Ref:
80/2012

 

On
27 September 2012, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a
seminar titled "Setting the Agenda: Accountability for International Law
Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," with the participation
of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Democratic
Lawyers (IADL).  The seminar was also
attended by a large crowd of academics, lawyers and representatives of human
rights, civil and media organizations.

 

Aside
from the opening speeches, the seminar was of three sessions, which dealt,
respectively, with: accountability, the closure and its impact on the social
and economic rights of the Palestinians and the Palestinian prisoners in
Israeli jails.

 

The
Seminar was opened with a keynote speech by Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of
PCHR and Member of the Executive Committee of IADL, welcoming speech,
introducing the IADL and the visitors from its Executive Committee. He
highlighted the objectives of the visit, which was manifested with holding the
Committee’s meetings in the Gaza Strip, in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in protest against human rights
violations perpetrated by Israeli Occupation Forces against Palestinian
civilians.

 

Ms. Jeanne Mirer, President of the IADL, also delivered a
speech in the opening ceremony, introducing the Association and the objectives
it seeks to achieve, pointing out IADL’s positions on the Palestinian cause,
defending the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily their
right to self-determination, independence and to the establishment of a free
state.

 

The first session, titled "accountability" was
headed by Dr. Mohammed Abu-Sa’ada, Vice President of Palestine University. This
session included four successive presentations; the first was by Mr. Sourani, talking
about PCHR’s experience concerning the prosecution of Israeli war criminals,
counting the obstacles Israel puts to prevent Palestinian victims from having
access to justice, including physical, financial and legal obstacles. Mr.
Sourani also spoke of some of the most prominent cases that PCHR had
followed-up over the course of many years, explaining that these cases are the
ultimate proof that Israel, undoubtedly, does not conduct serious investigations
when it comes to Palestinian victims, and that those victims cannot enjoy judicial
remedy in Israeli courts.  This situation
prompted PCHR to utilize the principle of universal jurisdiction which provided
an opportunity to prosecute Israeli war criminals before national courts in countries
which adopt this principle such as Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and
others.
He also confirmed in the conclusion of his statement that PCHR will
continue to work relentlessly to prosecute the Israeli war criminals, out of
his deep belief in the rights of victims and perpetuating the principle to
neither forgive nor forget.

 

On
his part, Lawyer Fabio Marcielli, a member of the Executive Committee of IADL,
spoke of the principal of universal jurisdiction, stressing the importance of
efforts aimed at achieving justice for all human beings, wherever they are.  He pointed out that Gaza must be transformed
from an example of injustice and oppression to a model of justice, and that it
is the primary responsibility of lawyers to achieve that. Mr. Mercielli also
covered in his statement the concept of universal jurisdiction and aspects of
achieving the rule of law, first and foremost the prosecution of war criminals.  He further listed standards concerning universal
jurisdiction, noting that it is an exceptional principle that allows states to
access justice through courts in other countries.

 

Ms. Mirer spoke in her presentation about the
Palestinians’ options for the International Criminal Court (ICC), explaining
that Israel did not sign nor ratified the Rome Statute, as it sees that the
court has no jurisdiction over it. She also addressed the various stages that
the Palestinian complaint had passed in the ICC.  She listed the reasons why the ICC has not so
far looked into this compliant, primarily due to political pressures practiced on
the Prosecutor of the ICC which forced him to reject the case on the grounds
that Palestine is not a State.  She
stressed that international statehood standards are applicable to Palestine. In
addition, Ms. Mirer spoke of the alternatives available for Palestinians in
response to the refusal of the Prosecutor of the ICC to take any action
regarding the submitted Palestinian complaint. 
On top of these alternatives is referring to the United Nations General
Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies to address complaints under article 22
of the Charter of the United Nations.

 

For his part, Lawyer Carlos Ernesto Orjuela, a member of the
Executive Committee of the IADL, spoke in the fourth and last presentation of
the first session about the Goldstone Report and relevant developments, and introduced
the report and its conclusion that Israel perpetrated crimes and grave
breaches, and that the atmosphere of impunity prevailing in the Occupied
Territories creates a crisis of justice, which ought to be dealt with and
resolved, especially that this impunity undermines the credibility of the
United Nations and the international community. Lawyer Orjuela also referred to
Judge Goldstone’s concluding recommendations, where he clarified that the time
limit set by the report to implement the recommendations ended without any
prospect of Israel conducting serious investigations. He also listed the
obstacles that prevented the implementation of the Goldstone recommendations,
including: The nature of the Israeli judicial system which does not take the
cases of Palestinian victims seriously, as well as the excessively high
financial guarantees imposed by Israel on Palestinian victims for filing their
cases in its courts, which prevented many victims from reaching judicial remedy.

 

The first session of the PCHR’s seminar was concluded with
questions and inquiries raised by the audience that were answered by the
speakers. These inquires addressed a number of subjects, notably: Boycotting
Israel as a means of punishment; the prospects and possibilities for Palestinians
to have access to justice; and the role of IADL under the double-standard
treatment of the international community towards the Palestinians and its
silence towards the crimes committed against them.