Contact: Mahdis Keshavarz, Riptide Communications 212.260.5000
Sean Sullivan, Center for Constitutional Rights 212 614-6480
CCR CHALLENGES ISRAELI MILITARY’S EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING IN U.S. COURT TOMORROW
Oral Arguments To Be Presented in Center for Constitutional Rights Suit
Against Avi Dichter for Extrajudicial Killing of Civilians
Israeli Ambassador Has Submitted Letter Opposing Suit
May 30, 2006, NEW YORK – Tomorrow the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) will present oral arguments in its class action lawsuit against Avi Dichter, the former Director of Israel’s General Security Service (GSS), for war crimes and other human rights violations from a 2002 air strike that injured over 150 people and killed 15 civilians, including eight children (Matar v. Dichter (S.D.N.Y., 05 Civ. 10270)).
“CCR has been holding war criminals from around the world accountable in U.S. courts for over 25 years. Attacks aimed at civilians are illegal, and no less so when carried out by senior government officials,” said CCR Attorney Maria LaHood.
CCR has won several judgments against foreign government officials for torture, extrajudicial killings, genocide and war crimes, including millions of dollars for plaintiffs from Paraguay, Guatemala, Haiti, East Timor and Bosnia.
The case against Mr. Dichter concerns his involvement in an air strike around midnight on July 22, 2002, when the Israel Defense Forces dropped a one-ton bomb on al-Daraj, a densely populated residential neighborhood in Gaza City. The attack killed seven Palestinian adults and eight children, including the wives and children of Plaintiffs Ra’ed Matar and Mahmoud Al Huweiti.
The following day the White House Press Secretary said President Bush condemned this “deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located.” The U.S. State Department has also declared that the attack “put large numbers of civilian lives in jeopardy…where civilian casualties were likely…”
In papers filed with the court in advance of tomorrow’s oral arguments, Mr. Dichter’s attorneys have argued that Mr. Dichter is immune from liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), and that the case involves political questions that would interfere with US foreign policy if adjudicated. The Israeli Ambassador to the United States has submitted a letter to the State Department opposing the lawsuit as inappropriate, claiming it risks undermining U.S. diplomatic efforts.
CCR has refuted these arguments, contending that individuals cannot be afforded sovereign immunity under the FSIA, especially those who act outside their lawful authority. CCR attorneys are also emphasizing that the Executive Branch has already condemned the attack, and U.S. law provides liability for human rights abusers abroad.
Oral arguments in Matar, et al. v. Dichter will be heard on Wednesday, May 31st at 11:00 a.m., before Judge Pauley in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, Courtroom 11D, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY. For more information or to read the legal papers, please visit www.ccr-ny.org.
Plaintiffs are represented by: CCR attorneys Maria LaHood, Jennifer Green and Kelly McAnnany; CCR Cooperating Counsel Judith Brown Chomsky and Michael Poulshock; and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights demonstrators in the South, CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. www.ccr-ny.org