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Peoples court to put Isarael in the dock

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By Anna Majavu


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is to give evidence as a specialist witness in an “international people’s court” in Cape Town that will decide whether Israel is practising apartheid against the Palestinians.

The “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” will be opened in November by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It has the backing of churches, union federation Cosatu, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, former deputy speaker of parliament Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and Treatment Action Campaign founder Zackie Achmat.

Madlala-Routledge said yesterday that the third session of the tribunal would sit “to determine [whether] the treatment of Palestinian people by Israel meets criteria of the UN convention against the crime of apartheid”. She said the tribunal was established two years ago following government inaction regarding Israel’s “recognised violation of international law”.

Madikizela-Mandela is expected to testify about the tools the apartheid government used against her, including bannings, detentions and house arrest. Two veteran Israeli human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard and Leah Tsemel, will also testify, along with South African international law professor John Dugard, who was until recently the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine.

Kasrils joins Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, Spanish Supreme Court Judge Jose Antonio Pallin and globally acclaimed author Alice Walker on the jury. Kasrils said that the ANC government must follow Cosatu’s lead and take “stronger measures” against Israel. “We’ve applauded governments in Latin America and one in Africa. Those were the governments that actually decided to sever ties with Israel,” said Kasrils.

Achmat said that he supported the tribunal because he was against Palestinian teenagers being tried in military courts for throwing stones at the Israeli military. “Even under apartheid, we didn’t have separate legal systems for black and white people.”

The tribunal has invited the Israeli government to testify before it.

Israeli embassy spokes-ma n Hila Stern could not be reached for comment .The ambassador’s secretary, Mariette van Doorn, said she could answer only those questions submitted in writing. She had not responded to our questions at the time of going to press.