Date: 12 May 2009
PCHR Director Delivers Human Rights Lecture in Madrid, Spain
On 8 May, 2009, Mr. Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), delivered a lecture to mark the conclusion of a conference on solidarity in journalism. The conference paid particular attention to human and refugee rights. Mr. Sourani spoke at the event, which took place in Madrid, Spain, following a joint invitation from Autónoma University in Madrid and El Pais Journalism School.
In his lecture, Mr. Sourani addressed four main issues: The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); the current European position towards Israel; the issue of Palestinian refugees, and; international legislation and the importance of continuing efforts to prosecute Israeli war criminals.
Regarding the human rights situation in the OPT, Mr. Sourani emphasized that the last year was the worst and bloodiest in the history of the occupation. It witnessed an overall deterioration of the human rights situation, a deterioration which he attributed to three factors. First, the continuous escalation of human rights violations and crimes perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF); second, the international position, which not only failed to fulfill legal obligations towards Palestinian civilians, but also went further by effectively contributing to the sanctions imposed on the Palestinians through the financial boycott; and third, the continued internal conflict associated with the political division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Mr. Sourani also presented the most prominent forms of human rights violations, which include: willful killing; torture and ill-treatment of detainees; closure and restrictions on movement; extra-judicial executions (assassinations); house demolitions; the Judaization of Jerusalem; settlement activities and the establishment of bypass roads; settlers’ attacks; and the continued construction of the Annexation Wall. Moreover, he talked about the latest Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, which epitomized the drastic deterioration in the human rights situation. In the offensive, IOF killed 1,414 Palestinians, including 1,181 non-combatants.
Regarding the current stance of the European community towards Israel, Mr. Sourani strongly criticized the European position, as expressed by Jiri Potuznik, Spokesman of the Czech Presidency of the European Union (EU), in which he claimed that the Israeli war was a defensive, rather than an offensive war. Mr. Sourani also criticized the decision taken by the EU last December to consider upgrading its relations with Israel, in spite of the information and reports of IOF violations against the Palestinian population which it receives. In light of
the latest offensive on Gaza Strip, Mr. Sourani considered it shameful that Europe rewards Israel for its crimes, human rights violations, apartheid polices, social and economical stranglehold and collective punishment against the civilian population. In addition, Mr. Sourani blamed the EU for abstaining from taking any action against Israel, reminding the EU States of Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement which provides that Israeli has to respect human rights in order to maintain economic cooperation with it.
Concerning Palestinian refugees, Mr. Sourani emphasized that the refugee issue is the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, denouncing Israel’s reluctance to recognize its responsibility for the dispersion of millions of Palestinians even though 60 years have passed since the Palestinian Nakba (the uprooting of the Palestinian people from their land). He also asserted that the refugees’ right to return is a political and legal right as well as an individual right that no political power, of whatever status, is entitled to act disregard. In this respect he highlighted numerous international resolutions related to the refugee issue, which predate the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the establishment of the Hamas movement. This fact, according to Mr. Sourani, strengthens the legitimacy of this issue and refutes all Israeli allegations that this right threatens its existence.
Speaking of the importance of prosecuting alleged Israeli war criminals, Mr. Sourani talked about universal jurisdiction and the necessity of holding Israeli war criminals accountable. He noted that the prosecution of war crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction has, thus far, proved to be effective. Mr. Sourani praised the Spanish judiciary and its independence, denouncing all official efforts in the Spanish political arena to hinder the prosecution of alleged Israeli criminals in Spanish courts. He also affirmed that all legal mechanisms would be employed in order to prosecute war criminals, in Spain or eslewhere.
At another level, Mr. Sourani met with attorneys Gonzalo Boye and Antonio Segura. PCHR are currently pursuing a universal jurisdiction case before the Spanish National Court, in partnership with the two attorneys, and Hickman & Rose Solicitors. The case is being taken against seven Israeli military and political officials. On 4 May, 2009, the National Court rejected a request by the Spanish prosecutor to stop considering the lawsuit, holding that Israel had not adequately investigated the case. The meeting also discussed the Spanish prosecutor’s appeal which was submitted on 11 May, 2009.