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Legal Brief:
Israel’s Evasion of Accountability for Grave International Crimes, July 2012

01-07-2012 00:00

The aftermath of Operation Cast Lead marked a rare occasion when there was some movement among international institutions to hold Israel accountable for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  As will be reviewed below, the promise of these early steps has not been fulfilled, and in the meantime, as memories of the mass killing during Operation Cast Lead have faded, so has international interest in the human rights situation in Gaza.
  However, Israeli abuses against the Gazan population have persisted, while the perpetrators remain exempt from criminal or even civil liability.
  Over the past year, Al Mezan has appealed to several United Nations human rights mechanisms for assistance in securing justice in specific cases of criminal Israeli conduct in the Gaza Strip.
  Alongside these targeted requests for legal and diplomatic intervention, Al Mezan hereby issues a plenary appeal to the United Nations and the international community in general to take determined legal and political action to end Israel’s systematic immunity from enforcement of international law.
  This briefing paper provides details of six instances in which civilians were killed or injured by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and one example of a systemic human rights abuse implemented as a matter of policy.
  In all these cases, Al Mezan filed petitions for legal action in Israel[1]; additional appeals to UN bodies were issued in four of the cases.
  To date, however, no perpetrators have faced a court sentence, or even an indictment, and none of the victims have received any form of redress.
  Beyond the individual tragedies, these cases illustrate a record of Israeli impunity in the commission of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
  Israel predictably fails to hold its commanding military and political leaders or state institutions accountable.
  Civilian victims of Israeli military attacks and other abuses are only rarely able to secure monetary compensation for death, injury, and destruction sown, and have never seen policymakers at the military or political level held to standards of criminal liability.
  In the absence of accountability at the state level, it becomes the responsibility of international institutions to guarantee legal justice; but here, too, there has been a void of legal responsibility.
  The failure of the international community to take effective action against Israel’s unlawful acts allows these acts to continue.
  Justice may be slow, but when international inaction remains an unbroken pattern over the long term, it becomes in effect, if not intent, a grant of immunity for breaches of international law.
 
[1] Due to the procedural difficulties facing lawyers and plaintiffs from Gaza attempting to pursue legal actions in Israel—not least of which is the denial of physical access—Al Mezan is forced to file all such petitions through the offices of partner lawyers inside Israel.
  For simplicity’s sake, this brief will refer to Al Mezan as the petitioner in legal appeals before Israeli authorities.
  See Section III below for more on the barriers to justice confronting Palestinian plaintiffs in the Israeli legal system.

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