Skip to content

Punishing Israel in International Courts: Efforts Affect

  • by

 13/12/2023

Latifa Al Husseini – Zainab Abdullah

Judicial steps to prosecute the Zionist entity are of exceptional importance today. The image of the enemy changes in Western opinion and the Zionist narrative no longer dominates. The ongoing aggression on the Gaza Strip and the scale of criminality and brutality that has emerged over the past two months have prompted all those who believe in human rights to act in solidarity and support for the Palestinian people, who are being annihilated non-stop.

South African lawyer Ziyaad Ebrahim Patel, who has the right to appear before the Supreme Court in South Africa, spoke to Al-Ahed news website about the importance of activating the punishment of the Israeli enemy in light of all the full international bias towards it and its media and military support, and about the reality of the human rights struggle in international forums against the usurping entity.

The following is a transcript of the interview:

1- You are active on the human rights line in the courts, how are you moving today to prosecute Israel for its brutal crimes in the Gaza Strip against children, women and the elderly?

In South Africa, we are taking various measures to hold Israeli war criminals accountable for their crimes and complete impunity. Since 2008 and 2009, the first Gaza war, called Operation Cast Lead, we have brought the issue of Gaza before the South African Investigative and Prosecuting Authority, and that was before the entire Israeli government at the time and the Council of War Ministers responsible for war crimes.

In 2010, we filed other cases regarding the “Mavi Marmara,” the Freedom Flotilla whose mission was to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip, where South Africans were involved, and then the ship was hijacked in international waters by the Israeli army, and transferred to the port of Ashdod, while 10 civilians died in that incident. We used the laws to hold Israeli leaders accountable in cooperation between the South African authorities and the case that was taking place in Turkey at the time in the Turkish Criminal Court.

We rely on the law called the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act, as well as the protection of constitutional democracy against terrorism and related activities. We filed substantial submissions with investigative and prosecutorial authorities, where we charged or charged a number of South African nationals in connection with service in the Israeli army during the 2014 Gaza war, and we warned State Security against paramilitarily training South African citizens to serve in the Israeli occupation forces. Also associated with this are Zionist institutions such as the Zionist Union of South Africa, the Jewish National Fund, and other Zionist institutions that aid and incite the current genocide unfolding in the Gaza Strip today.

So, we use different laws, and there’s also a piece of legislation that I prepared called IPPSRABill [Implementing and Protecting Palestinian Solidarity Rights] that tries to bring together all the laws that we’ve been using against Israel under one umbrella to hold them accountable, so we can also include boycotts, divestments, sanctions and automatic sanctions against enabling institutions that help incite genocide in the Gaza Strip.

 

Punishing Israel in International Courts: Efforts Affect

 

2- Do you think the legal actions and calls of international judicial bodies in many countries of the world can deter Israel?

We are all aware that there are strong influences at the United Nations as well as at the ICC, especially since the United States is Israel’s strong ally. To date, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan has never handed down any verdict despite an open investigation into the current atrocities, and no Israeli official or even Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, war criminal Yoav Galant and his far-right party have been convicted. Despite this situation, which is not in the interest of the Palestinian cause, what is important is that we continue to argue that we want an impartial international criminal court. We saw at the United Nations recently that the majority of States have called for a ceasefire, and this shows the will of the international community. Only the United States and a few European countries still support Israel, but the majority of countries speak with one clear voice: that the ceasefire must be immediate, and that Israel must stop its mass massacres and atrocities against Palestinians.

We also need to strengthen national jurisdiction with respect to the law that we are looking to create the IPPSRA bill, which we have been working on, that is, “the implementation and protection of Palestinian solidarity rights,” and it must be used across the national jurisdictions of other countries, so that we can strengthen our national criminal court, and we must also have the opportunity to sign bilateral agreements with each other to establish war crimes tribunals, so that those like-minded countries can have a separate forum for accountability. Israelis.

We encourage other countries to join Israel’s referral to the ICC and provide resources for the ICC so that it can conduct its own investigations.

One of South Africa’s other recent political mechanisms in parliament is a unanimous resolution. I will not say that it is by the majority party, but there is a resolution passed stating that South Africa must stop diplomatic relations with Israel until it commits to a legal solution, a binding peace and a just solution through the mechanisms of the United Nations. Until that happens, there can be no diplomatic or other kind of economic relations with Israel. This is something that other countries should also follow in their parliaments and have this kind of cooperation and solidarity with the Palestinians.

3- How can the punishment of Israel be activated in light of the complete international bias and support for it?

I believe that Israeli war criminals must be punished. The Israeli government is a passive, far-right regime headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. We have seen these individuals, Smotrich and others, make statements that the situation is the norm now, and they now understand what we used to share about ethnic cleansing, the mass expulsion of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from north to south. There were statements that Palestinians would be safe in the corridors leading to southern Gaza, but the corridor leading to the south was bombed, as were hospitals, ambulances, medical facilities, UNRWA buildings and institutions protected under international humanitarian law. There is a very high risk. This is clear evidence of genocide, war crimes, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion of the civilian population, and also evidence that the Israeli army is excessively militarized in the use of weapons of mass destruction in a densely populated area.

Recently at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital there was a doctor who reported that the victims came to the hospital with visible amputations of the limbs. This is all absolutely inhumane. I have no doubt that when the report appears and when witnesses appear, all this will be confirmed, supported and supported. There is a need to establish an international mechanism to arrest Israeli war leaders and commanders who have supported this kind of inhuman treatment and inhumane use of weapons of mass destruction and military weapons of war on the predominantly civilian population. They must be held accountable in terms of international legal mechanisms as well as in terms of the national jurisdictions that we talked about earlier.

The occupied West Bank is also suffering endless horrific crimes at the hands of the occupying forces, while thousands of Palestinians who have now been arrested and imprisoned speak of so much torture and ill-treatment. Palestinian parents do not even know when their children were arrested by the occupation forces.

A very important study from the United States, from a constitutional body on genocide, says that when an oppressor is frustrated by resisting the oppressed, he may indulge in increasing genocide.

4- How do you evaluate the human rights struggle in international forums against Israel?

It is very positive that civil society is now standing with the Palestinians. We have seen widespread protests in many countries, especially in European countries and the United States, two strong allies of Israel. Citizens came out in their thousands in New York, Washington, London, Paris, and other European cities, remembering that these governments were ambiguous in their support for Israel and always showed their double standards.

In fact, we can speak of a very unjust and inhumane concept, where there must be an immediate ceasefire, and civilians must be protected at all times under international law and international humanitarian law. We need to exert pressure on Arab countries. We need to stop the process of normalization with Israel, especially for the Arab state. The Arab States must shoulder their responsibilities towards the Islamic Ummah and the suffering Palestinian people inhumanely. These atrocities only highlight that Israel is on the wrong side, and every day it becomes clear that the occupation is an unacceptable situation.

International law still insists on the long-failed two-state solution, but people and activists should talk about a one-state solution with the right of Palestinians to self-determination and the Palestinians in the diaspora to return to their homeland. We can never see negotiations with a far-right regime in Israel after this war in Gaza.

5 – What kind of case will you bring at The Hague? What challenges and difficulties do you face? What punishment do you expect to impose if the judicial mechanism goes as it should? Or is the goal to extract a conviction?

There is certainly a greater purpose than condemning Israel at the International Criminal Court. In 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, I was part of a team of lawyers who were committed to the Gaza cause. Beyond what we have done in our national jurisdictions, lawyers have obtained evidence of injuries suffered by Palestinian doctors in Egypt when victims were transferred from Gaza to Cairo for treatment.

A wide-ranging complaint was lodged concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of apartheid, colonialism and crimes against humanity to which Palestinians have been subjected. We brought this before the ICC, and in 2021, the ICC recognized Palestine as a state, and the Palestinians asked for investigations into crimes committed in the 2014 war. Certainly, from 2014 onwards there is an open investigation in the OPT, and until there is justice, there will be no peace. We insist on this point, and we also emphasize the continuation of national jurisdiction with respect to some of the legislation that we look forward to implementing, as well as obtaining the law book on stopping Israeli criminals from going to service, especially young Jewish Zionists who go to serve in the Israeli forces not only to commit war crimes or genocide in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank in order to continue the oppressive practices of settler apartheid against the Palestinian people.

6- Such a type of issue in your opinion does not take long to reach a satisfactory result?

We must continue as activists and solidarity movements. We call for many other countries to join the move to refer Israel to the ICC. It is very clear that Israel’s intention is to force the Palestinian people out of the Gaza Strip into the Sinai desert, and this will effectively be the second Nakba. This behavior is criminal and Israel must certainly be held responsible. We must continue to advocate at the political level, as well as academically, legally, and internationally, among international scholars and jurists, to demand that Israel be held accountable. There must also be a growing economic campaign to isolate Israel. We must also pay attention to support for the resistance.
In fact, terrorism is being perpetrated by Israel and the United States. We must continue to refute the idea that Islamic resistance and Palestinian resistance are acts of terrorism. It is not an act of terrorism, but it is recognized in international law that those people who seek liberation and freedom have the right to take up arms and resist the oppressive occupation.