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Charge Israel with War Crimes

Tags:   Israel, Gaza, Palestine, attacks

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Charge Israel with War Crimes


The brutal and indiscriminate Israeli attacks on the Palestinian population in Gaza during the last weeks have entailed numerous violations of basic norms of international law, such as the principles of proportionality and distinction (between civilians and combatants; and between civilian and military targets). Military acts such as intentionally targeting schools and other civilian facilities are considered violations of international humanitarian law in relation to which the state of Israel bears responsibility -- but they also constitute serious crimes under international law (e.g., war crimes and eventually crimes against humanity) in relation to which individuals should stand trial.

The international community agreed to this principle of individual responsibility for international crimes in the wake of the Second World War; genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes were considered totally unacceptable and individuals committing such crimes should be held accountable. The rational behind the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 was clear: without a trial, justice and peace would never prevail. This idea of individual accountability has subsequently been implemented in the case law of the ad-hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will develop it further in the future.

Applying this standard of justice to the hostilities in Gaza obviously leads to the conclusion that the language of politicians remains insufficient to address the latest atrocities and that the time has come for a trial of individual Israeli soldiers, commanders of the Israeli army and other high ranking army officials, and more importantly of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert; the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni; and the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. Eventually other cabinet ministers should also be tried, as those who are ultimately responsible for the disproportionate military operations in which thousands of civilians (including many children) have been killed and injured.

The crucial question is however: To which courts of justice can Palestinian victims bring their claims? There are Palestinian courts in Gaza but they have no jurisdiction over criminal cases involving Israelis. As stateless people, Palestinians have no state which could sign the Rome Statute with a view to seeking the adjudication of the ICC, or which would be entitled to bring a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague as Bosnia and Herzegovina did concerning the massacre at Srebrenica. Without a state, Palestinians are also denied the legal protection offered by classic interstate diplomacy.

Putting perpetrators on trial would cost the international community nothing, but a lack of such individual responsibility and accountability would cost the civilians in Gaza dear leaving them without remedies and hope -- while politicians and soldiers would again be encouraged to think that they are exempted from the law and that they can get away with anything.

Cause Created by: Simon Smith View other causes created this user here  Bookmark and Share

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