Palestinians from various factions arrive in Gaza City in June last year to attend a news conference.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NGO Shurat Hadin went into high gear Sunday preparing war crimes complaints against a range of Palestinians, following the Palestinian Authority’s move to join the International Criminal Court last Wednesday.
Israeli officials were widely quoted as saying they would make sure to launch a counterattack of new war crimes complaints against Palestinians using third-party NGOs like Shurat Hadin (though no specific ones were named) as proxies.
This past November, the NGO had already filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC prosecutor against PA President Mahmoud Abbas and in September it similar complaints against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Since at the time the PA had not yet signed the Rome Statute, both complaints were filed against Abbas and Mashaal as Jordanian citizens.
Jordan, unlike Israel or the PA, accepted ICC jurisdiction over its citizens in April 2002, removing the obstacle that until now has blocked most proposals for bringing the ICC into the conflict.
The basis for the Abbas complaint was reports of Fatah-affiliated armed groups firing significant numbers of rockets on Israel from Gaza during Operation Protective Edge along with Hamas, which launched most of the rockets.
The NGO argued Abbas is liable for the Fatah armed groups’ actions as its leader, though it recognized that Abbas publicly opposed rocket fire.
But now the PA has moved toward ICC membership, Shurat Hadin director Nitzana Darshan-Leitner believes she can bring a wider range of war crimes complaints against other Palestinians, even if they do not have Jordanian citizenship, and also against Abbas for war crimes allegations dating back to the second intifada.
She has said there is a wealth of evidence Abbas approved financial payments to terrorists and their families for undertaking terrorist attacks, as well as naming places and institutions in honor of terrorists.
The complaint against Mashaal had also been narrow until now, not being directed at Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, but at alleged war crimes Hamas perpetrated against the Gazan population.
The complaint alleged that on August 22, 2014, Hamas “executed 18 so-called collaborators who had been convicted of no crime,” including “publicly execut[ing] seven of these ‘collaborators,” and cited a similar incident on July 28, 2014.
Now, Darshan-Leitner believes she can file a wider range of complaints against Hamas, including for thousands of rocket attacks against Israel.
While only a small number of Israelis were actually killed by rocket attacks, a much larger number were wounded.
Under the Rome Statute any indiscriminate attack on civilians is a “serious” war crimes breach, even if it does not meet the “crimes against humanity” or “grave” breach test (which requires actual killing.) The NGO argued that this was true not only with rockets that hit populated areas, but even those that landed in open fields, as the key to being a war crime is the murderous intent of firing rockets indiscriminately.
Shurat Hadin said it would be sending copies of the ready-to- file complaints to Abbas, Mashaal, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and many others so that they could see directly what they will face if they go beyond signing the Rome Statute and take the final step of filing war crimes complaints against Israelis.