[DEBATE] : Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Welcomes Spanish Court to Investigate War Crimes Committed by IOF in Gaza
Salim.Vally at wits.ac.za
Fri Jan 30 13:31:36 GMT 2009
Date: 29 January 2009
Time: 19:30 GMT
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Welcomes Decision of Spanish Court
to Investigate War Crimes Committed by IOF in Gaza
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the decision by
the National Court of Spain to launch an investigation into seven
Israeli former senior Israeli military officials suspected of having
committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
The decision issued by the Spanish National Court, the highest Spanish
judicial council, on Thursday, 29 January, 2009, instructs the seven
suspects; former Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (who is now the
Israeli Infrastructure Minister), his [former] military advisor, Michael
Herzog, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, Dan Halutz,
former Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Abraham Dichter, Former Head
of the Israeli Intelligence Service, Doron Almog, former Head of the
Israeli Southern Command, and Giora Eiland, former Head of the Israeli
National Security Council, to present themselves to the court in Spain
within the next thirty days. If the suspects fail to do so, the court
will issue international warrants for their arrests.
In addition to this ground-breaking decision, the Spanish National Court
announced that, if intent to exterminate the Palestinian population can
be proven, the charge may be increased to genocide.
PCHR welcomes this decision as the first step towards justice for the
survivors of a massive extra-judicial execution operation perpetrated by
the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip in July 2002.
At approximately midnight on 22 July, 2002, an Israeli Air Force fighter
jet dropped a 2,000 lbs. bomb on the house of Salah Shehada, Commander
of the Izzedeen El-Qassam Battalions (the armed wing of Hamas), who was
living in the Daraj district of Gaza city. The bomb killed Salah Shehada
and seventeen civilians, including his wife, his daughter, his guard,
eight children (including a 2-month old infant), two elderly men, and
two women. In addition, seventy seven other civilians were injured and
eleven houses completely destroyed.
PCHR embarked on this ground-breaking lawsuit via the National Court of
Spain in June 2008, after lengthy consultations with international legal
experts indicted the possibility of launching universal jurisdiction
cases regarding war crimes committed by IOF. The Centre notes that
similar cases of suspected war crimes have previously been filed in
Israeli courts, but did not lead to successful prosecutions. On the
contrary, the Israeli judiciary has been used as a legal cover for the
perpetration of war crimes against the Palestinian population, and as a
tool to deliberately hinder international jurisdiction under the pretext
of a "fair" national judicial system operating in Israel.
This PCHR lawsuit is part of continuing and rigorous efforts by the
Centre to pursue Israeli war criminals under universal jurisdiction in
courts in Switzerland, New Zealand, Britain and Spain. PCHR's Spanish
partners in this lawsuit are Antonio Segura, Gonzalo Boye, Juan Moreno
and Raul Maillo, who have already worked on a number of high profile
human rights cases, including representing victims of torture in
Guatemala and the attempted prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet for
the murder of Spanish citizens whilst he was president of Chile.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights previously filed a lawsuit in
the UK against former Head of the Israeli Army Southern Commend, Doron
Almog, for committing grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention
during his army service, (considered a criminal offense in the UK under
the Geneva Conventions of 1949) Almog arrived in the UK on 10 September
2005, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Having been
informed of the warrant before he disembarked, Almog subsequently fled
straight back to Israel on the same plane.
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