State Prosecutor briefs 'war crimes' suspects

Justice Ministry scrambles to prevent possible trial of top officials involved in 2002 assassination of Hamas operative.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
February 2, 2009 18:00
1 minute read.
State Prosecutor briefs 'war crimes' suspects

shehadeh rubble iaf strike hamas 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

As yet another front opened in the international legal battles facing Israel with a potential challenge in the International Criminal Court Monday, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador called the seven Israeli officials possibly facing prosecution in Spain in for a talk. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is reportedly looking into the possibility that the Palestinian Authority - as a sovereign body - can initiate an ICC investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. If the court decides that the Palestinian Authority is the sovereign ruler in Gaza, the PA could initiate international proceedings against Israel. The road to such an outcome, however, is long and - in the words of Hebrew University lecturer Robbie Sabel - "extremely far-fetched." First, the court would have to determine that either Hamas or the PA had sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, even though neither controls the airspace, borders or even water systems in the territory. No Palestinian body - neither the PA nor the PLO - has been permitted to join any international organization that implies statehood, and for the ICC case to be valid, they would have to be recognized as the sovereign rulers of the Gaza Strip - and then be allowed to join the ICC. "But then," pointed out Sabel, "every person who is a citizen of this Hamas "state" would be subject to the court's jurisdiction. "There's no way any Palestinian organization would subject its members to the jurisdiction of the court, for the same reason that our other neighbors, like Syria, would not. As much as they would like to belong in order to attack Israel through the court, they are concerned about the fact that any of their members who committed a crime would be able to be tried." "This attempt is a complete nonstarter, and I'm sure their complainants know this, but they've already achieved their media goal," Sabel added, predicting that ultimately Moreno-Ocampo would come to the conclusion that Palestinian bodies are not the sovereign rulers of the Gaza Strip. The situation regarding the ongoing investigation in Spain, however, continued to raise alarm bells in the Justice Ministry as it scrambled to prevent a possible trial of top officials involved in the 2002 targeted assassination of key Hamas operative Salah Shahadeh. On Monday evening, Lador held a briefing with the seven Israeli current and former officials who are mentioned as potential defendants in the case.


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