HOPE OF GAZA WAR CRIMES VICTIMS DASHED – says Palestinian mission

0
1118
Youth and workers show their anger at the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli warplanes in December 2008
Youth and workers show their anger at the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli warplanes in December 2008

‘AS we send this press release, Palestinian civilians across the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, are encountering extremely violent waves of state-sponsored oppression along with aggression from Israeli-settlers, the latest of which is the killing of eight civilians, including three children, in Gaza as a result of launching aerial bombardment.

These campaigns of terror pose a direct threat to reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the region, a goal set by the International Community.

The Security Council in specific must uphold its duties and responsibilities in this regard.

Independence of the judiciary threatened at request of a foreign government

Proposed section 152 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill restricts the issue of arrest warrants in private prosecutions in which the United Kingdom asserts universal jurisdiction.

No warrant shall be issued under this section without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Palestinian ambassador Professor Manuel Hassassian states: “The effect is simple: we will ever only see a prosecution against an Israeli war criminal if the government agrees.

“The message Palestinian victims and their families get is that this country does not want justice without which there can be no peace.

“It is regrettable that the UK is seriously damaging its role as a trusted broker in the Middle East.”

After the Goldstone Report, a 452 page detailed account of the acts committed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead would convince any judge that an arrest warrant must be issued.

The effect of the proposed section 152 is that in most cases this is likely to result in no action being taken against suspected war criminals and would severely undermine in practical terms the effectiveness of the current law on universal jurisdiction.

Lex Israel

Unsurprisingly, it was the Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who first requested the legislation after the arrest warrant was issued against Tzipi Livni.

Hassassian states: “Since the arrest warrant against Tzipi Livni, Israel has been pressurising the United Kingdom to change the law. This is the reason why Parliament is now dealing with this subject and no other.”

No substantial reason has been advanced for the proposed law.

If the government feared abuse of process, there is already scope to stop such cases.

If the evidential threshold were too low, the threshold could have been simply raised. If embarrassing foreign diplomats or head of state was a reason, the AG and the DPP already have powers to discontinue prosecution.

In any event, arrest warrants cannot be issued for war crime suspects that enjoy diplomatic or state immunity, thus a number of private prosecutions, including those against Ehud Barak, Robert Mugabe, Shaul Mofaz or Bo Xilae, have failed.

Hassassian sums up: “The true reason for this law is simply: Israel has been caught red-handed in Gaza in breach of the Geneva Conventions and the UK is doing everything it can to ensure Israeli impunity.”

Summary of the proposed legislation

Proposed section 152 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill restricts the issue of arrest warrants in private prosecutions in which the United Kingdom asserts universal jurisdiction.

No warrant shall be issued under this section without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The difference to the current law is that the issuing of the arrest warrant is decided by the court, not a civil servant.

The current law enables the Attorney General as well as the DPP to discontinue the prosecution and bury a case against a suspected war criminal.

In contrast: the proposed law goes a step further and even allows the DPP to extinguish the possibility that a court could issue an arrest warrant in the first place before it ever comes to a prosecution.

Thus, the courts will only ever be confronted with a prosecution if, and only if, the government agrees, which effectively exploits the court as a tool of politically motivated prosecution.

“This law is another executive encroachment on the independence of the judiciary, however this time on the request of a foreign government”, says Hassassian.’

l Meanwhile, yesterday in Gaza City the second strike of the morning hit a group of men beside a gas station in the northern Gaza Strip, around 8.30am, hours after a wave of strikes targeted sites across the coastal enclave, causing damage but no injuries.

Spokesman for the higher committee of ambulance and emergency services, Adham Abu Salmiya, said the latest bombing targeted a site near the Jabaliya refugee camp.

A statement from Israel’s military said the air force ‘identified a group of terrorists preparing to launch rockets at Israeli territory, and thwarted the attempt by firing at them.’

Shortly before 2.00am, Israeli aircraft opened fire on several areas in the Gaza Strip.

Aircraft targeted a tunnel in the south and a site connected to Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades west of Gaza City, onlookers said.

Jets also struck a power station causing blackouts in Gaza City.

Abu Salmiya said no injuries were reported, but sent waves of panic through homes across the Strip.

An Israeli military statement alleged that the targets included a smuggling tunnel, and a ‘terror activity site,’ noting: ‘Direct hits were confirmed.’

Gaza government officials declared last Wednesday a day of mourning, with a collective funeral in central Gaza City at midday for the four civilians and four militants killed by Israeli fire a day earlier.

Officials called on residents of Gaza to join the funeral procession.

In Moscow, President Mahmoud Abbas asked the Russian foreign minister to exert pressure on Israel, and demand a halt to what he described as an ‘escalation’ against Gaza.

PLO Executive Committee Member in Gaza, Zakariyya Al-Agha, condemned the deaths as a ‘massacre’ of the Ash-Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, saying in a statement that the deaths ‘translated into deeds the Israeli minister’s remarks threatening another Cast Lead.’

Israel’s opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said Saturday that the time had come for a fresh military campaign against Gaza, in the wake of a barrage of 50 projectiles which landed in the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries.

‘The right way to deal with it is with force, just like Israel did during and after Operation Cast Lead,’ Israeli news website Ynet quoted Livni telling Israeli local authority heads in the vicinity of Gaza.

In January, Gaza’s main militant factions confirmed a year-old truce with Israel, after weeks of increased rocket fire and spiralling tensions along the border prompted a warning from Arab leaders that Gaza was risking a major new Israeli invasion.

Abbas told reporters in Moscow that ‘there has always been an Israeli escalation in Gaza, West Bank, and Jerusalem,’ adding that the latest instance of escalation ‘should not be a reason not to achieve national unity.’