High Court order Livni to respond to NGO petition in 7 days

Shurat Hadin petitioned to compel Livni to cooperate with US court in Bank of China terror funding case.

January 14, 2014 17:17
3 minute read.
MK TZIPI LIVNI (center) and, from left, MKs Elazar Stern, Amram Mitzna, Meir Sheetrit, Amir Peretz

Livni Party faction meeting 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein on Tuesday ordered Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to respond within seven days to Shurat Hadin’s petition to compel her to cooperate with providing information relating to a US terror financing case against the Bank of China.

Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center said it had filed the petition to the High Court of Justice earlier on Tuesday after Livni’s “failure to respond to a request for information issued by the New York District Court under the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters.”

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The Hague Convention is one of a series of international agreements that regulates and sometimes requires cooperation between states in providing relevant evidence in foreign court cases.

The information requested pertains to the suit Shurat Hadin brought in the US courts against the bank on behalf of 22 victims of terrorism.

The families of the victims have accused the bank of knowingly allowing Hamas and Islamic Jihad to launder their funds through the bank’s accounts for use in perpetrating terrorist attacks against American civilians in Israel.

Shurat Hadin said that the case “was commenced at the instigation and encouragement of the government of Israel in 2008,” but that it “hit a twist when Israeli officials made a U-turn in their promise to allow former intelligence agents to testify” against the Bank of China in the US courts, citing national security and a need to safeguard state secrets.

The NGO said that the information requested from the Justice Ministry “plays a critical role in the case, following the government of Israel’s maneuvering to prevent key Israeli intelligence officials from testifying in the case.”

Shurat Hadin’s said its original request, forwarded by the US courts, was delivered to the Justice Ministry on June 26, 2013, requesting “the assistance… necessary in the interests of justice, in conformity with Article 3 of the Hague Convention.”

However, the NGO added that half a year later it had received no response.

According to the NGO, the letter from New York District Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein to Livni stated that the evidence requested includes documents from an April 2005 Israel-China counterterrorism officials’ meeting during which Israel told China that transfers to accounts of Said Z.R. al-Shurafa “were being made by the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks.”

Shurat Hadin said that Livni’s compliance with the Hague Convention was important not just to its case, but also because her refusal to comply could lead to the US refusing future requests by Israel.

It added that this consequence was not theoretical, with the US court making indirect reference to the issue of the expectations of reciprocity in providing legal evidence between countries.

Further, it noted that Livni and Israel had not refused the request for information, and that in any case, the only time a state can decline to provide duly requested information is when it has officially refused (presuming its refusal is justified), with all of consequences of refusing.

Shurat Hadin and the State of Israel are waging a hard-fought legal battle before the US court about whether Israel’s national security would be infringed by providing the information.

The NGO said that there was no basis to use this as an excuse for failure to comply.

Besides Livni, the Court Administration is joined as a party, as it also has potential duties to transmit information to foreign courts under the Hague Convention.

Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner commented, “We have filed this suit today as we believe Minister Livni is culpable not only of failing in her duties under the Hague Convention, but of failing the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism in their quest for justice.”

The Wultz family has a parallel case against the bank and a parallel debate with the government over providing information, but has not taken any action in the Israeli courts.

Livni’s office had not responded by press time.

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