29 June 2016
Today, a Palestinian family lodged a complaint of manslaughter and complicity in a war crime against the French company Exxelia Technologies. The plaintiffs, who are members of the Shuheibar family in Gaza City that lost three children in an Israeli airstrike on their house in 2014, are represented by the law firm Ancile-avocats and assisted by ACAT and Gaza-based human rights organization.
On 17 July 2014, during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip codenamed “Operation Protective Edge”, a missile - likely fired by a drone - struck the rooftop of the Shuheibar family home while five children were feeding poultry on the roof. One girl, Afnan (8), and two boys, Wassim (9) and Jihad (10) were killed. Another two children: Udai (15) and his cousin Bassil (9) were seriously injured.
Almost two years after “Operation Protective Edge”, the Israeli authorities are still failing to investigate the unlawful, direct attack on civilians and civilian objects. This latest instance of impunity occurs in a fixed trend of Israeli failure to abide by the international legal obligation to adequately investigate serious allegations of violations and secure accountability and/or redress for victims of unlawful military attacks. Israel has dismissed or failed to credibly investigate hundreds of such cases, without holding perpetrators accountable or providing redress to victims.
Found among the remnants of the missile that was fired at the house was a component manufactured in France. ACAT and its partner documented the attack, collected testimonies, and had the missile remnants analyzed by two independent military experts.
The experts’ reports establish that the French component found at the scene of the attack comprises a Hall effect sensor manufactured by the French company Eurofarad, now named Exxelia Technologies after its acquisition by Exxelia Group in 2015. The component is part of a small missile fired from the air, most likely by drone.
Survivors and witnesses assert that no military target existed in the house at the time of attack, or otherwise. Accordingly the house remained a civilian object, protected from attack under international law. The targeting of the home, which resulted in the death of civilians and damage to a civilian structure, was therefore unlawful and could amount to a war crime. The complainants accuse the French company of complicity in a war crime, or at a minimum manslaughter, upon the establishment that the sensor was indeed sold to the Israeli military. They lodged the complaint before the prosecutor of the war crimes unit.
"It is unfortunate that the blatant impunity for war crimes committed in Gaza requires victims to file complaints before the French judiciary" said Joseph Breham, lawyer with Ancile-avocats law firm in Paris. “The French arms industry cannot escape its moral and legal responsibility”, said his associate Ingrid Metton. “Selling pieces and components used to commit war crimes must be severely punished.”
“Beyond the Exxelia case, we call on France to take more responsibility, reflecting the key role the State played in the drafting and adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty,” says Hélène Legeay, Middle East and North Africa Officer for ACAT. This treaty prohibits State Parties from exporting not only arms but also pieces and components which could be used to commit war crimes. “Instead of rejoicing selling weapons to countries that commit grave human rights and humanitarian law breaches in the Middle East, France should act in order that in the future, no French made piece or component will be found on a war crime scene.”
Notes aux rédactions :
Responsable des programmes Maghreb / Moyen-Orient
@HeleneLegeay / 01.40.40.02.10