersection of national security, human rights, and the rule of law.)

ICJ Holds Hearings on Legality of Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories

This week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the U.N.’s highest court, began six days of hearings on the legality of Israel’s decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Fifty two countries are expected to offer statements to the Court. 

In December 2022, the U.N. General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the Court regarding this issue. Israel has refused to participate in this week’s proceedings, claiming that they are “designed to harm Israel’s right to defend itself against existential threats,” while Palestine’s representatives argued that “Israel has violated the prohibition on territorial conquest by annexing large swaths of occupied land, has violated the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and has imposed a system of racial discrimination and apartheid,” according to NPR.  

In another recent case, South Africa accused Israel of committing genocide in its ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. The Court issued an initial order in that case last month. 

Note: Readers may be interested in our ICJ coverage. 

U.S. Vetoes Gaza Ceasefire Resolution

On Tuesday, the United States vetoed a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution, authored by Algeria, demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The Security Council voted 13-1 in favor of the resolution, with the United Kingdom abstaining. This is the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution related to the conflict. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticized the resolution for jeopardizing diplomatic efforts to secure a hostage deal, stating, “Any action this Council takes should help and not hinder these sensitive ongoing negotiations.”

On Monday, the United States circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary cease-fire linked to the release of all hostages. If adopted, the U.S. proposal would be the first Security Council resolution to condemn Hamas and call against any forced displacement of Gazans. The rival resolution would also reiterate U.S. support for a two-state solution. According to a senior U.S. official, the United States does “not plan to rush” for a vote on the text, instead allowing more time for negotiations to proceed.

Note: Readers may be interested in our Gaza coverage.

Taliban Backs Out of U.N.-Sponsored Conference on Afghanistan

A two-day meeting of member States and special envoys attempting to improve dialogue with Afghanistan’s rulers concluded on Monday in Doha, Qatar, without the Taliban’s participation. According to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the Taliban withdrew from attending the talks after the U.N. refused to recognize the group as Afghanistan’s sole official representative. Such conditions were unacceptable, Guterres said, because they would effectively legitimize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government. Despite the Taliban’s absence, Afghan civil society groups and envoys from at least 25 countries did attend the talks. 

According to Guterres, there was consensus in favor of peace inside Afghanistan and with its neighbors. The conference also discussed challenges faced by Afghanistan and the goals of preventing the country from becoming a “hotbed” of terrorist activity, encouraging the formation of institutions for a “truly inclusive” State, women’s rights, humanitarian aid, development, and combating drug trafficking. Furthermore, Guterres said he would start the process of appointing a U.N. envoy to coordinate engagement between the Taliban administration and the international community.

Note: Readers may be interested in our Afghanistan coverage.

Venezuela Expels U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 

On Thursday, Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Yvan Gil ordered the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) office in Caracas, the country’s capital, to shut down all operations, giving U.N. staff three days to depart and accusing OHCHR of assisting coup plotters and terrorist groups. The announcement came after the human rights office criticized Venezuela’s arrest of human rights attorney Rocio San Miguel, an incident that has drawn domestic and international concern.

This latest tactic is part of a broader crackdown and pivot away from previous assurances that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made last October to signal goodwill toward free and fair presidential election this year. The Biden administration has attempted to leverage the loosening of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry as an incentive for holding credible elections. But last month the country’s top court ruled that Maduro’s chief political rival and opposition leader, María Corina Machado, was ineligible to run for president and arrested several members of her campaign. In addition, a new law strictly regulating civil society organizations has stoked fears of criminalizing dissent. The law forces nongovernmental organizations to provide the government with all financial records so that their political agendas and funding can be scrutinized. Those deemed by the government to be engaged in political activities or harming national security would be banned.

Note: Readers may be interested in our Venezuela coverage.

IMAGE: The United Nations Headquarters, in New York city, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)