ISRAEL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW
At the end of August prosecutors from international tribunals such as those in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and the Fmr. Yugoslavia met in Jamestown, NY for the 2010 International Humanitarian Law Dialogues. The discussion this year focused on the June review conference of the International Criminal Court in Kampala, Uganda. The conference has been long awaited since the establishment of the court in 1998. The main issue was the definition of the crime of aggression. Now defined, it awaits ratification, postponed to 2017. If the International Criminal Court is given jurisdiction to prosecute it, it would essentially make all acts of aggressive war (that is not self-defense) illegal. However, pressures from major military powers such as the US ensured the definition of the crime allowed for any state to opt out of it being used against them. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke with Benjamin B. Ferencz who attended the Kampala conference in Jamestown and retired South African judge Richard Goldstone about the crime of aggression and the fight to include it into the International Criminal Court.
The UN Goldstone report, published nearly a year ago, found evidence that Israel as well as HAMAS committed war crimes in the recent war on Gaza. The report mandated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to publish his assessment of the progress of both parties in their internal investigations. Though the Palestinian Authority (PA) and HAMAS progress is not yet public, the Israeli is. Ki-Moon praised Israel for setting up an independent commission to look into the Flotilla incident of May 31st because it will also attempt to answer whether Israel’s internal investigation methods even conform to international law. Ki-Moon also praised Israel and noted that it has committed extensive resources to conducting a thorough and independent investigation, a conclusion that could get Israel off the hook in the international law arena.
This week, the European Unionï¿½s Parliament passed a resolution endorsing the implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, which investigated war crimes in the attack on Gaza last year. While the motion was received with support from many NGOs, such as the Women’s Peace Coalition, it did not indicate specific actions the EU will actually take. The same has been true for the UN’s process as members of the Security Council said they would veto the report. Many are therefore taking it in their own hands to hold Israeli leaders accountable for alleged war crimes. The legal tool they’re using is called universal jurisdiction and refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 that said countries must be able to prosecute anyone who commits grave crimes. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky investigates what universal jurisdiction is, how it is used, and how Israel is fighting against it.
This week the Russell Tribunal on Palestine ruled in Barcelona, Spain on six questions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Tribunal’s judgements are not judicially binding but are meant to examine the complicity of the European Union in perpetuating what the Tribunal called Israel’s "policy of war, occupation, and colonization for 60 years." The jurists were assembled from around the globe and issued their conclusions on Wednesday, March 3rd. Among the conclusions, the jury stipulated that Israel practices a form of apartheid. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky attended the Barcelona session and spoke to jurists and participants.
The three-month deadline the United Nations General Assembly gave Israel and the Palestinians to begin investigations into allegations of war crimes in last year’s attack expired last week. Now, the Secretary-General was expected to issue his conclusions regarding sending the Goldstone’s recommendations for implementation by the UN Security Council. Because the five-member organization has indicated it will not pursue it further and the investigations the Israelis and Palestinians conducted were "inadequate," and "disappointing" The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky asks what alternatives exist.
After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Jerusalem this weekend, the US-mediated peace talks threaten to collapse. Meanwhile Israel ramps up its occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported last Friday that at least 11 locations within settlement colonies in the West Bank are escalating construction in order to alter "facts on the ground." In October, the joint Israeli-Palestinian organization, Alternative Information Center, organized a conference on the economy of the Israeli occupation in Bethlehem. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky attended and spoke to the AIC’s Shir Hever about the real costs of maintaining Israel’s occupation.
The United States has criticised the Goldstone report into Israel’s war on Gaza, calling it one-sided. In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, Justice Richard Goldstone challenged the US government to justify its claims that his findings are flawed and biased. Goldstone said the attacks on him have become personal and he believes most critics have not even read the report.
"The question of Palestine remains the most serious political and human rights problem on the agenda of the United Nations since its creation," says outgoing General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto. D’Escoto points to the UN’s failure to lift the two-year-old blockade on Gaza being maintained by Israel and Egypt as a clear example of the organization’s decadence. This despite the fact that all the organs of the UN have passed resolutions demanding the blockade be lifted, but none of the members with influence have done anything to force compliance, and according to d’Escoto, they are quite comfortable with this.
Lia Tarachansky speaks to Fatou Bensouda, the Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the Palestinian Authority’s appeal to join the group of nations over which the court has jurisdiction. Bensouda says that before the ICC can investigate the perpetration of war crimes during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza, the court would have to rule on whether it has jurisdiction in the Palestinian Territories. For that, there would have to be clear borders identified, a task the UN would have to take on. Once the court rules on jurisdiction it would be able to prosecute anyone who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide within the territory, even if (such as in the case of Israel) the perpetrator is not part of the International Court.