31 October 2010 — PCHR Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Press Release Ref: 99/2010
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.
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.
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.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
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