Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:02 pm (KSA) 16:02 pm (GMT)

Intl law prevents bringing Israeli leaders to justice

Israel's 22-day assault on Gaza sparked global protests (File)
Israel's 22-day assault on Gaza sparked global protests (File)

As the International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur the international community's opinion split on how justice is administered and why Sudan was singled out from alleged crimes such as Gaza, Iraq and Colombia.

Arab states said they were "disturbed" by the Bashir warrant and said it would bring further turmoil as it posed a threat to Sudan's sovereignty. An African Union leader said it seemed Africa was being selectively targeted "as if nothing were happening elsewhere -- in Iraq, Gaza, Colombia or in the Caucasus."

Days after the Bashir warrant was issued the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, was reported to have said he was exploring ways to launch an investigation into allegations of war crimes during Israel's deadly assault on the Gaza Strip that killed 1,300 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis.

Obstacles to justice

 Talks of a trial are extremely premature and there is no real possibility of anything going to the ICC right now, you can't have a trial with no investigation 
Donatella Rovera-- Amnesty International

Israel's most recent assault on Gaza sparked thousands of protests across the globe and several Arab nations and human rights groups accused Israel of war crimes, a charge it strongly denies.

Ocampo said he had received more than 200 "communications" from individuals and organizations, including the Arab League and the Palestinian National Authority, to open an investigation.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and Palestinian Occupied Territories, dismissed the report and said it gave false hope because the way international law works means it will not be easy to bring Israeli leaders to justice.

"Talks of a trial are extremely premature and there is no real possibility of anything going to the ICC right now, you can't have a trial with no investigation," Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and Palestinian Occupied Territories, told AlArabiya.net.

 At the moment we are not managing to get an investigation because until now the international community has not shown interest in having a proper international credible investigation 
Donatella Rovera

Although the PA said it recognized the jurisdiction of the ICC, a move designed to allow investigations of crimes in the territories, the probe cannot begin until the ICC determines whether there is such a legal entity as a Palestinian state.

Another obstacle is that Israel has not signed the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, and therefore the court has no jurisdiction over it unless the U.N. Security Council establishes a commission of enquiry, which is what happened with Sudan, but is not likely to happen with Israel as it will be vetoed by the U.S., a permanent member of the council.

Rovera, who led a fact-finding mission to Gaza after the Dec.27 assault, said that although findings showed serious violations of international law on both sides, it was unlikely anything would come of such findings because the international community had not expressed concern in the matter.

"At the moment we are not managing to get an investigation because until now the international community has not shown interest in having a proper international credible investigation," she said.

Shaming govt's

 It is important to note that there is very strong opposition by the Israeli side to that investigation and by extension very clear opposition from the U.S. and no support from European countries 
Rovera

Rovera said that international diplomats had no good answers when questioned on why they would not support a credible and impartial investigation into the events that took place in Gaza.

Despite findings by numerous human rights organizations that Israel had used white phosphorus in crowded civilian areas, which violates international law and amounts to a war crime, and a call by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, for independent investigations into Israel's shelling of a U.N. school compound that killed 42 people women and children.

 Realistically the situation looks pretty bleak but it is necessary to put pressure and to shame the governments that pretend to hold dear the principles of justice and human rights 
Rovera

"It is important to note that there is very strong opposition by the Israeli side to that investigation and by extension very clear opposition from the U.S. and no support from European countries," Rovera said.

"Realistically the situation looks pretty bleak but it is necessary to put pressure and to shame the governments that pretend to hold dear the principles of justice and human rights," she said, adding "when it comes to this particular issue (Gaza) they are not interested," she said.

Rovera stressed that those who are interested in credible justice should continue to fight to push the international community and said the fight for an investigation into Gaza would continue.

"European Court for Africa"

 The prosecutor at the ICC has tried to bend over backwards to make the court look innocuous to the United States 
Gary Bass--associate politics professor

The United States was opposed to the founding of the ICC, fearing it would be used for what it saw as politically motivated prosecutions.

Israel echoed this stance and and although it has expressed "deep sympathy" with the ICC's goals and initially became a signatory, it later withdrew, citing several reasons.

Among the reasons was the inclusion as a war crime of: "the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

According to associate politics professor at Princeton University: "The prosecutor at the ICC has tried to bend over backwards to make the court look innocuous to the United States."

Professor Gary Bass said by concentrating on Africa the ICC has avoided antagonizing the big powers.

 I've heard it jokingly called the European Court for Africa. There is a risk with this entire focus on Africa. What about Columbia? They should expand their horizon 
Goran Sluiter--international law expert

An international law expert said: "I've heard it jokingly called the European Court for Africa. There is a risk with this entire focus on Africa. What about Columbia? They should expand their horizon," Goran Sluiter of Amsterdam University told Reuters.

Rovera said as long as permanent members of the Security Council continue to object to an independent investigation nothing can happen.

"They are standing in way of justice and human rights," she said, a claim that means it is most likely that Israeli leaders will not be held accountable.

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