The Trudeau government remains silent on the case of a Canadian Government-Funded PhD Student who was shot by Israeli sniper in the West Bank without legal recourse against her attacker – TRNN speaks with Rehab Nazzal and her legal council, Dimitri Lascaris
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Rehab Nazzal, a Canadian-Palestinian artist and Ph.D. student at Western University, she was shot and wounded in the West Bank on December 11, 2015 by an Israeli sniper while photographing an Israeli skunk truck. When medics came to give her treatment, they were showered with tear gas. She remains in the West Bank, and we’re going to be speaking with her today, and we’re also going to be joined by her legal counsel, Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a Canadian lawyer and a board member of the Real News Network. Thank you so much for joining us today, Rehab. REHAB NAZZAL: Thank you. Thank you for having me. PERIES: So Rehab, how is your recovery going, and what has happened to you since the shooting? NAZZAL: I am recovering well, thank you. Over a month has passed, so far. My wound, fortunately, wasn’t as bad as other Palestinians. It didn’t go through bones or any major nerves. But it’s going to take a few months until I recover fully. I am fine, now. I can walk. And there is no problem. Just to put it in context, I am one of over 16,000 Palestinians who were injured during the past three months. Among these, over 6,000 with live bullets. Just yesterday, here in my neighborhood where I am now, there were tens of Palestinians who were injured, one seriously with live bullets, and one was killed. He was shot in the chest and was killed yesterday. Today was his funeral. And the city is just buried with tear gas and all forms of aggression. PERIES: Rehab, give us a sense of all those Palestinians you’re talking about, and the kind of help and assistance they are getting as far as medical attention is concerned. NAZZAL: I mean, if I want to put all this in a context, it’s the Israeli occupation. People are protesting an illegal presence of the Israeli occupation in their land. They’re protesting the annexation of their land, uprooting of tens of thousands of olive trees. The building of illegal settlements in the West Bank. There’s no symmetry in this situation. You have the Israeli occupation forces armed with all forms of weapons, and you have the youth, mainly the youth in their 20s, so mostly they were born during what’s called, between quotations, the “peace process”. These youth only use stones to throw on the soldiers. And in return, they’re being shot with all kinds of weapons, which–this takes me to my research. I am researching the use of nonlethal, it’s called, between two quotations, “nonlethal” weapons, crowd control weapons. And imagine for three months, neighborhoods, some streets just every day experience, almost every day, experience clouds of tear gas and skunk, the smell weapon, the [inaud.], sewage, that’s what it’s called here. I mean, it’s very difficult. And the worst part of it, that the world is silent. PERIES: Let me get to that. Now, Rehab, one of the things that your particular case highlights is that there’s really no recourse for this kind of occupation, aggression, use of force and bullets, as far as the occupation is concerned. Now, your particular case, and let me bring in Dimitri here. Dimitri is trying to assist you with some legal advice. What kind of recourse is available, Dimitri? DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, in the courts of law in Canada, precious little, unfortunately. We have here, as do other [dates], something called a State Unity Pact, which effectively bars a lawsuit against the government of Israel or any other government for human rights violations. What is–in the courts of Canada. And what is particularly, I’m going to use a strong word but one that’s nonetheless justified, appalling about this law is that it does not provide immunity for states when they engage in commercial activities. But they could commit crimes against humanity, war crimes, you know, some of the most heinous offenses under international human rights law, and they’re completely immune from suit in the domestic courts of our country. So effectively our parliament has given commercial transactions a privileged status over human rights violations. It seems to believe that it’s more important that there be sanctity of contract in cases involving a state actor than that there be sanctity of human rights. Unfortunately, that’s the law that we have. So a suit against the Israeli government or the Israeli military in the courts of Canada will not fly under this legislation. There are, however, political options available. And the one that we intend to pursue is we are going to present a dossier of evidence to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephane Dion, under the new Liberal government. We’re going to document carefully, and Rehab is in the process of doing this with people who witnessed what happened to her, precisely what the Israeli military did, and in particular how it tried to impede medical services, medical assistance being provided to Rehab after she had been shot by an Israeli sniper. And we’re going to call upon the government of Justin Trudeau to fulfill its promise of a more principled foreign policy than the predecessor Harper government, which was absolutely and unequivocally committed to supporting the government of Israel, no matter what atrocities it committed. So the signs to date are not particularly promising in terms of seeing a more principled foreign policy from the government of Justin Trudeau. This is something that you and I discussed previously in the context of arms sales by Canada to Saudi Arabia. But we’re going to apply that pressure, and we’re going to see how the government reacts once it’s presented with a detailed dossier of evidence supporting Rehab’s claim. And we’re going to demand serious diplomatic action from the Canadian government in terms of what has been done to Rehab. PERIES: All right. And Rehab, are you getting any other assistance by way of the Canadian embassy in Israel? How is your situation there, and have they made efforts which they, you know, as an embassy or a consulate in Israel, is supposed to reach out and assist in these kinds of situations, and extend their help to Canadians? Are you getting any such help? NAZZAL: Unfortunately, I haven’t been contacted by the Israeli embassy. However, the office of the consulate in Ramallah, they called me asking if I need any assistance. And when I asked what kind of assistance I can receive, they asked any medical assistance. And I said, thank you, I am okay with medical assistance. But that was it. I was never contacted. And it is, it is so disappointing, like, being a Canadian citizen who’s doing research, and research funded by the federal government research council, and not even a condemnation to what happened. Unarmed civilian, if we–if we suppose that the Israeli soldiers don’t know I am a researcher doing work, but I am an unarmed civilian and standing away, far from protesters, even this, we haven’t heard any word from the Israeli ambassador or the–sorry, from the Canadian ambassador in Israel or the foreign minister. Which brings that hypocrisy to our human rights violations in other countries. Why, why Israel is not being questioned. I am, again, a Canadian citizen. I have my career, my children there. I have my life there. Yeah, I am just in disbelief, as well. PERIES: Well, Rehab, I wish you all the best in terms of your recovery, and I think this is a very interesting case that we would like to follow on the Real News Network, because I’m sure there are many, many people in similar situations, not to mention those Palestinians who are also, you know, don’t have the protection of another state like Canada, in this case. And I’m glad you’re taking it up, Dimitri, and we hope to have you back, both of you. LASCARIS: Thank you, Sharmini. NAZZAL: Thank you. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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