31 October 2010

Spanish Authorities Refuse to Grant Avi Dichter Immunity

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) notes that the Spanish authorities refused to provide Avi Dichter, former Director of the Israeli General Security Services, with requested immunity prior to a planned visit to Spain. Mr. Dichter is currently the subject of a criminal lawsuit before the Spanish Courts in relation to his role in the Al Daraj assassination of July 22, 2002.

PCHR applaud this move, noting a welcome return to the rule of law. Spain, along with all other High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, is subject to a legal obligation to search for and prosecute all those suspected of committing grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

"This is the American weapon, this is the Israeli peace". Graffiti in the al-Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City, after Israel assassinated Salah Shahadah of Hamas by dropping an American one-ton precision "smart bomb" on an apartment building there, killing Shahadah and fifteen civilians, including eleven children (five of them siblings). Photo by Shirabe Yamada, 2 August 2002.

Spain’s move comes as a reaffirmation of the desire to ensure that Spain does not become a ‘safe haven’ where suspected war criminals can travel with impunity. However, PCHR note that following intense political pressure from the Israeli government, Spain recently modified its existing universal jurisdiction laws. Such political pressure has no place in the international legal order. All those suspected of committing international crimes must be investigated, and if appropriate prosecuted; victims’ rights must be upheld. PCHR urge Spain to repeal recent amendments to the universal jurisdiction law, noting that these amendments way violate Spain’s international obligations.

The Al Daraj case, brought by PCHR, Hickman & Rose (UK) and Spanish partners Gonzalo Boye, Antonio Segura, Juan Moreno and Raul Maillo, is currently pending before the Spanish Constitutional Court.

"Two-month-old Dina Matar - whose limp, lifeless body featured on our front page yesterday - did not survive Ariel Sharon's F-16 missile strike on her home." Kevin Toolis, The Mirror, 25 July 2002. (tekst op cover citeert Ariel Sharon)

Background information relating to the Al Daraj attack

On 22 July 2002, at approximately 11:55 pm, an Israeli Air Force F16 fighter jet dropped a 985 kilogramme bomb on a three-storey apartment building. The attack was intended to kill Salah Shehadeh, the suspected leader of the Izzidin al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas’ military wing. The apartment building was located within the densely populated Al Daraj district, a residential neighbourhood in Gaza City. At the time of the attack, Shehade was on the upper floor of the building. As a result of the blast impact, eight other adjoining and nearby apartment buildings were completely destroyed, nine were partially destroyed, and another 21 sustained considerable damage. Excluding Shehade and his guard, a total of 14 civilians were killed, including eight children. Approximately 150 civilians were injured.

Israeli officials have acknowledged that they decided to drop the bomb on Shehadeh’s house knowing his wife was with him, intentionally killing her as well. The decision to attack apparently also took into consideration the possibility that, along with Shehadeh, approximately 10 civilians would also be killed.

This attack was planned in advance, targeted a densely populated residential area, and was conducted at a time when it could reasonably be expected that there would be an extremely high number of civilians present. This attack constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and as part of wide spread and systematic war crimes, it also classifies as a crime against humanity.

Those implicated include:
  • former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer,
  • his former military advisor Michael Herzog,
  • former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon,
  • former Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter,
  • former Israel Air Force Commander General Dan Halutz*,
  • former head of the IDF Operation Branch Major-General Giora Eiland, and
  • former Southern Command Chief Doron Almog.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Sunday, 31 October 2010

*) "If you insist on wanting to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you. I feel a slight bump to the plane as a result of bomb's release. A second later it passes, and that's all. That is what I feel." (Dan Halutz in Haaretz)

Unidentified dead child, one of nine children under the age of eleven who were killed when an Israeli F-16 dropped an American one-ton precision "smart bomb" on an apartment building in the al-Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City on 23 July, 2002.

Unidentified dead woman, one of fifteen civilians who were killed when an Israeli F-16 dropped an American one-ton precision "smart bomb" on an apartment building in the al-Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City on 23 July, 2002.

Khamis al-Hwiti, aged eight, one of about 150 civilians who were wounded when an Israeli F-16 dropped an American one-ton precision "smart bomb" on an apartment building in the al-Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City on 23 July, 2002. His mother, Mona, and younger brothers Muhammad and Subhi were killed in the same attack. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Onze voormalige premier Jan-Peter Balkenende schudt handen met een oorlogsmisdadiger. Hij nodigde hem uit om een bezoek te brengen aan Nederland. (14 maart 2005, persfoto van de Israƫlische regering).

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