Noam and Aviva Schalit appealed Monday to the French judicial system to hold
Hamas, including its Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal, responsible for
kidnapping their son Gilad and keeping him hostage in Gaza for the past five
If their legal effort in France is successful, arrest warrants
could be issued against members of Hamas, including Mashaal.
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Aviva can file a legal suit in France because Gilad holds dual French- Israeli
French law is applicable to anyone who is a French citizen,
even if the criminal act against him occurred outside of France, explained an
attorney for the Schalit family in Israel, Nick Kaufman.
He said within
the French justice system there are certain judges who are mandated to conduct
investigations into criminal proceedings involving French nationals.
judge can order the law enforcement agencies to open an investigation and
instruct them on how to go about it,” Kaufman said.
He added that the
legal instrument has been used in other instances, including against nine aides
to the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame for a 1994 assassination of the previous
president of that country Juvenal Habyarimana. Three French citizens were killed
in the attack.
One of the Schalit family’s attorneys in Paris, Patrick
Klugman said that such a case was more effective in France than in Israel
because of the kind of legal agreements France has with the Arab
The 14-page legal brief that Noam and Aviva filed in Paris on
Monday, was presented to the dean of instruction judges, who had eight to 10
days to appoint one or two judges to lead the investigation into Schalit’s
kidnapping, Kaufman said.
The investigation is done in conjunction with French
police and other law enforcement agencies. Should the judges conclude
that members of Hamas were responsible, they would then issue arrest warrants,
The legal brief did not name Schalit’s kidnappers and asked
simply that members of Hamas be investigated.
But the attorneys did state
that they held Mashaal responsible, along with other members of
Alexander Meir Benezra, an Israeli lawyer who specializes in
French law, said the judge had the authority to conduct the investigation on
Israeli soil as well as in Gaza. He added that refusal by Hamas to cooperate
with such an investigation could lead to its leadership being tried in a French
court, even without their presence.
He added that the move was the right
one even if it was late in coming.
“We are appealing to the French legal
system, as a neutral and independent entity,” Noam Schalit said.
appeal is not possible in Israel. As Israeli- French citizens, we asked the
[French] court that investigates crimes to investigate the people who kidnapped
my son Gilad, and who are holding him hostage for the last five years in total
isolation, without anyone expect his captors seeing him, and without any basic
He said he had turned to the French court after his son’s
captors had for years “ignored all the international calls to free [Gilad] on a
humanitarian basis” including from the European Parliament, the US Congress, the
German parliament, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US President Barack Obama
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Hamas captors have also reefed
to accept a compromise proposal for a prisoner swap offered them by a German
mediator, Noam said.
He and his wife have turned to the French courts
amid media rumors of possible advancements toward a deal to free his son, who
was kidnapped along the Gaza border on June 25, 2006.
On Sunday, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak discussed Schalit during a telephone conversation with Field
Marshall Muhammad Tantawi of Egypt. Along with Germany, Egypt has also acted as
a third party negotiator between Israel and Hamas.
Also on Sunday, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet that freeing Schalit would be a
good way for Hamas to show that it wants peace with Israel.