Ref: 40/2013

 

The Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) unreservedly condemns the decisions made by the
Military Prosecutor of Operational Affairs to close the cases of the al-Dalu
and al-Shawwa families without initiating prosecutions.

 

On 11 April 2013,
PCHR received two responses from the Military Prosecutor of Operational Affairs
stating that neither allegations of criminal violations nor violations of the
law of war by a military body were found in the cases of al-Dalu and al-Shawwa.

 

The attack on the
al-Dalu family took place on 18 November 2012, when an Israeli warplane bombed a
civilian house belonging to the al-Dalu family, in al-Nasser neighborhood.  12 civilians were killed in the attack, including
five children, five women and two young men, from the al-Dalu and al-Muzannar
families. Six others in the neighboring houses were wounded.

 

In the attack
on the al-Shawwa family that happened on 20 November 2012, an Israeli warplane
targeted an apartment belonging to the family of Basel Mortada Sa’id al-Shawwa,
on Baghdad street in al-Shuja’iya neighborhood, in eastern Gaza City.  The attack resulted in the killing of four
civilians, the woundeing of six passers-by who were in front of the apartment,
and the complete destruction of the targeted apartment.

 

These two
incidents were among the most serious attacks carried out during the latest Israeli offensive
on the Gaza Strip, which took place from 14 to 21 November 2012.  PCHR had filed criminal and civil complaints
and provided a significant amount of evidence to the Israeli authorities
regarding both incidents.

 

The Military
Prosecutor’s claim underlines the flaws inherent in the Israeli investigative
system, as was clearly illustrated by the lack of criminal investigations
following Operation Cast Lead.  PCHR
received two negative replies from the Israeli Military Prosecutor to 490
criminal complaints filed by PCHR on behalf of 1046 victims in Operation Cast
Lead.  One responses related to the closing
of investigations into the al-Samouni case. The complaint in the al- Samouni
case concerns the killing of 21 civilians, the wounding of 19 others, and the destruction
of a house. The other investigation that was closed by the Military Prosecutor related
to the looting of a house belonging to Elayan Khdeir.  This has been documented in detail elsewhere,
and endorsed by the UN Committee of Experts in its findings regarding investigations
into attacks carried out furing Operation Cast Lead. Simply put, this system
comprehensively fails to meet international standards.

 

Given the flaws
inherent in this system – which until more than five months after the latest
Israeli offensive has failed to result in a single war crimes indictment – PCHR
believes that Israel’s legal system is used as a smokescreen, to provide an
illusion of investigative rigor, while in fact providing systematic cover for
widespread violations of international law.

 

The decision to
close the al-Dalu and al-Shawwa cases clearly indicates Israel’s genuine
unwillingness to uphold the rule of international law, and highlights the
urgent need for recourse to mechanisms of international criminal justice.

 

PCHR notes that
Israel has put numerous obstacles in place to obstruct victims’ pursuit of
justice with respect to both criminal and civil complaints. These include, but
are not limited to: the denial of physical access to courts for victims,
witnesses and lawyers; denial of visitation between victims and their lawyers;
and prohibitive court guarantees. Nonetheless, victims and their
representatives place their faith in the rule of international law, believing
firmly that justice must prevail.

 

These two
decisions – demonstrative of Israel’s longstanding treatment of Palestinian
victims – illustrates the State’s systematic violation of its international
legal obligations, and constitutes official endorsement of military operations
which include – apparently as a matter of course – the commission of war
crimes.

 

PCHR notes that
this reality, which makes a mockery of international law, would be impossible
without the total political and legal immunity extended to Israel by the
international community.

 

It is clear
that recourse must be had to mechanisms of international criminal justice,
including through the exercise of universal jurisdiction.

 

PCHR calls upon
the Palestinian authorities to immediately ratify the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court.