In a strong reaction to current actions to sue Israeli war criminals, Azmi Bishara wrote ideas around the crimes and the trial which are a part of the classic literature critics of international criminal law.
Only covering this aspect, I wished he had followed up with us the intellectual and judicial dynamism spawned by the aggression on Lebanon but obstructed by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who refused at that time to accept the competency of the International Criminal Court (forming a Pre-trial Chamber unless ICC prosecutor initiates investigations proprio motu).
The decision of the Palestinian authorities (Justice Minister in the ousted government in Gaza, Justice Minister in the caretaker government in Ramallah Dr Ali Khashan, the acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and key Palestinian factions), helped prop up more than 460 organizations NGOs representing more than six million members, to sue Israeli war criminals, making it not only an acceptable idea in the Western public consciousness but a necessary condition to bring international justice out of the shameful western glories (i.e. Nurnberg as an exceptional court-martial fabricated by the triumphant) to saving this meaning through the principle of “one justice for all”.
Due to the obstructions, points of weakness and restrictions detailed by Azmi Bishara and others, this principle will remain a wish not a fact on the ground at the time being, although we should remind that when we struggled for a special tribunal ad hoc in Rwanda, we were counted on figures on one hand.
I even remember- when I talked about accountability that doesn’t rule out France or the Vatican- that the French delegate in the Human Rights Commission approaching me and saying:” Has it ever happened that a political syrian refugee in the republic of human rights tires to hold accountable the human rights country”?. that is still scandal-hunted by the genocide committed in Rwanda, despite the parliamentary fact-finding committees formed at that time by Chirac and Jospin.
Like the French parliament’s condemnation to Turkey for the crimes committed against the Armenians, France is nowadays convicted by a number of African parliaments for its conniving in Rwanda massacres. We are still at the beginning while following up is actually the only point of intersection between taking revenge and reaching justice.
Regardless of the history of the special and permanent criminal courts and regardless of the ability to use universal jurisdiction in more than one country, I always believe in a key fact that right is not just a text but a conflictive and dynamic movement between several parties in which opposition or the non- governmental sphere play a key and effective role on the international level.
This element constitutes- may be as much as personal experience and method of thinking of international justice are concerned- a point of difference between the writer of this article and intellectual Azmi Bishara whom the international public opinion recognized when he was elected in the Knesset, i.e. the legislative body of a country that usurped his physical, moral and human existence. Though surprising to us, the cunning of history opens up a way out of the bitter reality of the international justice, after sixty years of absence of accountability for the Hebrew State.
Since Rome conference on the International Criminal Court, the Arab Commission for Human Rights said in a statement “While 20th century was a century of human rights charters, covenants and condemnations, the 21st century will be a century of accountability and the end of impunity”.
In spite of all of the obstacles spawned by 9/11 and the war on terror, we have defended this in an inclusive international book “Future of Human Rights, impunity and International Law”.
The experience of Islamic charities and relief agencies turned all these issues into a daily legal conflict to lift names of innocent agencies from the terrorism blacklist or to defend the reputation of these NGOs.
The experience of a key figure of savvy lawyers led to launching a concerted action that took the shape of Single Justice Organization that was forced by Gaza aggression to start working before completing building up its structuring. It moved with the Arab Commission for Human Rights and several other international organizations in a concerted effort to make a broad international coalition to stop the impunity of Israeli war criminals.
Since work started, there was a clear agenda in the mind of the founding members, an agenda that realizes that the Palestinian cause does not suffer only on the international level but it suffers also on the inter-Palestinian level.
The suffering includes first the war on terror and seconds the western fierce war against political Islamic movements that stoked an inter-Palestinian conflict, and finally Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas’ control over Gaza Strip.
In spite of the criminal blockade that targeted Gaza Strip, we did not manage as human rights movements to organize demonstrations of several thousand participants in any European city. The Hebrew State was even rewarded for its crimes when the European Union forged an agreement of upgrading and promoting the relations on Dec, 8th, 2008.
During these conditions, the Israeli army carried out a criminal attacks against the 1 1/2 year long besieged Gaza strip in an aggression in which all violations to laws and war rules were committed. This brutality was accompanied by a state of general disgust from a reckless US administration that destroyed in eight years what the humanity built in centuries. An international peaceful call of “Enough” was shunned by the US administration that unleashed its security agencies and tightened the grip on main freedoms and spawned an unprecedented economic crisis. Tens of initiatives were issued from small cities sometimes and from emigrant communities and academics, artists and intellectuals spoke out against mercenary writers of the newspapers mockingly dubbed “the Pro Israeli Pravda”.
Well-reputed lawyers abandoned their offices to seek legal methods that may bring to a halt ignoring holding accountable the Hebrew State which bred by the Western political culture.
In this context, we have laid down key points for our action:
-Stirring up the International Criminal Court that lost some of its credibility in issues of Iraq and Lebanon, but without repeating the mistakes committed by human rights defenders. Therefore, we moved among the Palestinian political community including all factions and several countries which are a ratify to Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court, Bolivia, Venezuela, South Africa and Costa Rica, to demand the ICC Prosecutor initiate proprio motu an investigation into Israeli war crimes.
Maintaining documentation and mobilization will undoubtedly restrict the ICC prosecutor’s options: to either continue a passivity that has so far relied on initiatives of the signatory countries or on the Security Council or to get out of the weak-strong formula through possible and available methods.
Thus, the International Coalition for Trying Israeli War Criminals will not spare any legal argument specially that its leaders are experienced with Criminal Courts.
-National courts that have universal jurisdiction. A big number of lawyers operate in more than ten countries to make them prisons for Israeli officers who may come to summer destinations and weapon fairs.
-Individual lawsuits of those with dual nationality: Families of some victim families have dual nationality which allows that to submit lawsuits in several European countries. There are also Israeli politicians and military leaders who have European nationalities allowing European courts to sue them.
– Filing lawsuits on aggressions on European property: As a mere example, there are human rights and civilian demands in Norway calling for accountability and damages. When Norway builds a facility for and in a state under occupation, it maintains its ownership until this state declares independence. The damaged Norwegian aid is considered an aggression on kingdom of Norway.
– Political and judicial demands for rescinding Israel-EU Dec, 8th agreement and stopping Israeli European partnership agreements.
– Intervention at the Swiss state that sponsors Geneva conventions. “One Justice” organization did this and received a reply demanding more information, and adopting the Human Rights Council’s decision of forming a fact-finding delegation and forming other independent fact-finding delegations.
– Filing a lawsuit in front of the European tribunals against the European Commission’s anti-terrorism committee on obstructing peaceful methods of dialogue and cooperation with the Palestinian people and its elected institutions, by listing Palestinian factions that does not recognize Israel on the terrorism blacklist, whereas it did not do the same against the Likud party that does not recognize Palestinian state idea or Lieberman’s party that promotes Transfer.
Thus, struggling has started for building a big international coalition that brings Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court from its restricted narrow meaning that the Security Council, and Russian, Chinese and US attitude wanted to put it in, i.e. the war on terror.
This mobility spawned a new foundation for propping up the Palestinian cause in the world, i.e opening the door for civil societies to launch an offensive dynamism. A dynamism that capitalizes on the defeat Bush’s experience to restore values of human rights and justice in international organizations- specially judicial institution- after sixty years of serious violations for the Palestinian human rights.
After several meetings of studying international law, some conservative Western international organizations left the coalition (in a farcical repetition of 2001 Durban scenario). However, this attitude constituted a condemnation to those who withdrew and did not have any effect on the momentum.
Concerted efforts of several initiatives in Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Spain, Britain and France interacted with Arab initiatives to close ranks and exchange experience. These actions recruited a constellation of trade unions, public rallies and a big number of southern NGOs, only 86 NGOs and federations in the international coalition are from Arab world while the others are from outside it.
Take for example the Arab Medical Union, it is a union that lacks material resources but is rich in human resources. It takes part in this war in rational and organized methods that beat 80 year old western federations and unions. We talk about injecting new blood and, strongly restoring central volunteering in any civil structure and civil resistance and young new faces that entered public life to defend Palestinian rights.
Due to not following up this new international dynamism, many Arab intellectuals do not capitalize on what is taking place, especially when they see around them a group of demagogues who write a paper that doesn’t deserve to be an article in a bad newspaper and send it to Mr. Ocampo to submit a complaint against Israeli war criminals.
It is worth noting that the International Criminal Court received more than 220 fax of complaints of such a kind.
In brief, the International Coalition against Israeli War Criminals managed to recruit tens, nay hundreds of thousands all over the world for the Palestinian legitimate rights, after the pro Israeli lobby managed to manipulate the inter-Palestinian conflict to the utmost limit, and managed to create a state of confusion among supporters of the Palestinian cause before the aggression.
The International Coalition against Israeli War Criminals focuses on the idea that the inter-Palestinian conflict is a natural phenomenon in any democratic society, and is still a domestic issue. As for us, our duty is to defend the violations against Palestinian people’s rights, not interfere in Palestinian domestic file.
Due to the fact that aggression is a crime and resistance is a right, the coalition tries to coordinate with a number of countries whose policies are in line with the coalition’s principle, i.e. “Justice as a response to violence and aggression”.
We have undoubtedly focused on working more and talking less, but the fierceness and continuity of the fight are the ones mapping out fate of this challenge.
We need all civil powers to close ranks, not to split or mistrust.
I hope that since we moved the focus from merely defending Palestinian children to suing Israeli officers, we have entered a new civil epoch.
We also hope that the world will remember one day at the end of this journey that thanks to Palestinian suffering and resistance, the first breakthrough to move international justice out of the Middle Ages rational has been achieved; that the justice rationale has had the upper hand over injustice away from narrow individual and international interests, for the sake of a better future that we may trust as peoples who defend their right to exist.