Ref: 22/2009

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.