Lawyers Worldwide Urge
International Court: Investigate Israeli Crimes
On the eve of the first anniversary of the “Great
March of Return” at the Gaza border, lawyers and jurists around the world are
calling on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to
investigate and prosecute Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
April 01, 2019
A Palestinian and his
daughter are among the victims of Israel’s bombardment of a residential
district in Gaza.

A Palestinian and his daughter are among the
victims of Israel’s bombardment of a residential district in Gaza.
Today, the
International Association of Democratic Lawyers presented a petition from
the International
Lawyers Campaign for the Investigation and Prosecution of Crimes Committed
Against the Palestinian People
 to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC. The
petition urges Bensouda to initiate a full investigation and prosecute
violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law
committed by Israeli officials in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The
petition has garnered the support of tens of thousands of lawyers worldwide.
The petition condemns “the unimaginable atrocities
that have been committed and continue to be committed by Israel against
Palestinian civilians which deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”It cites
the well-established legal principle that victims of gross violations of
international human rights law and serious violations of international
humanitarian law “have a right to a remedy and reparation.”The petition
denounces “the failure and refusal” of Israel to hold accountable “those
suspected of committing crimes against Palestinian civilians,” which has
resulted in “abandoning the rule of law and replacing it with widespread
impunity for Israeli officials who have sanctioned and for Israeli individuals
who have perpetrated such crimes.”Israel Bombs Gaza Ahead of
Great March of Return Anniversary
On March 25 and 26, in anticipation
of the forthcoming election and the anniversary of the Great March of Return,
Israel pummeled Gaza
with dozens of airstrikes, instilling terror in 2 million Palestinians.On
Saturday, March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians are planning to walk
toward the Gaza border to commemorate the March 30, 2018, launch of the Great
March of Return. For the past year, during the weekly protests, tens of
thousands of Palestinians have demanded an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza
and the right to return to their homeland. In response, Israeli forces have
engaged in violent and illegal repression against demonstrators.UN Commission Documents Crimes by Israeli LeadersOn
March 18, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, convened by the UN Human Rights Council, issued
a 252-page report of
its findings on the Great March of Return demonstrations.
“We present this comprehensive report with an urgent
plea to Israel to immediately ensure that the rules of engagement of their
security forces are revised to comply with international legal standards…. The
excessive force that took place on 30 March, 14 May and 12 October 2018 must
not be repeated,” Commission Chair Santiago Canton told the
Human Rights Council.
Commission found “reasonable grounds to believe that during these weekly
demonstrations, the Israeli Security Forces killed and gravely injured
civilians who were neither participating directly in hostilities nor posing an
imminent threat to life. Among those shot were children, paramedics,
journalists, and persons with disabilities. 183 people were shot dead, another
6,106 were wounded with live ammunition.”Unless acting in lawful self-defense,
the Commission noted,
 “intentionally killing a civilian not directly
participating in hostilities is a war crime. Serious human rights violations
were committed which may amount to crimes against humanity.”
The Commission concluded that the Israeli Security
Forces’ “conduct also violated international humanitarian law, which permits
civilians to be targeted only when they ‘directly participate in hostilities.’
This purposefully high threshold was not met by demonstrators’ conduct, in the
view of the Commission, with one possible exception.”Furthermore, the
Commission stated,
“Targeting unarmed
demonstrators purely on the basis of their current or former political views,
or their current or former membership of an armed group — and not on their
conduct at the time — is impermissible in the view of the Commission.”
The Commission recommended that the government of
§  Prohibit the use of lethal force against civilians who
pose no imminent threat to life;
§  Make sure the rules of engagement don’t sanction
lethal force against “main inciters” as a status. Ensure the rules only allow
lethal force as a last resort, where the target poses an imminent threat to
life or is participating directly in hostilities;
§  Do not allow targeting based solely on actual or
alleged affiliation with a group rather than conduct;
§  Investigate all protest-related killings to determine
whether war crimes or crimes against humanity have been committed with a view
toward accountability;
§  Ensure prompt and effective remedies for those
unlawfully killed or wounded; and
§  Immediately lift the blockade on Gaza.
The Commission’s report will be forwarded to the ICC.Petition Seeks Accountability in International Court for Israeli
In the summer of 2014, Israeli forces killed 2,200
Palestinians, nearly one-quarter of them children and over 80 percent of them
civilians, in an operation dubbed “Operation Protective Edge.”The following
January, Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the situation in
Palestine. In a preliminary examination, the Office of the Prosecutor
determines whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity
falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national
proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of
justice and of the victims.The petition from the International Association of
Democratic Lawyers urges Bensouda to take the next step — from a preliminary examination to
a full investigation into Israeli crimes against the
Palestinian people. In an investigation, the Office of the Prosecutor gathers
evidence, identifies suspects, and asks ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant
or a summons to appear.On April 8, 2018, in light of Israeli actions during the
Great March of Return, Bensouda stated that
new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be
subjected to my Office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks
and to any future incident.”
She added, “I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip
are planned to continue further. My Office will continue to closely watch the
situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful
She added, “Violence
against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could
constitute crimes under the [ICC’s] Rome Statute.”
Bensouda noted, “Any
person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering,
requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission
of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court,
with full respect for the principle of complementarity.”
“Complementarity” means the court will take
jurisdiction only over people whose home country is unwilling or unable to
genuinely investigate and prosecute.Israel has demonstrated its unwillingness
to mount an impartial investigation into Operation Protective Edge. In August
2018, the Israeli military absolved
 of any wrongdoing in that operation.The lawyers’
petition was inspired by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers’
previous international call for lawyers to support the campaign to free Nelson
Mandela in the 1980s. Just as that campaign “proved to be for those living
under Apartheid in South Africa,” the current petition “is
an essential first step in securing equal justice under law” for the
Palestinian people.Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law,
former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the
International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory
board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. She
is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Read more:UN Report Accuses Israel of
High Crimes in Gaza

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